Whether it’s to create a much-needed extra bedroom, build a home-office or simply stop all that room going to waste, converting your loft can be a great way to maximize the space in your home while adding significant value to your property at the same time.
However, there’s no escaping the fact that loft conversion costs are among the most expensive of any home improvement project, usually running into tens of thousands of dollars.
If you’ve considered renovating your attic space in the past only to be put off by those eye-watering expenses, today’s guide is for you.
A loft conversion can be a great way to turn that empty, unused space into a beautiful, practical part of your home.
Below, we’ll not only outline everything you need to know about the true costs of converting your lost, but also offer you ten awesome tips on how to get a great deal from contractors and suppliers, saving you hundreds -if not thousands- of dollars in the process.
Loft Conversion Requirements
Traditional rafters like these are better suited to loft conversions as they free up valuable space to meet the minimum requirements for a loft conversion
Before we even begin to consider budgetary challenges, the biggest obstacle getting in the way of your new attic conversion is ensuring that space itself is up to code.
Though each state will have its own building codes for loft conversions, most tend to follow the so-called ‘Rule of 7’s’ which means that your attic should have, at a minimum:
- 70 square feet of total floor space
- 7 feet in width and length along every side
- 7.5 foot ceiling height in at least 50% of the attic.
Notice that we’ve referred above to the total “usable” floor space, not just the total space available. That’s because certain factors will limit the amount of loft space that you can utilize for your new bedroom, home gym, or whatever you’re planning to turn that space into.
For example, you may have a 90 square foot loft, but if 20 feet of that is taken up by heating and ventilation equipment or other essentials, it isn’t classed as usable space.
One of the biggest factors determining how much of your space is usable is the type of roof support installed in your property.
Trusses (large triangles with smaller triangles built into them) may provide a superior level of support, but are generally less suited to loft conversions than rafters (basic triangles) as rafters take up far less space and are easier to build around.
While it’s not impossible to convert a loft with trusses, you may find that it adds thousands to your budget as you may need to modify them to create the necessary space.
Speaking of budgets, now that we’ve determined whether or not your space is suitable for conversion, let’s look at how much that work is going to cost you:
How Much Does a Loft Conversion Cost?
Loft conversion costs are typically determined by size and material choices, though some cost factors, such as installing permanent stairs, will be unavoidable.
In the United States, the average 70 square-foot loft conversion costs around $50,000 – $70,000, including all materials, labor charges, and other essentials.
As with most home renovation projects, the actual price that you ultimately pay will be largely determined by the size of your space, with other factors such as your choice of materials.
Before we dive into our money-saving tips, let’s break down the kind of costs you should expect to pay.
Flooring ($1,500 – $4,000)
Along with the space requirements listed above, most state building regulations will require you to install suitable flooring.
While some new-build homes may come with the appropriate flooring in place, the majority of older properties come with attic floors that weren’t designed to have people walking around them. Typically, they’re made from bare joists with exposed insulation between them which hardly makes for suitable living conditions.
Your first task should, therefore, be to install adequate flooring. This can usually be done by filling in the gaps between the joists with quality timber boards then, after installing all the necessary electrical and plumbing, using good quality A-C grade plywood to create your subfloor.
Depending on the size of your space and whether you do the work or hire a professional, you could expect to spend up to $4,000 on this part of the project, and that’s before you consider surface flooring options such as:
Hardwood ($3,000 – $5,000)
Although generally the most expensive option, hardwood flooring adds a beautiful, stylish look to your loft space while providing the kind of long-lasting durability you need to ensure years of use.
Carpet ($800 – $1,500)
At the opposite end of the scale, carpet usually proves to be the most cost-effective option. It’s a great choice for creating a warm, comfortable environment, as well as for providing soft flooring for children’s bedrooms.
Laminate ($1,000 – $2,500)
Though laminate may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to attic flooring, it’s water-resistant properties and relatively low cost make it the perfect choice if you’re installing a kitchen or bathroom in your loft space.
Walls and Ceilings ($3,000 – $5,000)
While using drywall can create a smooth, blank canvas to work on, you might choose to create a modern, urban look by simply painting over exposed brickwork
Unless you’re living in an ultra-modern, new build development, it’s unlikely that the structure of your attic provides the kind of insulation and weather-resistance needed to ensure suitable living conditions.
As such, installing walls and ceilings is perhaps the most essential part of the entire project. What’s more, since this could potentially impact the structural integrity of your home, this is one area where you might want to consider putting your DIY aspirations aside and hiring an experienced professional.
For a standard loft conversion, expect to pay a minimum of at least $5,000 to have appropriate ceilings and walls installed. This estimate includes materials and labor but doesn’t include adding a finish such as paint or wallpaper.
For that part of the project, use the following prices as a rough guide:
Drywall ($1,500 – $2,000)
Plastering a room with drywall sheets is a great way to create a smooth, plain surface so that your loft walls are ready for painting or wallpapering. If you’re confident in your plastering abilities then this is one part of the job you can take on yourself.
Paint ($200 – $1,500)
Again, you could save a small fortune here by painting the room yourself.
Products such as Boomerang’s Eco-Friendly Interior Paint range can be applied easily and only require two coats, which should help to keep costs down.
However, to save time and ensure the best possible finish, hiring a professional is well worth it if your budget allows.
Wallpaper ($200 – $1,000)
While the traditional floral patterned wallpaper may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an attic conversion, modern wallpaper designs come in a range of attractive styles. From faux-marble to wood-look finishes, adding wallpaper to your loft walls can prove to be a very cost-effective way of creating a striking look without overspending on expensive materials.
Windows and Dormers ($2,000 – $15,000)
Incorporating dormers like these into your loft conversion will add thousands to your budget
Compared to just about every other aspect of your loft conversion, the cost of installing windows is going to be one of the biggest expenses you’ll have to bear in the entire project.
It’s not one that you can afford to overlook, either.
Every year, around 10% of household fires originate in attics. Since these spaces are typically harder to get out of than your standard room, most building codes require that every attic conversion has a secondary egress point. More often than not, this comes in the form of a window.
Even if you use a different method to create an egress point, there’s another requirement to consider. To meet regulation, attics should contain a glazed area that is either equal to or over eight percent of the total usable floor area, with a minimum four percent openable area.
So, if you had a 100 square-foot loft, you would need to have at least eight square feet of windows four square feet of those opening to provide access to the outside.
Standard windows can generally be installed for between $300 and $1,000 each depending on their size. However, you may choose to install dormers, which are windows that are set vertically into the sloped part of your room. In that case, you could potentially do the job yourself for around $2,000 or hire a professional, which set you back upwards of $15,000.
Stairs ($2,00 – $3,500)
Though requirements may vary slightly from state to state, most local government building regulations insist that if an attic is converted into living space then it must have fixed stairs that meet the following requirements:
- Minimum width: 36″
- Maximum rise between treads: 7.74″
- Minimum tread depth: 9.5″
- Minimum head clearance per step: 80″
- Minimum load-bearing capacity: 30 lbs.
If you currently use pull-down steps or some kind of ladder, then you’ll need to take those out and have them replaced. This can cost up to $3,000 for a professional installation, though again, savings can be made if you’re skilled enough to do it yourself.
Heating ($300 – $3,000)
Building codes often require your home’s heating system to be capable of maintaining a temperature of 68°F (20°C) in your converted loft.
In most cases, you can avoid the expensive costs of installing a new central heating system in your home by relying on rising heat and quality loft insulation. Done properly, this could cost you as little as $200 – $300 to buy the insulation and install it yourself.
If you do need to upgrade your heating system, we recommend setting aside a minimum of $2,500 for this, though you may really need to spend in excess of $3,000 for professional work.
Lighting, Plumbing, and Electricity ($200 – $500)
Electric and lighting installations are better left to the professionals, meaning you’ll need to budget for contractor fees
Last but by no means least, there’s all the little things that will make your new loft conversion livable; adequate lighting, plumbing (where necessary) and, of course, a safe electrical power supply
When it comes to electrical installations, in particular, this isn’t an area you want to scrimp on. Paying a professional electrician is always worth the cost to ensure that any work is carried out to the highest safety standards and meets all regulatory codes.
For most standard attic renovations, you should expect to pay around $300 for a few hours of work from a qualified specialist. However, if you need a whole new electrical panel installed to cope with the extra demand, this could set you back anywhere up to $3,000.
10 Awesome Tips to Get a Great Deal On Your Loft Conversion Costs
1. Hire One Firm to Do The Whole Project
Paying a professional loft installation company to do the whole job works out cheaper than hiring multiple contractors to work on separate parts of your attic conversion
When you first start planning your attic conversion project, hiring multiple specialist contractors to carry out separate tasks may seem like common sense.
After all, why wouldn’t you hire a flooring specialist to install your flooring, a plasterer to ensure a quality drywall installation, and professional glazer to fit your windows?
Sure, it’s logical, but all those separate fees soon add up. What’s more, working with multiple independent contractors can prove a nightmare when it comes to scheduling.
For example, you may hire a contractor to install your flooring. On the first visit, they fill in all the gaps between the joists, but then they have to leave and wait until your electrician has laid out all the necessary wiring before they can come back and add the subfloor and, finally, the surface flooring.
All of those separate visits are going to add to the total costs and make your project much more expensive than it needs to be.
Alternatively, one of the best ways to get a great deal on your loft conversion costs is to hire one company to complete the whole project.
A quick look online should reveal scores of loft conversion specialists local to you. With their own in-house team of specialists working together on your loft, these companies will charge you a single flat fee which typically works out much cheaper than the total cost of hiring separate contractors.
2. Do as Much DIY Work as You Can
On the other hand, you could save even more money by doing as much of the work yourself as you possibly can.
While you may still want to hire a professional electrician for rewiring work, and anything you’re not 100% confident with may be better left to the experts, but if you can lay your own flooring and do all the painting yourself , you could potentially save thousands.
Even if you do hire a single loft installation company to carry out parts of the job, they’ll still offer you a better deal if there are other aspects you can do yourself before or after they start work.
3. Draw up Your Own Designs First
Drawing up your own initial design plans will help you get a great deal from your architect
It isn’t just the actual labor you can save money on. During the planning stages, you may need to hire a professional architect to come up with the blueprints for turning your attic into a living space.
While this may be an unavoidable expense, you can get a better deal if you give your architect something to work with by coming up with an initial design yourself.
When you approach an architect without a clear idea in mind of exactly what you want, they’ll take the time to listen to your ideas, explore your space, and come up with a rough draft.
Only once you’re happy with that early design draft do they get to work on coming up with the final plans.
All of this early consultation work can cost a significant amount of money that you could save by doing some of the work yourself.
Head up into the left and get the exact measurements of your space. Come up with your own rough drawing and spend time thinking about how you could best use that space to meet your needs.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be up to a professional standard, but if you can give your architect something to work with then that will save them hours of time and potentially reduce your bill by hundreds of dollars.
4. Buy Your Own Materials
Whether it’s timber for your flooring or different types of paint for your walls, window frames, and baseboards, your contractor will add the cost of all the necessary materials to their overall quote.
Keep in mind, however, that they’ll usually add a certain markup percentage to the costs to cover their time spent sourcing all of those materials.
While that might be fair and above board, it does mean that they could end up charging you $330 for plywood flooring that only cost them $330.
Repeat that practice for every item you need, and you’ll soon end up paying much more than is actually necessary.
With that in mind, one way to get the best deal on your loft conversion costs is to tell your contractor that you’ll supply the materials yourself.
This gives you the freedom to shop around and enjoy more control over your material costs, as well as avoiding the need to pay all those markup costs.
5. Watch Out for Seasonal Sales
On the subject of buying materials, you can save even more money by timing your shopping spree just right and waiting until DIY stores have their big sales around Black Friday, after Christmas, and just before the summer.
Don’t forget to look online too, especially for any equipment you might need as you might be able to get the best deals on items such as drywall sanders by turning to the web.
6. Choose Windows Instead of Dormers
Dormers are as attractive on the outside as they are practical on the inside, but to get the best deal on your loft conversion costs, they’re best avoided unless absolutely necessary.
There are many benefits to incorporating a dormer into your converted attic. On the inside, they can prove invaluable when it comes to meeting ceiling height requirements while at the same time providing adequate lighting.
On the outside, they can make an attractive addition to your home’s exterior.
Yet all of these benefits come at a hefty price. Dormers typically cost three to four times as much as standard windows, especially when installed by a professional. So, you absolutely need them to help with ceiling height, you’ll be doing your bank balance a favor by sticking to standard windows.
7. Use One Large Window Instead of Many Smaller Ones
On the subject of windows, you’ll save even more money by having one or two larger windows installed rather than five or six smaller ones.
Not only does the cost of multiple windows usually total more than the cost of a single large one, it will also take your window installers less time to do their work, meaning you save on labor costs too.
8. Be Realistic About How Much Space You Need
Starting a loft conversion project can be pretty exciting, so it’s easy to get carried away and go all out by raising the roof and moving the walls to maximize space.
Yet if your loft is already big enough to meet building regulations and serve whatever purpose you’re planning to use it for, then ask yourself whether doing all of that extra work is really necessary.
If it isn’t, you could save thousands of dollars by sticking with what you’ve got.
9. Buy Quality Insulation to Save on Heating Costs
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating the fact that paying for a brand new heating system to meet the minimum temperature requirements could add thousands to your budget.
With that in mind, you’ll get the best deal on converting your attic by using quality insulation to stop heat from escaping. Providing you’ve used efficient heating in the rest of your home, this should be more than enough to not only meet those mandatory requirements but also ensure your loft stays at a comfortable temperature.
10. Keep it Simple
Last but by no means least, you’ll be able to keep your loft conversion costs lower by sticking to tried-and-tested methods and materials rather than trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
For example, if you decide that you’re not going to bother with traditional plywood for your flooring but instead use something out of the ordinary, then you’ll likely find that not only will the cost of your actual materials increase, but so too will the amount of time it takes to get those materials to you.
In the long run, this could cause delays to your project which could also impact your costs.
The same goes for ordering bespoke windows rather than standard ones, or insisting on unique design features.
In other words, keep things simple, and you’ll keep your costs down.
Frequently Asked Questions About Loft Conversions
It could take as little as four-five weeks to convert a loft into a beautiful bedroom like this one.
How Long Does a Loft Conversion Take?
Though every project is different, a standard loft conversion usually takes between four and five from start to completion. If your conversion includes a dormer installation, this will take longer and could mean the whole process lasts as long as six to eight weeks.
Do I Need a Permit to Convert my Attic?
In the United States, most regions will have their own rules and regulations regarding loft conversions, though most tend to require some kind of permit.
In New York, for example, you’ll need to team up with a licensed engineer or architect who can apply for all appropriate permits (including an Amended Certificate of Occupancy) on your behalf.
While this does add to your budget, it’s generally worth it for two reasons:
- Fines for converting a loft without the right permit can run up to $15,000
- Once your project is completed, it will be inspected by a representative of your local government building department. This inspection ensures that the job is up to code and gives you the peace of mind in knowing your loft is safe, secure, and of sufficient quality.
Wherever you live, it’s always best to check with your local building department before carrying out any work. Even if a permit isn’t required, it’s better to learn this first hand from the appropriate authority than it is to take a chance and run the risk of a fine.
Final Thought: How to Save the Most Money on Loft Conversions
Over the course of this guide, we’ve outlined all of the costs you could expect to pay to convert your loft and how to get the best deals to keep your budget as low as possible.
Still, we get it, it’s a lot to take in.
To sum up then, the simplest way to save the most money on your loft conversion costs is to do as much of the work as possible yourself. From drawing up the rough draft designs to sourcing the materials and the eventual labor, anything that you can take on yourself without relying on a contractor could knock thousands off your cost total.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you’re not completely confident that you can do the best job possible, then it may actually prove more cost-effective to hire a professional to avoid spending even more money on fixing expensive mistakes down the line. The same applies for electrical work and anything else that requires the skills and experience of a trained specialist to ensure safety.
Finally, there’s plenty of money to be saved by choosing your materials and design options carefully. Opting for one large window instead of a dormer or multiple smaller windows, choosing carpet over hardwood flooring, and using paint for your wall finishes will all help you to minimise the cost of maximising your space.