Loft bedroom is difficult to heat in winter

Your property queries answered

Q I recently purchased a house and was informed by the agent at the time that one of the bedrooms was a loft that had been converted a number of years prior. Recently, my wife and I have noticed that the room gets particularly cold during the final months of the year. The ceiling has been plasterboarded. Is there anything we can do to retain more heat?

A A loft/attic space sold as a habitable room, must have planning permission for its use, ie a change of use has occurred from attic to habitable room. Planning permission should have been obtained by the owner at the time the work was completed, and may form part of documents exchanged during conveyancing. As such, the refurbishment should have been carried out in accordance with building regulations, including the provision of space heating, compliance with fire regulations, ventilation and sufficient insulation within the roof void. You may want to investigate this further.

With regard to increasing the temperature in your loft, ensuring adequate insulation is vital. Up to 30 per cent of the heat produced in your home can escape through the roof if it is not insulated, so it is important to ensure that it is insulated appropriately.

If an attic is used as a habitable room, insulation is provided within the slope of the roof, ie between the rafters. Unlike insulating the floor of an attic (where insulation is placed between the joists and counter- rolled over the timbers) the space available to insulate is limited by the depth of the rafters.

The choice of insulation used is determined by the type of felt on the roof. If the felt is an older, non-breathable felt, then a gap of 50mm should be left between the insulation and the felt to prevent the formation of condensation. This reduces the usable space you have to insulate to a depth of about 100mm.

I recommend that, initially, confirmation be obtained on the felt type and that the rafters are insulated along with the room walls. Subject to confirmation on felt type and existing insulation, there are a number of options available for retrospective upgrading of insulation.

Provided there is no existing insulation between the rafters, and a breather membrane felt is installed, you could consider the installation of blown insulation. Subject to manufacture guidelines and initial preparation work this can be blown between the rafters without removing the plasterboard ceiling.

Assuming access to the eaves, you may be able to slide cut-to-width sheets of rigid polystyrene up into the space between the room ceiling and the roof slope, and also to insulate the room walls from the loft side with slabs of polystyrene set between the wall studs.

If there is already insulation between the rafters, additional insulation can be provided to the underside of the ceiling in the form of an insulated plasterboard slabs.

The ease of installation will be subject to the existing lighting arrangement within the attic (spotlights versus standard drop pendant). The installation of plasterboard slabs will, however, reduce the ceiling height within the room.

Andrew Ramsey is a chartered building surveyor and chartered project management surveyor and is chairperson of the building surveying professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Rental house to be put up for sale

Q I have been renting a house for the last two years and I was recently informed by my landlord that he is selling the house due to pressure from the banks. What are my rights in this situation?

AI’m not sure if you have a concern that the landlord might also be seeking vacant possession of the property, but whether or not he is, your rights as a tenant are not affected by his decision to sell. It is now quite common to see residential properties being sold by banks, receivers or owners with tenants in situ, but your rights as a tenant are also not affected when the new landlord takes ownership – he or she must adhere to the existing provisions of the tenancy agreement up until the term expires. The new owner very simply steps into your current landlord’s shoes.

The relevant legislation is the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.

The issue surrounding vacant possession depends very much on the type of lease you have, and whether or not there is a provision to break that lease. Most landlords enter into a standard one-year fixed-term agreement at the commencement of the letting, with fewer renewing that lease at the end of the first year and the arrangement continuing on to a monthly tenancy, called a Part 4 tenancy, as dictated by the 2004 Act.

If you both had renewed to a new lease at the expiry of the first year, you can simply check the terms of the lease to see if there is a break clause. I very much doubt it. In this instance the landlord cannot break the lease once you adhere to your terms, and he cannot rely on the provisions of section 34 of the Act. It does not prevent the property being sold, however.

In the second instance, where the lease was not renewed, the landlord is entitled to seek vacant possession if he intends to sell the property within the next 30 days, and the steps to do this are clearly set out in the 2004 Act with relevant templates available on the Private Residential Tenancies Board website. You must be provided with 42 days’ notice, once you are in occupation for between one and two years.

Great care must be exercised by the landlord in serving these notices, and if any step is incorrectly followed it invalidates the previous steps and he must commence the process again.

My own approach would be to talk to the landlord, in parallel with the formal process being followed. Early communication will probably lead to as amicable a solution as possible between you both.

If he is entitled to seek possession, you should acknowledge that fact and let him know you are seeking alternative accommodation. In addition, it may well be the fact that investors have an interest in the property and it might well be the case that they would prefer to purchase a property with a good-quality tenant in situ.

Edward Carey is a residential agency surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s residential agency professional group

Too much tarmacadam

Q I am considering purchasing a new home, however the one disadvantage of the house I am planning to purchase is that there is a lot of driveway and very little garden, which is disappointing given that I have two small children. My question is: is it easy to remove a large section of tarmac from a property and will there be any complications?

A Strictly speaking it is not difficult to remove tarmacadam, provided you engage a competent building/ landscape contractor to undertake the work for you. In terms of potential pitfalls, I would expect there to be a significant amount of associated work such as a substructure that will need to be removed and perhaps modifications to the surface water drainage systems.

I don’t know whether the proposed property you are purchasing has a widened entrance to facilitate this large driveway but again you may need to extend or alter the front boundary walls and any alterations already carried out to public footpaths may also need to be reviewed and altered. You will also have the additional costs associated with buying topsoil and levelling and seeding your new garden and all the associated works that are involved in landscaping this space.

At the end of the day, any proposal that reduces the amount of hard standings and promotes a more sustainable drainage system is to be encouraged.

Alan Baldwin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s building surveying professional group

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