If you are looking to utilise your current space rather than extend, why not consider a loft bathroom?
Take our experts’ advice to convert your loft into a practical and stylish bathroom, freeing up space elsewhere in your home.
‘Getting the plumbing right will be integral to the design’
Becke Livese, director of Econoloft:
‘If there’s a water tank in your loft, it’s likely that this will need to be relocated, such as to a corner of the loft, and/or replaced with a coffin water tank, in order to convert the space. Most builders would recommend replacing your old system with a combi boiler; although more expensive, it will be more efficient, saving you money in the long run, and won’t take up loft floor space.
‘Whatever your system, you’ll need enough water pressure and boiler capacity to cope with the new bathroom. Fitting a shower may impact on your hot water supply, or insufficient water pressure may cause problems getting hot water to your taps. Your builders should check this first and advise you. Booster pumps or new Megaflo systems are often used in loft conversions. A loft bathroom needs to be as near as possible to your waste pipe – typically at the back of a property – so your new room will usually be built above the existing bathroom to make plumbing easier and more cost-effective. A Saniflo macerator is useful if the bathroom will be far from the soil and vent pipe, but it has constraints. Saniflo Plus can be fitted but costs more.
‘Wet rooms work well in a loft. The shower area is usually level with the surrounding floor, with a slight slope to the drain, fitted directly into the floor. A fibreglass system is used to tank the room.
‘Loft conversions involve major build work and costs, so work with a trusted company. This will also ensure your project complies with regulations.’
‘Your loft conversion may need planning permission’
Stephen Broadley, project architect at Riach Architects:
‘If you are thinking of converting your loft to create a bathroom it may be possible without planning permission. If your loft is of sufficient size, you may be able to turn it into a habitable space under permitted development. Avoiding a planning application will speed up the project and may allow for greater scope than planning policy would permit.
‘In reviewing the size of your existing loft, bear in mind that you’ll probably need to upgrade the roof thermally and the floor may need to be updated structurally; both will reduce the space available. There’s always the option of extending your loft, and it is also possible to change your hipped roof into a gable under permitted development. For more details on your permitted development rights for a loft conversion, see www.planningportal.co.uk/permission/commonprojects/loftconversion/miniguide.
‘It’s a good idea to submit your proposals to the local authority for a quick check, with a yes or no answer, to confirm that they fall within your permitted development rights. If not, you can still go through the planning process with your architect, who can guide you through local policy requirements.’
‘Make sure that your new space will get plenty of light’
Agnieszka Prendota, designer at A1 Loft Conversions:
‘The most straightforward way to make sure your bathroom is bright and airy is to fit rooflights. There are lots of different designs and sizes available on the market at the moment and you are not limited to a framed look.
‘However, in order to maximise the feeling of space and light in your loft, it is worth considering combining the bedroom and bathroom areas. This can give your loft a penthouse feel and create a spa-like area. Consider using a low partition wall to separate the wet and dry areas of your space; add internal glazed walls or glass panels in walls to make sure your bedroom and bathroom areas are bathed in natural light throughout the day. You can opt for clear or obscured glass, depending on the level of privacy that you are comfortable with. I use this solution with my clients a lot. You could recess a frameless glass panel into your partition wall, creating an alcove on the shower side as a handy storage solution for toiletries. If you are concerned that this look will be too modern for your house, you could try incorporating glass into character pieces, such as an original door.
‘If you want to maximise privacy while including new technology, and you have a fairly large budget, you might want to consider intelligent glass. When you press a switch, an electric current passes through the glass, turning it transparent. When the power is switched off, it becomes opaque for privacy.’
‘Think of practicalities, such as your suite’
Darren Paxford, national sales manager at VitrA UK:
‘If you’re choosing a bathroom suite for a loft, consider the weight of the designs you pick, and what your floor can support. You may need to reinforce the floor if you go for a heavy item, such as a cast-iron bath or radiator, incurring more costs. Look for lightweight materials, such as acrylic, for your bath instead. Although a statement bath will add wow-factor, if space is limited, a shower could be a better option. Don’t be tempted to put a WC under the eaves, as you’ll need enough head-height to be able to stand up.
‘While storage is essential in any bathroom, it’s especially useful in the loft, as you’ll want to avoid traipsing up and down the stairs to get toiletries. Make sure that you have everything to hand in a tall unit, or incorporate your storage and basin in a vanity unit. If space is tight in your bathroom, pick a unit with a shallow depth – basins and WCs with a short projection will be functional and also take up less floor space.
‘Use optical illusions to make the room feel larger. Choose glossy finishes and mirrors to reflect light, and fresh and subtle colours to create a spacious feel.’
‘Planning the layout is the key to a successful project’
Ania Stanik, interior design expert at Ideal Standard:
As there may be limited space and awkward angles in a loft space, every detail of the bathroom’s layout will have to be considered carefully before design and product choice come into play. Deciding early on what the focal point of the bathroom will be is crucial to the success of the design.
‘The bathroom is a very personal space that has to meet a variety of needs. On any one day it may be an oasis of relaxation, a room for reinvigoration, transformation and even somewhere to play. So, think about the role your loft bathroom will play in your day-to-day life. Will it be used on a daily basis? If so, and there’s limited space, then it may be more practical to include a shower, rather than a freestanding bath.
‘As with any living space, there is usually an element of compromise that will influence design and product choices. However, the clever space-saving solutions currently on the market make it easier to achieve your ideal layout and style. When space is at a premium, snug-fitting corner basins, slimline units and spacious hidden storage cabinets maximise the amount of space available, so you can include all the pieces you need to create your perfect bathroom.’
‘A bespoke shower will give you more flexibility in your space’
Barry Hoyne, product development manager at Merlyn Showering:
‘Sloping walls and low ceilings are obstacles when it comes to converting a loft into a living area, and they are particularly awkward when turning the space into a bathroom. Advanced glass-cutting techniques and a greater choice of shower enclosures make it easier to overcome them. One of the most important tasks in your project is to ensure the space is measured correctly; the smallest mistake can delay the whole installation and will be costly to rectify.
‘Shower enclosures need to be positioned first as they require the most space, particularly with regard to the door opening. Ceiling heights vary in lofts, which will cause restrictions when it comes to the layout. This needs to be planned carefully to ensure there is space for sanitaryware and showers to function in close proximity. Walk-in showers are ideal for tight spaces as there are no outwardly opening doors. Bi-fold doors are also a good option as the door opens inwards.’