Before you can think about whether you want a traditional spindle staircase or a modern bespoke glass and aluminium floating staircase, you’ll need to give some thought to where your new staircase will be placed and how you’re existing layout will affect it’s placement.
Practicality of use and complying with fire safety regulations will have to be considered before you go to the time and expense of building or ordering a new staircase.
Regulations state that the stairwell should give you the best possible of chance of escaping the loft rooms should a fire break out below in another room. For this reason it’s very important to have a ‘fire protected stairwell’.
Fire protected stairwell
Should the worst happen, and a fire breaks out while you’re upstairs in the loft then you’ll have options;
- Climb out of any velux or dormer window on to the roof
- Escape down the stairs and out of the house.
Option 2 is obviously the best bet, no body would want to be stuck on the roof of a burning building. Hence the need for a fire protected stairwell.
Take into account your existing stairwell / room layout. Do you already have a stairwell that’s separated from the rest of the rooms? or is your stairwell open plan i.e. coming straight from the living room up to a small landing for the bedroom and bathroom?
If you’re stairwell is separate, that’s a good start but you might still need some extra construction work to fireproof the walls between the stairs and other rooms.
Those of you with an open plan stairwell, where the stairs come straight from one of the rooms will have to build an enclosing fire proofed wall to block the stairwell in to protect it and your escape in the awful event of a fire breaking out.
Fire resistant walls
The vast majority of loft conversion use the existing stairwell as a starting place for the new stairs up to the loft room.
Take a look at the walls you have a work out how they’re constructed.
If you have an old property and they’re all brick then that’s ideal, no fireproofing is needed for solid brick.
Newer properties will probably have internal stud walls with simple plasterboard or lats and plaster and it’s these types of walls that need to be brought up to spec to comply with the fire regulations set by your local council.
Fire regulations are measured in time, i.e. the walls, door and floor of the stairwell should give you at least 20-30 minutes of escape time should a fire break out.
Plaster board and plastered lat walls don’t fulfill this requirement so will need to be upgraded with a special fire-retardant fibre-board or have the cavity packed with a fire-retardant mineral wool.
Lat and plastered walls will need to have the plaster and lats removed on the stairwell side, packed with fire retardant rock wool and re-boarded with suitable heat proofed boards.
Our photo shows an existing stairwell which has had plaster lats removed, ready to be covered new fire-proofed boards.
Important: Regulations vary from planning dept. to planning dept. so before you start any work, make sure you get an up to date list of regulations from your local council office.