Homeowner Danielle Farrelly shares her tips and advice for converting her attic into a spare room, saving you at least some of the work. 

One thing the pandemic has caused us to do is stay inside more and look at the state of our houses. What may have been an average size house now seems like a doll's house with the front door glued shut.

There's homeschooling in one room, toddlers in another room throwing their things around, and parents having nowhere to go bar the shower to have 'me time’. Okay, maybe this is just my house.


But this time around, one house project truly made a difference. After humming and hawing about it, we converted our attic last year. 

While it is a big undertaking and not possible for everyone, we knew it would be worth it. Taking on a job like this can be tricky as well as expensive but we were lucky to have a place to stay while the renovations took place.

Of course, you could also stay and grin and bear the dust. The job took just 10 days thanks to a well-oiled machine of a team, and with another week's wait for plaster to dry we were in. 


So if you're thinking about it, here are my top 10 things to think about when considering an attic conversation.

1. Do you have the space?
Does the attic only hold your holiday suitcases and the Christmas decorations but not much else? Can you stand up in it, and how much height above your head is there? When insulation and floorboards are added you will lose even more head height.

Ask yourself what is the purpose of the room? If it is just to sit down at a desk and work, then being a little bit snug is okay, but if you want it as a habitable bedroom there needs to be 2.4m floor to ceiling height over 50% of the floor area. And if you want to sell it as an extra bedroom it will need to pass a host of fire regulations standards. This is why most houses say three bedrooms and a converted attic.

Roof lights don’t require planning permission on the back of the house unless it is a listed or protected building.

2. Choose the right builder
Don't go with the cheapest. We were offered anything from €20,000 to €35,000. Cheap doesn’t always mean better and vice versa.

We decided to go with a company that only does attic conversions. We called someone on their list in our locality to see if they were happy with them and they were. They were a one-stop shop. They supplied an architect who did the planning application for the dormer. All the other builders didn’t do that and I just couldn’t face the application process. In the end the one-stop shop turned out cheaper.

3. Learn to haggle
We got our price down by just saying what our budget was and could we do other options for the staircase.

4. Think about where your staircase will go
Will it eat into the room below and where in the attic will the door be placed? I was a little shocked at how much of the attic we lost to the landing. On the plus side, we now have a bright landing due to the skylight above.

5. Think about your eaves access
Sounds basic but you want to make sure you put in a large hatch to get out suitcases or get access to your water tank.

6. Another bathroom?
If it will be a habitable space, it might be worth your while putting in an en-suite bathroom. But this will add a significant amount to the budget.

7. Consider the heating
Don’t even consider not putting heating in. The winter months are long. We have a small, inexpensive storage heater, and it does the job.

8. Think about the flooring
Years living in a basement in Rathmines have taught me that who is living or working above you really does matter. My advice would be to get carpet. The attic is the only room we have carpet in but not to hear a thud, thud, thud above my bedroom is worth its weight in sneezes.

Tip for buying carpet: get a remnant from the shop. Far cheaper and loads of options and don’t forget your underlay.

9. What about electrics?
Is the attic going to be a bedroom? If so, plan where the bed and wardrobes will be before you start. If it’s an office – where will the computer be? I know, I know, seems like the obvious but we changed our purpose from a bedroom to tv/office/escape room. Regulations state that you must put in a fire alarm and it’s worth your while having a fire extinguisher up there too.

10. Use every inch of space wisely
Remember why you converted the attic. The likely answer is to gain more space so don’t just fill it will old junk. We used the space under the staircase for our laundry and hoover and even such a small space has made a big difference to our bedroom.