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Take it up another notch - convert your attic

Loft attic bedroom concept

Are you fresh, dynamic and creative? Of course you are. Aren’t all of us at heart?!... and moreover, we all want to design something that is very ‘us’ - whether it’s remodelling, expanding or just giving our creativity free rein. The young - and wannabee young - repurpose buses, the nature lovers among you cultivate flower meadows, but the most majestic part of this discipline comes out for you as homeowners...

A high point in every sense. The attic. Long forgotten, gathering dust, it remains perched up there, in exalted elevation, eking out its existence and in the words of the Imagine song - ‘above us only sky.’

Feel like shaking all of that up? If so, what awaits is not only unlimited potential but also a bumper bag of real gains:

  • A larger living space.

  • Improved energy efficiency, thanks to modern thermal insulation.

  • A more valuable property.

  • Avoiding expanding the urban sprawl and buildings packed like sardines.

Unfortunately and (as so often) unavoidably, there are some key things to consider and remember when converting your under-roof space. We’ve rounded up some of the legal regulations you have to comply with, and we give you an idea of the costs involved. Then, to finish with the fun part, you can look forward to some creative proposals to implement at the end.

What to consider before the planning stage

Well before planning proper, there’s the pre-planning to consider. When it comes to attic conversions, the earlier you plan it all out, the better. What purpose should the new space up top fill? What is needed alongside existing infrastructure? and how is the floor already developed?

After all, building what you want depends on knowing what you really want. So it’s worth pondering the following before converting your attic:

  • What is your new floor for? Keen to turn your attic into a greenhouse? - Or a chic, new home office? Or even an all-new stand-alone living unit? Do consider everything carefully - because the intended use will exert very differing demands on the conversion.

  • How connected and accessible is the new floor? Is it wired up with mains electricity and are the water and sewage pipes in place? Are there already stairs or escape routes? Go through a mental checklist like this before the conversion to ensure it all runs smoothly and no resources are wasted.

  • What lighting conditions do you want? How much natural light do you want and in what kind of configuration? Leave this aside, of course, if you’re planning a greenhouse or darkroom. In all other cases though, it’s worth remembering that although each window brightens things up and improves visibility, it also uses up important wall space. So find the right balance.

  • What heat insulation performance do you want? Do you want the attic to be cosy and habitable around the clock and year round? How do outside temperatures vary where you live? It’s up to you to find the right configuration, balancing the intended use, outside temperatures and insulation needs to create a cosy, practical and energy-efficient attic.

Come what may, expect it to take longer and cost more than you think. Converting your attic isn’t a project to rush or cut corners on. Measure the premises - including the roof pitch - and get expert advice.

Permits and regulations

What does the Amazon have in common with Swiss building regulations? Both are jungles – of species and of jargon. But don't worry, there are regulations to govern each individual case, including yours. All you have to do is define it. Let our experts help you navigate a roadmap through the maze of regulations. Here are a few pointers to start you off:

  • If you have major changes in mind, a building permit is needed. This includes work such as changes to windows, accessibility, brickwork and so on. A permit may also be required for more minor work, but this is usually granted within days.

  • As well as the building permit, a public tender may be required if actual conversion work is required, which may also take several months to approve. Due diligence in terms of getting the right advice and clarifying things early is also advisable.

  • So if you are thinking big and planning a full-blown loft extension, you’ll have to apply for a building permit. Professional advice from architects or other experts makes a lot of sense in this case.

Beforehand, we’d also recommend that you identify the site ratio of your location, namely the ratio between the area of the plot and the living space. Experts like those mentioned can also shed further light on the rules governing how you can use commercial or residential space, although the precise figures vary from one locality to another. The same applies to zoning plans and local building regulations - the number of storeys a building can have may vary. Geographical differences also emerge in aspects like fire and monument protection.

And if all this has your head spinning by now, we don’t blame you.

And if your brain’s ready to explode by now?

Well, however complicated it sounds, help is at hand. In fact, it’s easier done than said for once, with Liiva's modernisation assistant and simple craftsman referral service. Planning and managing your renovation plans online couldn’t be easier. Register now free of charge.

Keen to spend your time doing other things? Get all the individual advice you need with Liiva Premium Membership. And when the hurdles get higher? Look no further than our legal and concierge services - we’ve got your back. Let us handle the planning load, while you sit back and start daydreaming of your new attic. Learn more about our Premium Membership.

Costs of the extension

So what’s all this going to cost? Well, how long is a piece of string? Expenses for projects like these are as variable as the projects themselves. What we can do, though, is give you some ballpark figures for some of the individual measures. Here comes a range of market price ranges, from interior cladding to photovoltaic systems:

Interior cladding and flooring

  • Insulation: 60 - 250 CHF/m²

  • Interior cladding: 20 - 30 CHF/m²

  • Interior plaster: around 30 CHF/m²

  • Floor covering: 40 - 50 CHF /m²

Energy and sanitary installation

  • Heating: Varies considerably. Further consultation needed.

  • Air-conditioning: 500 - 3000 CHF

  • Sanitary installations: Provided the existing system is easily accessible: <10,000 CHF; For larger bathrooms and pipe laying over several floors: 15,000 - 35,000 CHF

Roof and house walls

  • Roof dormers: 5,000 - 25,000 CHF

  • Insulation: 50 - 300 CHF/m² (Click here and find out how to refurbish your facade to be more energy-efficient!)

  • Skylight: 300 - 3,000 CHF/window

Structure

  • Structural measures: varies wildly. Further consultation needed.

  • Stairs: 6,000 - 10,000 CHF

Converting the attic: Creative ideas

Renting out the space is just boring! If you don’t have commercial reasons for converting your attic but would simply like more space for you and your loved ones to enjoy, then we have just the thing for you here - creative usage ideas!

Good and upright: Provided you have a sloping roof adjacent to an unused flat roof, your dream of a roof terrace can be realized. Key to this is a sliding roof window, which can be variably installed in any sloping roof. Configuring it with an incline means you can still walk through it upright, even from a low height. You’ll be proudly strolling along said terrace in no time - and without any worries of banging your head. You are welcome!

Top fit: Is the step machine or staircase your go-to exercise warm-up? Then it’s likely a done deal. Make your attic into a home gym. Use the beams for pull-ups and the vertical walls for mirrors. You’ll find it nice and cool in winter. In summer though, however good the workout feels, you’ll need plenty of air moving to avoid any pong. This is where clever ventilation systems - like tilting windows in the jamb wall - can help. You’ll get all the circulation you want when you install higher windows alongside!

Bathing under the starry sky: Love the idea of an al-fresco starlit dip? Now’s your chance to make it happen! Your attic can morph into an open-air bathroom in just moments. From a shower bathed in natural light, glass roof and starry view included, to a Jacuzzi on the converted terrace alongside. The only limits are your imagination.

Going to bed with a galactic view: Imagine waking in bed, opening your eyes at night and luxuriating in the light of a million stars. And not because of blood pressure or dizziness - the real deal. Build a skylight right above your bed and you'll be dreaming, even in daytime.

The all-weather program "This house is not a playground!" or "Go and play outside!" - find yourself reminding your kids more often than not? Here’s a new suggestion. Instead of banishing them outside, just send them upstairs. Turn your attic into an indoor playground and whatever the weather, they can play to their hearts’ content. Having a space of outsize height in the middle of the gable roof opens up a ton of new options when it comes to playing and romping around. Whether it's a swing, climbing wall or slide - the possibilities are almost as wide-ranging as the sound insulation you may also need.

Whether it’s an investment, a hobby or something to add colour to your life or space to your home - converting the attic is more than worth the effort. Whatever your dream, however crazy, bring it a bit closer to reality with our help.

You’re all set as a Liiva member: From the modernisation plan to finding the right craftsman.