Converting the loft can make a big difference to your home. In the second part of our top tips guide, we look at getting permissions and finding the right builder

1 AS well as general builders, lots of companies specialise in doing loft conversions. These companies often work to a formula, so you get a certain number of sockets, spotlights and windows, etc, and if you deviate from that, or want a different spec, you often end up paying more, or sourcing things yourself. Some loft-conversion specialists quote for their usual formula, while others tailor their quotation to your requirements, which is good, but makes it hard to compare prices. Most leave you with not much more than a shell -- they usually don't do the tiling, flooring and decorating, but will hold your hand through the process by arranging the architect and building-regulations inspections, etc.

2 Loft conversions can often be done without planning permission, providing your home has permitted development (PD) rights and you stick to the PD rules governing width, height, materials, etc. For example, you can't create additional roof space of more than 40 cubic metres in a terraced house, or 50 cubic metres in a detached or semi-detached house (visit https://ecab.planningportal.co.uk/uploads/miniguides/lofts/Lofts.pdf for a summary of the rules. If the conversion can be done as PD, it's a good idea to apply to your local council for a lawful development certificate, which is for building work that doesn't need planning permission. When you come to sell your home, this certificate proves the work is lawful.

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3 On 'designated land', which includes conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, loft conversions are not PD, so you will have to apply for planning permission. It's the same for flats and maisonettes, as they don't have PD rights. With listed buildings, you also need listed building consent from your local council to do most building work, including converting the loft.

4 If your home's leasehold, doing a loft conversion can be more complicated. The loft may belong to the freeholder, not you, and even if you do own it, you may need the freeholder's permission to convert it, depending on the terms of the lease.

5 Unless your house is detached, converting the loft will affect a shared wall or walls with a neighbour or neighbours, which means the work falls under the Party Wall Act. To comply with the act, you'll need to give your neighbours two months' notice of the work and unless they agree to it, a party wall surveyor or surveyors will have to be appointed to draw up an agreement. The main point of this is to document the condition of a neighbour's property before you start building work, and after, in case the work causes any damage.