loft conversion _without_ strengthening roof?!?

We're about to buy a house, and _next_ _door_ the neighbour has "converted" his loft. He's a roofer, his father is a builder. I don't know them from Adam.
The conversion (and the loft!) isn't very tall - it's about 6ft tall along the very middle, but move 1 ft either way and you bang your head.
He's using it as his main bedroom - though he said that, if sold, the room couldn't be counted or listed as a bedroom because of the reduced head height, though it would probably be valued as one.
The bizarre thing is that in this 1973 terraced house, he claims not to have strengthened the roof, rafters, etc because "it was already strong enough". He's used kingspan+plaster board, added a velux window at the back, the stairs are accessed via a door, and the whole thing looks very nice. Other doors in the house are new, but I've no idea if they would survive a fire for 30 minutes.
The thing is, I would like to convert the loft of the house we're buying (next door!) in a similar way. I want a habitable room (not a loft). I don't care if it doesn't count as a bedroom due to the height, but I certainly _do_ care that it's safe (they'll be some records kept up there - they're heavy!), and wouldn't impair a future sale of the house.
I've searched this group for "loft conversion" stories, and found that some people seem fine with "attic rooms that aren't really bedrooms", while others find problems getting a mortgage due to rooms without building control approval.
So, two questions:
1. how has the neighbour got away with it (or how does he think he'll get away with it when he comes to sell)? 2. what should I do?
Cheers, David.
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2Bdecided wrote:

I'd talk to a loft conversion firm. That way you'd find out what your options are.
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He may not have sought or received planning permission and/or building regulations approval. In fact it sounds like a typical cowboy builder bodge.
Ask the local planning department if you need/would get plannign approval.
Peter Crosland
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On Fri, 20 Nov 2009 12:27:43 -0000, "Peter Crosland"

Agreed. There are also insurance issues. In the event of a fire, an insurer may not pay out.
Of course house fires don't ever happen ...
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<SNIP> I love this one. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3770939.stm
Baz
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I once looked at a house I was intersted in buyiong. It was a listed building in fact. the owner had made an office in the loft and in doing so he had sawn out all the many beams that ran horizontally from rafter to rafter across the void.
Robert
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RobertL wrote:

Perhaps they weren't doing anything useful. :-)
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wibbled on Friday 20 November 2009 11:49

You can insulate your loft without PP, though technically you might need BR (modifcation of >25% of a thermal element) but no one is going to bust you for this - just do it.
You can board your loft floor.
You may even be able to shove a velux window in - this is the only bit AFAIK that PP may be involved with if you don't change the roof line.
Adding fixed stairs becomes dodgey, but if you had a ladder going through a hatch, well, that's pretty normal.
If you then wanted to shove a bed in your *loft* that's your problem...
The point being, that if you are able to undo anything that may be dubious at the time of sale (ie remove bed and ladder), I can't see it matters what you do. As long as you accept the risk of falling down the ladder half asleep, or your insurance company getting arsey about someone sleeping up there. But your a big boy, you decide. You're not going to let any children kip up there presumably?
Your main problem is how strong is the loft floor? Your bed is going to point load up either 2 or 4 ceiling rafters significantly not to mention your other stuff.
If you do something to strengthen the floor, then you may need BR as this is rather more permanant.
I've seen this done in a house I was looking at buying - all the owners had done was one velux window (legal round my way on the rearside) and a guard rail around the hatch which was otherwise pretty standard. And the "ladder" was bolted on.
They were quite upfront with the floor not being beefed up and that it wasn't really a bedroom.
Didn't phase me in the slightest. What's the worst I could have done - unbolted the ladder and called it a loft with a window.
But - if you'd like to do a pukka job, including possibly getting more head height with a dormer and beefing up the floor, then it would be worth having a chat to some firms. At least your efforts will partly payback with added value on the house.
--
Tim Watts

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On Fri, 20 Nov 2009 03:49:59 -0800 (PST), 2Bdecided

Buy a bigger house.
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On 20 Nov, 11:49, 2Bdecided wrote:

AIUI there is no minimum height for a habitable room, but there is a minimum height over a staircase. There is no special requirement for a bedroom compared to any other habitable room as respects fire safety, insulation etc, although things like bathrooms and storecupboards may be allowed some leeway on means of escape therefrom, either because there's not usually much to catch fire in a bathroom or because people tend not to escape from cupboards.

Given this is a terrace, if his house falls down your proposed house is quite likely to be inclined to fall into the gap. Depending on how the joists run and the lateral support between walls, the weight of his loft conversion might be trying to pull your party wall in on itself.
Owain
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In article

There is if a new build or conversion. Cost me loadsa money to raise the ceiling height when extending an existing attic room.
--
*Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Dave Plowman (News) wrote:

It certainly used to be the case but I think you will find that the minimum height requirement was restricted to stairs several years ago.
FWIW my downstairs headroom is just 6 feet under the beams which doesn't much bother me as I am not that tall. The only real problem is lighting. With the ceiling at just 6 inches higher choice of light fittings is extremely restricted.
The clearance on the stairs is however another matter. I have long since learnt to duck on the way down as the clearance is about a foot down on modern regulations and, as the offending structure is a main floor beam, there is no easy way round other than repositioning the stairs which would be a major operation.
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Right - I'm talking round about '90.

On a new build? Wouldn't that make it difficult to sell? I notice that youngsters are getting taller. I'm 6 ft, and as a lad was taller than most. Not anymore.

Seems weird not to have a minimum ceiling height these days considering all the other regs?
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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On 21 Nov, 12:59, "Dave Plowman (News)" wrote:

I think it was Mr Bryer in an earlier discussion who noted that headroom predated the post-war Building Regulations and was so people didn't get asphyxiated from gas lights
As a 6'-er myself I do note that a lot of modern properties are claustrophobic. But it does make painting the ceiling easier when I don't have to stand on anything.
Owain
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Dave Plowman (News) wrote:

Very odd. Would make house construction cheaper though as long as there was still sufficient height to use standard doors. Save over 10% on brickwork.
Back in the 70s the minimum ceiling height for a habitable room was 7' 6" and for a bay window 6' 6". ISTR that this provision had disappeared by the time I was involved in a loft conversion in the late 90s but ceiling height wasn't a problem anyway so I could easily be wrong about when I first learnt of the change.
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Ah, but fortunately even noddy house builders know that they can't drop ceilings too low without shrinking the room - visually it makes it unsaleable.
What I wish we would do is copy the German/Dutch long overhang eaves, it makes for dryer walls, longer roof life before reroof and better aesthetics.
ROOF is not being explicit, but obsfuscating.
USENET discussion was basically... a) "Loft storage" - you can line a loft for storage, but would be unwise to load it heavily without checking ceiling joist strength b) "Loft more habitable" - trying to convert to "more habitable office" by cheats such as fixed ladder, lining, avoiding the necessary structural assessment and alteration re roof, floor, fire c) "Loft habitable bedroom" - creating a habitable bedroom to add value rather than the appropriately cited "cowboy bodge" requires PP BR etc - and for the OP a Dormer re headroom
I see nothing wrong with that.
OP needs to be clear in their mind about use. - "a)" Loft storage - "c)" Habitable dormer conversion - because "b)" is not a shortcut to "c)" :-)
Bluntly "b)" is building a shed without house foundations with a view to convert it to a house later. It will always be a shed even if you stick Canary Wharf on top of it (or falling through it).
OP might well look at other houses if they DO want c) because it can directly affect the end cost and thus end value added.
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On Fri, 20 Nov 2009 03:49:59 -0800 (PST), 2Bdecided

There are frequent conversations about dodgy loft conversions here http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/forumdisplay.html?f 
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Thanks - a search of that was very helpful.
Cheers, David.
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If you want the relevant paperwork for it you need to insulate the roof, and that'll leave you with not enough height to stand up. The only approach then would be to lower the loft floor or opt for a thin solid joistless floor. Also going from 2 storeys to 3 adds more requirements.
The other approach is which you do what you choose and live with the reuslt.
NT
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2Bdecided wrote:

There is no minimum height for rooms, only over staircases.

The height is not an issue. Whether it has a building regulations completion certificate however may be an issue.

As others have mentioned, there may be no requirement for strengthening of the roof structure, however there will be one for strengthening the floor.

There are a couple of "layers" here you need to address. Structural safety is one - i.e. is the conversion done well enough to not suffer structural problems or failure later. The second major issue of that of fire protection. Rules for what is required get more stringent when you go above two stories - So a loft conversion in a house has more onerous requirements than one in a bungalow. There are additional things to consider regarding heating and ventilation, controlling the passage of sound, wiring etc.
In true blue peter tradition, I can give you some ideas of the stages involved with a "here is one I did earlier":
http://www.internode.co.uk/loft /

What difficulties you run into will depend on the actual circumstances. For example, our current place had a loft conversion back in the 80's and there were records of building control involvement, but no actual completion certificate. This was a non issue however since the work was obviously done to a good standard, there were full plans, and it was still standing a 25 years later.

That depends on what if anything he has "got away" with. The obvious way is to simply not inform building control. If that is the case then how much difficulty that will cause on selling will vary on who is buying and whether he it attempting to sell it for a price over an above the bog standard terrace.

If you are keen on buying, then seek some reassurance from your surveyor that the work done next door will have no meaningful effect on your property. As to converting your own place, then you probably need to follow the full plans submission route with building control. Note also with recent "simplifications" in planning law introduced the the current government, there is now a fair chance you will need planning permission for simple loft conversions when before you did not.
--
Cheers,

John.

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