Whether to skip the dreaded daily commute or to avoid having to live in overpriced areas, many of us dream of being able to work from home. As more and more people realise that dream, the potential benefits are becoming widely known; not only can it help to lower your stress, but for business owners it can also mean huge savings on renting office space.
Creating a home office can be an excellent excuse to finally convert a lesser-used part of your home into liveable space. Just because you do not have a spare bedroom to convert does not mean that you are out of options. In fact, you could make an attractive office space out of a loft, cellar, garage or even a shed!
That being said, work like this requires careful planning. Structural considerations should be your top priority, so start by having your chosen space assessed by a structural engineer. They should be able to tell you how much work will be required to bring the space up to standard. It will also be a good idea to have scaled plans drawn up by an architectural designer or builder; not only will this give you a clear picture of the space you will be creating, it will also be a great help if you need to apply for planning permission or building regulations approval. Most importantly of all, make sure that your applications for the work have been approved before your project begins - the last thing you want is for a representative from your council to turn up and tell you that all of your work needs to be undone.
Before you get started, here are a few basics for you to consider:
With a loft conversion, it is important to know exactly what costs you are in for before the main work gets started. Start off by measuring the distance between the floor and the apex of the roof - you will need at least 2.2m for your conversion to go ahead. The pitch angle of the roof will also be important, as this will influence the amount of available head room and usable space.
If you think that you have enough space for a conversion, have your loft assessed by a structural engineer. To put things simply, there is a big difference between a standard loft and a fully furnished room. Your engineer will be able to tell you whether your roof supports will need to be strengthened, as well as any other basic work that will need to be done before you can actually get down to designing your office. Depending on what alterations are necessary for your conversion, it may well require planning permission. If your engineer declares that your roof is unsuitable, the work required to change it will be highly expensive, so consider your options carefully!
One of the most important things to take into account with a loft office conversion is access. The stairs to your loft will need to go somewhere, and this in turn will influence where you can place your furniture. Remember, if you need to fit a desk or storage into an awkward space, you can always book a bespoke furniture design service with a local carpenter.
You should also try to consider natural light. Dormer windows will be ideal here, as they can be fitted into an existing roof without having to make any major alterations.
Most modern homes lack cellars, but if you are lucky enough to have one then you could have the perfect canvas for your office conversion. Unlike lofts, cellars are usually located close to a home’s main living areas. You could even fit yours with an external entrance, not only helping to distinguish your home space from your work area but also providing you with the opportunity to use it as a separate dwelling later on.
An important thing to get into your head now is that if your property does not currently have a basement, the cost of adding one will likely outweigh the potential benefits. This may not be the case in an area like London, where any extra space can be a premium, but it will be best to know for certain before you spend any money. To get a better idea of how beneficial it will be to add a basement based on your area, speak with a local estate agent.
One of the main advantages of converting a cellar is that if the work will not alter the external appearance of a property, it may not require planning permission. However, this may not be the case if the floor needs to be lowered. The work will almost certainly require building regulations approval and, if your cellar shares a wall with an adjoining property, a party wall agreement.
Your biggest priorities with a basement conversion will be tanking and lighting. ‘Tanking’ refers to how a basement is commonly waterproofed, making the space suitable for daily use rather than just storage. Providing enough natural light for the room will be essential for your health and productivity. There are quite a few ways to provide a cellar with natural light, including light wells and walk-on glazing. Remember, the more natural light you can add, the less electricity your conversion will require.
While a cellar conversion usually provides you with a lot of space to work with, if you have been using the area for storage then you will need to consider where you will be putting everything once the conversion is complete. If you have more space than you need, you could consider keeping part of the cellar for storage, or even setting up a small meeting area for clients.
Converting your garage can be an excellent investment, especially if you do not need the space for your car. That said, if you live in an area like London where parking spaces are highly valuable, a garage conversion could seriously devalue your home, so be careful!
Another thing to consider before converting your garage is exactly where you will put everything currently stored inside, such as your tools, lawnmower, freezer and so on. A simple answer, provided you have the space, is to go with a partial conversion, leaving yourself with room for storage. Alternative, you could invest in a well-sized shed.
The cost of converting a garage can vary significantly. Start by having the structure assessed by a builder or structural engineer to make sure that the floors and walls are stable. The garage will also need to be waterproofed; failing to address this problem could lead to serious problems with damp, which doesn’t tend to go very well with office decor!
As long as you do not want to alter the structure of the building, your garage conversion should not require planning permission. However, you will need to submit a building notice to your council for the change of use and the work will need to comply with building regulations.
A garage is another household area that does not usually have a great degree of natural light, so make sure that you address this in your plans. A popular solution is to replace one of the walls or garage doors with a floor-to-ceiling window. Try to include as much natural light as you can - the less of a strain you put on your mains, the less likely it is that you will need to upgrade your electrical system.