Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion

A Tenement loft conversion in Edinburgh can be a great way to “extend” your flat and head up the way into the roof space…. simple, right?

Maybe not simple but most likely doable.

Whilst a Loft Conversion is a Loft Conversion there is something special, unique even about a loft conversion in an Edinburgh Tenement.

If you have just moved into your flat or have been thinking about this for a while you probably have quite a lot of questions you need answers to.

For example:

  • How do I know if it is even possible?
  • Is it Legal?
  • What specifically do I need to know?
  • How much extra room can I get?
  • What Permission do I need?
  • How much will an Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion cost?
  • Will it be worth it financially?

These questions are probably ringing a few bells if you are currently thinking of a tenement loft conversion.

You will want to know the answer to these BEFORE you start designing your dream Loft conversion.

Let’s start at the beginning…. first things first

Is a Loft Conversion Possible?

How do I know if its possible to convert my Edinburgh Tenement Loft?

Edinburgh Tenement loft conversion basics

If you are at the very beginning of the process, it is a good idea to do your homework and find out as much information as possible.
This is the information gathering stage!

The very first thing to do is to work out if its practical or economically viable to do the tenement loft conversion.
There are a few basic but critical things to consider.

1. Is there somewhere in the flat to put a staircase?
2. Will I be able to achieve a minimum of 2.0m head height at the bottom of the stair, all the way up the stair and at the top of the stair?
3. Is there enough head height in the Loft?

Once you have the answer to these basic questions you will be in a better position to know if your Edinburgh tenement Loft conversion is possible.

At John Webster Architecture we have done lots of Loft Conversions and offer a FEASIBILITY VISIT to assess if your flat may be a candidate for a loft conversion.

We will be able to tell you right at the very beginning of your journey if its possible or not (it is not always possible).

This can potentially save you ££££££’s by hiring an Architect in Edinburgh to produce expensive design drawings or hiring an Engineer when it may not be possible to convert your loft.

Get in touch with us john@jwarch.co.uk

Find out the answer to these questions BEFORE you are committed to the project.


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion

Is there somewhere in the flat to put a staircase?

It might seem very straight forward but its often the single most challenging aspect of a Loft Conversion…Where to put the stairs!
A staircase can often take up more space that you imagine.
Especially when you have quite a height to climb, most Tenement flats in Edinburgh have a floor to ceiling height in excess of 3.0m , you also need to take into account the finished floor level of the new tenement Loft Conversion, this might take you up to 3.5m….so, quite a lot of stairs.
Compare this to a new build house which has a floor to floor height of around 2.65m. Quite a difference.

In most cases a trademark of Edinburgh tenements is the box room.
This is an inner room that can sometimes be used to Locate the new stair albeit with some modifications.

Another option is to use existing cupboards (this storage space can often be replaced within the new attic space)

An important point to consider is the stair needs to be located in a position that suits the existing flat layout but also needs to enter the new attic space in a location that makes sense.

IMPORTANT: Avoid locating the new stair in an obscure location such as the kitchen (we have seen this done) it not only makes little sense and looks awful but its likely to put future buyers off with such an unorthodox layout.
Put yourself in a buyer’s shoes.
What would you expect to see if you were visiting your flat for the first time?

Will I be able to achieve a minimum of 2.0m head height at the bottom of the stair, all the way up the stair and at the top of the stair?

Now that you have found the perfect location for your staircase you need to make sure that the head height is ok.
You need a minimum of 2.0m at the bottom, all the way up and on the top landing.
In reality you want more than 2.0m for comfort, especially if you are tall😊
Strangely enough in Scotland the head height only applies to stairs the rooms don’t have to be 2.0m.




Is there enough head height in the Loft?

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how much you need, ideally a minimum of 2.3m head height.
Why 2.3m?
Well, take into account that the head height will be further reduced to allow for insulation and any structural modifications.
The floor will also be built up slightly by around 34/40mm.

The basics:
Stair Location
Stair Head height
Loft head height


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion

Is it Legal?

Is Converting your Edinburgh Tenement Loft lawful?

This is something that you might be wondering about.
So, who owns the roof space?

Tc Young Solicitors have written an article about this which states.
(except below credited to TC Young Solicitors)

The key starting point when seeking to determine ownership of the “common parts” of a tenement will be to consult the title deeds for all flats within the block. If the titles expressly set out the ownership of the common parts, including the attic space and roof, then that position will prevail. If, however, the titles provisions are contradictory or lacking in detail the position as set out within the Tenement Management Scheme of the 2004 Act (TMS) will “step in” to fill in any gaps where the titles are deficient.
Where title deeds do not specify who owns the attic space or roof of a tenement, these will fall within the ownership of the top floor proprietor. This was the position historically under the common law and it remains the same under the 2004 Act.
Tenement Management scheme link below:



Link to TC Young article below:

Who legally owns the Attic Space in Scottish Tenements?


Further reading by Purdies Solicitors below:


Before you start it’s a good idea to seek clarity on your specific case with your own Solicitor…this is something you want to know right at the start so there are no nasty surprises later on.

From experience we know that you will need to allow access to the roof for future maintenance.
There will likely be a communal hatch in the close allowing access to the tenement Loft space.
Again form experience this is likely to be a tiny door in a fairly inaccessible position….i know I’ve crawled through lots of these!
A new access door will probably be required and a new hatch out onto the roof will also be needed too.
This is common sense and access to the roof can generally be made better and safer.


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion

What specifically do I need to know?

Things Edinburgh Architects should know:
What makes an Edinburgh Tenement Loft conversion Unique?
A loft conversions is a Loft Conversion..right?
Yes and no.

There are some features and regulations that are common in all loft conversions but there are some things unique to a tenement loft conversion.

Apart from the stunning views at this height there are some things to be mindful of when converting a loft in a tenement.

Number 1
Fire suppression:

As well as smoke alarms, heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors a fire suppression system will also be required.

Building standards 2.15 Automatic fire suppression systems, this means a domestic high rise building greater than 18m will need a fire suppression system…this means that most Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversions will need one.
(this is something most Edinburgh Architects should know)




Number 2
Fire resistance

Post Grenfell this is something that has been in the spotlight, rightly so.

While an Edinburgh Tenement is neither a tower block or has cladding its still a high rise domestic building.

Fire doors will be required to give fire protection for all doors within the existing flat.
A protected enclosure is required from the Attic rooms all the way to the main exit out of the flat.
This will give you and your family time to escape from a fire.


All of this just makes sense when you think that lives could be saved.

While these measures do not eliminate the risk they do lower it significantly allowing you to go to sleep knowing that you and your family are safe…you cant put a price on this.

Thought also needs to be given to the practical side of building at this height.
The contractors will need to be aware of the regulations of working at height.
You can read all about the work at height regulations 2005 below.


Scaffolding will be required to allow access and to get materials etc up to the top floor.
Access for delivering materials also needs thought.
It’s a good idea to think all of this through and come up with a plan in conjunction with your Architect and Builder.


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion

How much extra room can I get?

How much extra room can you get from your Edinburgh Tenement Loft conversion?

Its not out of the question to have 2 extra bedrooms and a bathroom.
But the answer to this question depends on what you want to get out of it and what is driving it.
Are you doing a loft conversion for you and your family maybe with 1 eye on the investment potential or is this solely for an investment?

(Btw)..Tenement Loft conversions can make great investments.

Here are some ideas:
• 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms
• 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom
• 1 master suite with a seating area and large En-suite

Keep in mind that although the footprint of the Loft space is generally the same as the existing flat layout all of that space is not useable due to the slop on the roofs.

This is sometimes difficult to imagine.

At john Webster Architecture we work with our clients to design the best project for them.
We do all this in 3 D which really help you understand how the design works.
It’s an awesome tool.

On a side note its useful to know that you can instal a 600mm wide stair if this is only serving 1 bedroom and a bathroom (a 600mm staircase is quite petite and can be squeezed into a smaller space that a regular 900mm wide stair).
If the stair is serving more than 1 bedroom then a regular 900mm wide staircase is required.


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion


What Permission do I need?

You will require permission from the Local authority to convert your Edinburgh Tenement loft.

Planning approval

Will i need Planning approval for my Tenement Loft conversion?


This will depend on whether you are planning on adding a Dormer or just adding Velux windows.

You can read all about Dormer Loft conversions versus Velux Loft Conversions Here

It will also depend on whether your property is a listed building or is in a conservation area

Find out if your City of Edinburgh property is listed Here

If your property is a listed building it will require Listed building consent.

At John Webster Architecture we find this out for you.

If you are constructing a Dormer or altering the roof line then you will need Planning approval



Building warrant

You will definitely require a Building warrant Whether you require Planning Approval or not.

This is a given.

These are technical drawings that get submitted as part of the Building warrant application submission.

As well as Architects drawings a structural Engineers input is always required for a Loft conversion.

Find out Here why you need a Structural Engineer

Find out Here who the best Structural engineers in Edinburgh are

Once the City of Edinburgh council is satisfied it has all the information that it requires about your Tenement Loft conversion they will issue the Building warrant.

This Warrant is valid for 3 years from the date of issue;

A Building warrant fee is payable to the City of Edinburgh Council, this fee is directly related to the cost of the building work.

Find out Here how much a Building warrant might cost for an Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion.

TOP TIP: if you are thinking about a Loft Conversion, do it early.

It can take 6 months to a year to obtain all the necessary permissions to get going.

Once you have your building Warrant its time to start thinking about building, but here is the 6 million Dollar Question.

How much does it cost for an Edinburgh Tenement Loft conversion?

Find out a bit more below….

edinburgh architect



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How much will an Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion cost?

This very much depends on what you want, it’s a bit like asking how much a car cost’s.
Do you want a Ferrari or a Fiesta?

This is exactly the same principle with a Tenement Loft conversion.


• For a basic Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion in 2020 expect to pay a min of £60,000.00 plus VAT
• For a Luxury Edinburgh Tenement Loft Conversion in 2020 expect to pay a min of £120,000.00 plus VAT

You might be somewhere in-between as every project is different.

At John Webster Architecture we find it is helpful to understand how much a Loft Conversion might cost before getting started.

There is a danger though of starting out as a basic project but progressively adds more and more and it’s not basic anymore.

What do we mean by a basic Tenement Loft conversion?

We mean a staircase up to the attic from the existing flat, 1 bedroom with no bathroom, of course this will all be plastered and painted and all done to minimum building standards.

NOTE: there is no half way house loft conversions, this is not something that building standards recognise.
Its either a Tenement Loft Conversion or its not!

What do we mean by Luxury Loft Conversion?

We mean a staircase up to the attic from the existing flat, 2 bedrooms with a bathroom all finished to a high standard with top class bathroom fixtures. Plastered and painted.

Start with your budget and work back the way, so if you have £80,000.00 understand what that can get you and work back the way.
There are some tricks that you can implement though if your budget doesn’t stretch quite as far a you would like at the moment.
For instance you might want a bathroom (or 2, you could run all of the pipework and services and install these at a later date.
Just remember that you will need another building warrant when the time comes to do this.

Get your Architect to design an £80,000.00 Loft Conversion.
Don’t have your Architect deign a £150,000.00 Loft Conversion when you only have £80,000.00.
Be realistic and design what you can afford.
There is very little point in having a ‘Grand Design’ Loft conversion and not being able to build it, its very frustrating to see this happen.
It’s a massive waste of time and money.


Contact us about your Tenement Loft Conversion


Will my Edinburgh Loft Conversion be worth it financially?

In almost every case, it’s a BIG YES.

Although keep in mind this is rarely about short term gains.
If you are happy in your flat but feel a bit squeezed for space this could be the perfect solution for you.

Think about it:
• The cost of moving
• The cost of Stamp duty
• Solicitors fees
• Hassle factor
• Finding the right house
• Significantly larger mortgage.

All of this adds up and probably won’t be too far away from the cost of a loft conversion.

In our experience an Edinburgh Tenement loft Conversion is a solid investment.

If you would like to have  chat about your project drop me a line on the email below.