The paperwork mountain

A plan view showing loft room, stairs and wetroom
If you manage a project like this yourself, there's a lot of paperwork. Our architect drew up initial plans and passed them to our builder for a quote. Meanwhile we needed planning permission. Or did we? If your house hasn't already been extended and you don't live in a conservation area, a loft conversion usually counts as “permitted development” - follow some straightforward rules and you won't need planning permission at all, although you can apply to the council for a certificate that proves that it's legal, reassuring future housebuyers.

Want to know more about the paperwork you need for a loft conversion? Click on read more...

If you live in a terrace or semi, you will need to get neighbours to sign “party wall agreements”. You can pay an expert to organise this, pick up a booklet from the council or download it here and do it yourself for free. A party wall agreement alerts your neighbours to the work you're doing on your shared wall and promises that you'll repair any damage. It's a good idea to also take some photos of the walls, so you know if you've caused a new crack or not. Neighbours, by the way, include freeholders, leaseholders and tenants who've lived there for more than a year, so you might need to get forms signed by three sets of people for a single property! My advice: if you want the forms signing promptly, take them round and explain them in person.

You will also need to apply for building regulations permission, because any loft conversion involves serious structural work. Again this is a matter of filling in some forms and paying the council a fat fee. The buildings inspectors who visit are very knowledgeable and are there to make sure the work is structurally sound – giving piece of mind to you and future inhabitants. Treat them nicely and they'll be really helpful.

Finally there's the drawings from the architect and structural engineer. We joked that for an eco-friendly loft conversion we killed a lot of trees. It really was a paperwork mountain, with endless revisions of drawings and page after page specifying every last detail, right down to which screws to use. We moaned, we struggled to keep on top of the changes to the drawings, but ultimately the result was a build with excellent attention to detail, so it's hard to grumble. Still, I wish someone would invent a way to insulate your loft by recycling the paperwork used to design it – we'd have saved a fortune!