Getting an extension of any kind added to your home can be an exciting process, but there are certain rules and regulations placed on your property that may set you back if you’re not compliant with your local council.

One that can leave you a little bemused are party walls, what are they? How do they work? Take a wee minute to read through our everything you need to know, youll then be totally aware of your rights and obligations when it comes to making amendments to your property.

What is a Party Wall?

In a nutshell, a party wall is the wall that divides yours and your neighbour’s properties, with the ownership of the wall usually being split in the centre of the structure. To prevent any disputes, the Party Wall Act 1996 provides a framework for property owners to abide by. It is important to remember that whilst your home is slightly upturned during building work, if you live in an adjoining property, your neighbours can also experience disruption and noise, so understanding and patience is key.


What action should I take?

You are obliged to inform the owner of the adjoining property – this is called serving a party wall notice. Failure to serve this notice could massively delay your building work plans so it is important you take action from the start.Your Party Wall Notice should be issued at least two months before the work in the notice is due to begin.


What kind of work requires notice?

An adjoining neighbour should be notified if any part of the party wall will be affected during renovation or if you are undergoing an excavation, any properties within 3-6 metres of yours, need to be told. This will include most loft conversions. Serving the notice can be one of the first things you do, even before you’ve received the all-important planning permission. You can start work up to a year after you have served the notice, so the best thing to do is get organised.


What if my plans change?

Don’t worry, if your plans change and you have already served the notice, in most cases, you won’t have to re-serve a new one, you can simply just show your neighbour the revised drawings.


And if my neighbours don’t agree?

Your neighbours have 14 days to respond to the party wall notice and after that it goes into dispute, which can unfortunately be a little pricey as you will need to pay for a surveyor to lay down the rules of where your builder can build up to in the property. It is best to ensure that you put aside some money (around £1000) if worse comes to worst and you do have to pay out. Another thing to note; when your neighbours agree, be sure to get it in writing before you start any work.

Should you need to appoint a surveyor, we work with trusted party wall surveyors who can help you with this process.  Please contact our team who can advise you further.


Is my house suitable for a conversion?

Not every property is suitable for a loft conversion and did you know it is possible to have one, even if you own a flat?


Ceiling height

For a loft conversion to be a viable option, and for it to pass building regulations, your ceiling height will need to be 2.2 meters from the floor joist to the highest point. This means there is still enough ceiling height (around 1.9-2.0m) once the roof has been insulated and the floor built up. If you find there is not enough ceiling space, it might be possible to come up with a solution to increase the ceiling height. However, if you live in a conservation area it is unlikely you will get planning permission to alter the roof.


Access and stairs

Staircases are a vital part of a loft conversion, not just for access but for building regulations too. There must be at least 1.9m of headroom for the stairs and the maximum pitch is 42 degrees. There is no minimum width. Take a look at our blog on stairs for a more detailed view.


Loft conversion in a flat

It is possible in some cases to add a loft extension to a flat. To do this you will need to own the freehold for the flat as well as the loft space. It is also highly likely you will need to have a party wall agreement with any flats below and to the side of you. Take a look at how we transformed this top floor mansion block flat with a loft conversion. 


Planning permission

The criteria for planning permission varies from council to council and even within your region the rules can be different depending on the area you live in. For example, if you live in a conservation area. Not all loft conversions need planning permission and we can help you determine if you need planning permission or not. If you do need planning permission, or live in a conservation area, we can help you through the process and come up with designs that will hopefully pass the planning process.

What would make my house not suitable for a loft conversion?

Unfortunately, not every property is suitable for a loft conversion. Here is a list as to why one may not be right for your property:

  • The ceiling height is too low and raising the roof is not possible
  • You do not own the freehold to the loft space. A surprisingly common issue in London
  • You live in a conservation area or live in a listed building and are not permitted to make alterations. However, it is normally possible to find a design solution that will pass the conservation rules and keep the planners happy.