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Designing a Loft En-Suite

Making the move up into the loft is an exciting challenge, but it can be more challenging still if an en-suite is part of the plan. So how can you meet the challenge (and the building regulations) when creating the best possible little room of the house?

Look to the layout

Always consider the potential en-suite layout in the context of any other loft rooms which are being created at the same time as these rooms will affect (and can be affected by) the size and position of an en-suite. As a rule of thumb, a space of approx. 1m x 2.6m can accommodate a compact shower room , so long as there is adequate headroom, whilst a bathroom will require a floor space of around 1.7m x 2.3m and will require sufficient headroom at least along one end or side of the bath, to avoid accidents and meet planning requirements.

Figure out the floorplan

The floor plan of the room will also need to be planned in the context of any other rooms as well as in respect of the walls, floor and joists. Building regulations demand that joists must offer adequate strength for load-bearing of bathroom fitments, as well as meet the practical challenge of a room which will regularly be steamy and damp and even run the risk of leaks and floods. When planning the flooring of the loft conversion, consider adding floorboards which are at least water resistant, before adding additional waterproof flooring such as tiles or laminate.

Think ventilation

On any floor of the house, bathrooms are extremely humid places which can easily become a haven for mould growth if not effectively ventilated. Windows are absolutely necessary to provide ventilation and it may also be necessary to consider extractor fan. However, consider too the use of neighbouring rooms – particularly if the bathroom is going to be part of a master suite, and maybe pay for a quiet version – now is not the time to cut costs with an economy extractor which the whole house can hear.

Prioritise the plumbing

Plumbing will of course be a major consideration which will demand expert advice to ensure that your en-suite is fully compliant with building regulations for items such as soil pipes. The drainage for these is usually built into the side of the house to serve your existing bathroom, which means you may be limited to having the en-suite in an area where the soil pipe can join the existing bathroom pipe work.

Alternatively, it may be necessary to create an additional, separate plumbing and waste drainage system, which again will have to be fitted in compliance with plumbing and building regulations.

Alongside plumbing comes the question of water pressure. Existing plumbing systems may mean water pressure which is adequate for a first floor bathroom but insufficient for a shower in the loft: if there is an existing header tank (often already located in the loft space), then this will need to be moved above the height of the proposed en-suite so that there is adequate water pressure. If hot water is served by a combi-boiler, then professional advice will also be needed to ensure that your existing boiler will be up to the job of not only heating your new loft space, but also in supplying it with ready hot water for showering and bathing. Alternatively, it may be possible to install an electric ‘power’ shower to literally provide hot water for the shower on tap.

Down to design

As well as these major practicalities, all of which require professional help to ensure that building regulations are met, it’s also necessary to consider overall design with the practical use of the room in mind.

For example, ordinary plasterboard which may be generally used throughout a loft conversion may not offer sufficient water resistance to be used in an area designated for an en-suite, particularly in a shower area. Sometimes, the building of a brick wall which can be decorated in a sealed and waterproof way can be appropriate, but advice from experts will be needed to ensure that the weight of the brick wall is bearable by the joists and to ensure that regulations are adhered to.

Welcome to your wetroom

Where space is limited, a basin, toilet and shower can create a basic but useful en-suite, but where there is barely room for these fitments, considering a wetroom (which makes the most of carefully planned tiling to create showering space rather than fitting in a shower enclosure) can make the difference between fitting en-suite into the space or not.

For a luxurious feel, electric underfloor heating is relatively inexpensive and can be laid under tiles. This can add significantly to the ease of heating the room without adding significantly to the cost, particularly for a wetroom where the additional space for a radiator may be hard to find.

Saving space

  • Bathing: Where a bath is desirable but a shower necessary, having a shower fitment over the bath can be created in a contemporary way which is classy rather than clunky, particularly if fitting a P shaped bath which incorporates a dedicated space for showering.
  • Standing: The window is a key aspect to plan for at the early stages and a dormer window can allow additional headroom at tanding height. If headroom is borderline and your’re not sure if a dormer is necessary, remember to factor in that waterproofing the floor may add a couple of inches to the floor height and could make the difference between head-height being borderline or uncomfortable. A dormer window can achieve extra headroom of approximately 150mm which can be useful where the space is particularly compact and ceiling height low.
  • Storing: Loft rooms notoriously result in odd nooks and crannies which can easily become unused, dead space. However, by thinking carefully about how the space will be used, it’s possible to make the most of all the space in the new room …
    • If the basin and toilet need to be placed within the natural headroom of the room, it may be possible to place the bath under a sloping roof or one of the eaves areas and using the space created by a dormer or the light afforded by a sky light to make the most of blue-skies bathing which only requires enough head height for getting in and out of the bath.
    • Use eaves spaces to tuck fixtures out of the way, such as with a corner bath or basin or have additional built-in storage created at the design stage rather than having to squash a storage unit in there afterwards and spoil the design of your lovely new space.
    • Space save by using cabinetry with sliding doors or shelves instead of drawers and wide-swinging doors.

Finally, what about those finishing touches to add space to the smallest room? Where an en-suite or wetroom is particularly compact, using reflective materials can dramatically increase sense of space, for example gloss tiles, reflective cabinetry and glass doors or mirrors can also create the effect of space as well as depth for a room that will be worth the extra planning time to get right.