End-Terraced Small Loft Conversion Build

Plasma Dan

Well-known Member
End-Terraced Small Loft Conversion Build

This is a project I worked on recently. A converted loft in a gable-end late 19th century terrace. I thought I'd share it on here as it's a good example of a smaller loft conversion than what we're used to seeing on here. Technically this isn't classed as an extra bedroom, but it's plenty large enough for it's intended purpose as a new kids room. The build is not done to building regulations due to the limited height.

The client was not willing to have the upstairs ceilings lowered to create the required headroom to have the build done to regs. The advantages to such a build are 1: cost, 2: freedom to do the project without regulatory restrictions.

The loft is split into two sections, the main room and a full-length "crawl-in" cupboard. There is also extra storage space in one of the eave sections. The client was very keen to create as-much usable storage space as possible, in the hopes of being able to open-up some space in other parts of the house.

The project took 12 weeks to complete (working solo), and cost just over £10k all-in.










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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member
Day 1: Reinforcements

Before ripping-up the existing partial floor, I thought it best to add-in the new supports on each side of the loft. These take advantage of the large timber purlins in this traditional roof structure to transfer some of the load away from the ceiling joists. Conventionally you would install RSJs on each side, then install joists in-between. Since we're dealing with such a small amount of headroom, and since we know the build isn't being signed-off, we can cheat a little to save some space. However, it still needs to be well-supported.

The roof is actually in decent condition despite its appearance. The slates have been back-pointed, much of it has crumbled away but the slates are in good condition. A new roof would not have really been worth the cost. It would be preferable to have a modern roof membrane under the slates before converting the loft, but as-long as the slates are in decent condition it's not critical. The insulation is waterproof anyway so in the event of a leak, the water would most likely run-off under the slates. All of this was explained to the client before starting the work.

As you can see, older houses are not the cleanest to work in. :censored:


Each of these supports are bolted in-place wherever possible. Screws don't have the strength to be used for something like this, and using nails is not ideal since that would mean whacking everything with a hammer and disturbing the already crumbling back-pointing.

The opposite side of the loft was done the same way, but much further down, to make space for a storage cupboard on this side.


I installed a few temporary steel straps to the ceiling joists to avoid them moving too much while I was working up there.


Each one of the uprights is bolted with double-sided timber connectors to avoid any chance of movement and/or creaking.




Velux Window Installed

Normally I would do this first thing to get some fresh air up here, but it didn't arrive on-time. I didn't want to delay the project for it, so I was working in an unventilated fibreglass filled loft for a day or 2; not something I fancy doing ever again. :rolleyes:


Once the window was installed, I had a way to get the long joist timbers into the loft via the roof. The ceiling joists are extremely uneven in this house, as you can expect in a house that's over 100 years old. To maximise what limited headroom we have, the new floor joists sit in-between the existing ceiling joists for the most-part. Except for the far corner, where the ceiling drops low-enough for the timbers to be installed on top (convenient).





Even in such a mess, I try to keep organised. It helps me avoid losing tools. :rolleyes:


The cut-out for the new stairs is positioned above the front bedroom. Conveniently the front bedroom has a suspended ceiling to catch all the rubble while this work was being done.



Once the joists where in-place, the studwork could be started. This is done at this stage rather than after installing the floor to allow the studs to be bolted to the joists where possible to add more strength to the structure. This is a good idea since the floor does not have the usual RSJ support on each side.

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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member


The studwork creates a convenient way to keep organised while working on the project. I often use a whiteboard like this to keep reminders for things like delivery dates for materials. It's also a good way to plan jobs for the coming days, and try to keep on-track so I'm not wondering about saying "what shall I do now?". :rolleyes:


The joists also had some central support posts added. These transfer the load onto the supporting wall underneath.


The opening for the eave cupboard was created at this stage. Notice the floor joists continue into the cupboard.






The stairs opening is a little wider than needed to allow the stud wall leading down the stairs to be built through it. This makes building the wall & running cables a little easier.




The original folding ladder was converted into a perfect length temporary ladder until the stairs was built.


Due to the position of the stairs, installing a pre-built staircase would have been impractical. We could buy a staircase disassembled and assemble it on-site, but it's cheaper to just build one from scratch. These are the first supports installed into the stud walls for the winder section of the stairs.


Note: if the project was being done to regs, this would likely have not been passed by building control. I'm doing it to save cost, and because I know the stairs will be supported from underneath by the partition wall.

The 1st-fix electrics was installed as-soon as the majority of the studwork was done.



The client did not want any cables running through to downstairs, so the sockets had to be linked to the existing ring-circuit. I installed the cable in one length without cutting it, so it could be safely energised at this stage.




Once the cables were installed, the floor could be fitted finally. I reused as much of the old fibreglass insulation as possible under the floor.


Once the floor was done, the last section of studwork around the opening for the "crawl-in" cupboard was installed.


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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member
Newel Base

Once the floor was done, the bigger mitre saw was brought on-site to build the staircase.


The first step was to add a supporting newel base for the winder section of the stairs. The newel had to be cut down its length to allow it to half slot onto the floor. This is to avoid the need to have a bend in the handrail for the balustrade. The half sized newel will still be strong enough because its bolted to the wall further down, as are the supports for each tread.






The loft is mostly insulated with 50mm Celotex. This stuff is a dream to work with compared to fibreglass. I did the stud walls with the same stuff.






Conventionally, we would use 100mm insulation (or 2 layers of 50mm) at-least, but we can't afford the loss of headroom. I made-sure to install the insulation really tight, without any gaps, to maximise its effectiveness. This is another one of those grey areas with trying to do a build like this to building regs.


One advantage to using Celotex insulation (or similar) is it precludes the need to use foiled-backed plasterboard, since the insulation itself is a vapour barrier (and a better one). Although don't take my word on this because if building control were involved they would probably insist on using vapour control boards anyway.









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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member

Once the partition wall for the stairs was boarded, the stairs could be built. This was done at this stage to ensure the stair strings are installed flush to the plasterboard. It also prevents there being a weak spot if the wall had been boarded after the fact.


This is not a suitable way to build a staircase if you plan to have the treads visible / exposed. I knew this was being carpeted, so screw holes in the treads etc are not a problem.



At this stage the rest is easy. All that's left to do is install the treads & risers.





The only thing left to do then was add the false strings at the top of the stairs to complete the look.


The last of the plasterboarding was finished, all the beads added, ready for plaster...





Another way to maximise usable space in the loft is to slope the ceiling leading down the stairs, this allows the opening to be smaller, providing a little more floor space in the loft.

The plasterboard continues to the floor to create a seamless finish once the balustrade is installed.




The frames for the cupboard opening were also installed. There is a position for an architrave switch on this frame for the cupboard light.


Under the stairs...

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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member

This is where we finally start to see how the room will look...



Joinery & 2nd Fix Electrics

Plaster is dry, so first thing is to get the 2nd fix electrical done so we have proper power / light finally. Once done, we could get the 2nd fix joinery stage started...



Cupboard doors installed...




The client wanted a full-length wardrobe pole inside the cupboard, so this was installed at this stage.



TV bracket mounted...


The peg newel was glued into the newel base, ready to build the balustrade.



Here's a video tour of the project at this stage...

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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member
Balustrade Done, Ready for Decorating

The dog seems to like it. :smashin:










The next pictures I took where after decorating, as shown on the first post. :smashin:

I'm not too keen on the way the stairs finishes inside the front bedroom, but that's how the client wanted it. :rolleyes: I did try to convince them to have a separate door to the bedroom instead... but alas, it's not my house. The client gets what the client wants. :smashin:

Let me know what you guys think of this project. I was reluctant to share it because of the lack of building regulations, but I thought it could be useful for anyone in a similar situation. Just because building control say no, doesn't mean you can't do it. There are exceptions, such as dormer windows, they may still need approval since they're outside the existing structure. I hope this project helps to show the possibilities even with smaller loft spaces like this one.

Comments welcome.

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Active Member
A credit to you Dan for sure!

I would have had to clean out the loft before you arrived though...OCD I know!



Active Member
Excellent work, I did the same to my place (but it took me a lo longer!), again no planning or regs but tried to be sensible about it, it was a great space and when the house was sold there was no problem about the lack of official planning.


Distinguished Member
Nice work.

Its amazing how a velux window makes it seem bigger (the light ii suppose) and the finished room looks bigger than the loft when you started!!


Standard Member
Let me know what you guys think of this project. I was reluctant to share it because of the lack of building regulations, but I thought it could be useful for anyone in a similar situation. Just because building control say no, doesn't mean you can't do it.

Comments welcome.


This is incorrect - I am an ex local authority Building Control Surveyor. The works undertaken would definitely require consent, thus in basic terms no matter how high the standard of work is it still amounts to a contravention of the Building Regs. My biggest gripe here is the fact that the staircase is accessed through a bedroom - what if a fire occurs in the access bedroom? The loft occupants would be trapped! The absolute minimum required to comply with means of escape is a protected means of escape (full circulation route from ground floor to second floor, with fire doors to all rooms off this route and mains wired interlinked fire alarms. This route must also lead to a final exit at ground floor).

Another question - is the small cupboard with the child's chair in being used as a play area, if so this exacerbates the situation even more.

Note that the headroom issue applies only over the staircase, there is no minimum room height specified in the Building Regs.

I could go on and on......

Sorry to have to raise this, but for the balance of factual correctness for all members it is important that there is a general awareness of what is and isn't permitted. Please be aware that the Building Regs are in place to protect your health and safety and should not be considered as optional!
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Plasma Dan

Well-known Member
I am an ex local authority Building Control Surveyor.

#busted :laugh:

My biggest gripe here is the fact that the staircase is accessed through a bedroom - what if a fire occurs in the access bedroom? The loft occupants would be trapped!

That's what the client wanted, they were quite adamant about it. :censored: There is a possible means of escape via the loft window.

Another question - is the small cupboard with the child's chair in being used as a play area, if so this exacerbates the situation even more

It's just storage. The client wanted to get rid of a large wardrobe in one of the bedrooms.

Note that the headroom issue applies only over the staircase, there is no minimum room height specified in the Building Regs.

I'm aware of this, there was not enough space. Normally I would suggest a window to make-up the height requirement, but there were too many other factors that would have caused problems trying to do the build to regs.

Sorry to have to raise this, but for the balance of factual correctness for all members it is important that there is a general awareness of what is and isn't permitted.

No-worries, I agree this should be made clear for anyone reading this. The room is basically just a fancy storage space with a staircase, as I explained to the client before starting the build.



Standard Member
Hi Dan,

Thank-you for the detailed reply.

I would be a millionaire by now if I had a pound for every time I had the storage space scenario put to me. There is a very vague line where Building Control would distinguish a space as storage. In this particular instance it is clear that the occupants will use the area beyond storage.

I'm not finger pointing here, but some owners do not understand the consequences of non compliance. I have inspected numerous non compliant loft conversions in my time as a BCO. If the local authority that presides over the loft conversion in this thread becomes aware of the works they will take a very dim view and likely undertake enforcement measures. Imagine the uproar if they were to ignore it and the worse happened.

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