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Loft Conversions - Safety - Access / Escape

Loft Conversions, Dormer Extensions, Attic Roof Insulation and Windows

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Loft Conversions - Safety - Access / Escape

Loft Conversions
Roof escape window

Fire safety and escape consideration, like many safety issues are a topic most people sometimes like to put to one side.

Thankfully, virtually all are correct believing 'It will never happen to me'. However, safety issues are regulated and you and future occupants will be pleased to know things are in order.

Loft conversion plans require built-in safety features for:

In fire-safety terms, a loft conversion is seen as an additional floor extension, a second or third storey which adds complexity to an emergency exit.

What is Fire Resistance?

Loft Fire Safety

Fire resistance is the measure of time (hours) a building can hold back fire.

Loft conversions are required to provide half an hour protection.

Fire resistance is built in both structurally and by correct choice and application of building materials, e.g. insulation.

Correct choice of building materials is very important; we base our choices on performance endorsements for conformity to regulations. This ensures your loft is as safe as we can construct it.

The overall safety of our lofts can be objectively measured by the quality of approved loft plans and designs, the material specifications and through Building Inspector's approval.

Building Regulations

Building Regulations (UK) require a new storey to be separated/isolated from the rest of the house by a half an hour, fire resisting and enhanced smoke protection construction.

This includes a fire-protected means of escape leading to an external door, and an escape or access window in each room.

Half an hour resistance is considered adequate for buildings occupants to become aware of fire and escape from the burning building; or in built up areas, for the fire brigade to have arrived, rescued occupants, contain or extinguish a fire.

Minimum Height Rules - New

Minimum Loft Height
© Crown copyright

Internal loft height requirement states that loft height should be a minimum of 1.8 m minimum at the edge of a stair with 1.9 m at the centre line if the ceiling is sloping in order to meet building regulations approval for height.

See page 7 of Approved Document Part K for diagram and explanation. Low lofts can now be developed for habitable use, adding significantly to the use and value of your home.

TopLoft Access

The way into a loft is usually the best way out, for this reason stairs are usually required to vent onto landings and halls rather than living areas.

The picture shows a loft staircase and fire insulated wall built into a lower floor bedroom. The area under the stairs was left open and is a design feature of the bedroom suitable for storage.

Fire Escape
Fire escape

Our client removed the door at the top of the stairs once building regulations had been satisfied, a convenience measure that for many people outweighs safety considerations.

TopLoft Doors

Loft conversions require doors are fitted that are specially designed and constructed for fire resistance. Fire doors are needed along the exit route and this means internal doors need to be upgraded.

Fire doors are generally heavier and deeper than standard doors and will retain fire for about 30 minutes. They have the advantage of retaining noise too and can freshen up the look of a house when decorated.

Doors need also to provide protection from smoke and have to meet standards for fitting. Doors generally require the specialist joinery skills that a do-it-yourself DIY loft developer is unlikely to have.

The video below shows how a Howdens fire door is fitted into an existing ground floor door frame.

The original door is removed, casement made secure and checked, recessed to the depth of the new door which is trimmed and hinges added, then fitted.

To read more see our Double Dormer example

TopLoft Floors

Loft Insulation for Fire Resistance
Loft insulation

Loft floors provide a barrier to fire from below.

Our usual choice of underfloor insulating materials is Gyprock Rockwool™ 250mm fibreglass, it is installed between joists to provide fire protection.

When joists are installed a Buildings Inspector approves work so you have peace-of-mind that you loft floor is structurally strong, fire resistant, and safely adding value to your home.

To read more see our Loft floor example in our gallery and floors and joists within our loft conversion information.

TopLoft Walls

All internal loft walls must resist fire. This includes party walls, wall/ceilings and dividing or partition walls.

To provide half hour fire protection we install 50mm foil backed Kingspan insulation boards for their excellent fire and thermal insulation properties.

TopRoof Windows

Loft Window Regulations for Escape/Access
Picture by Velux

Roof escape windows need to be large and easy enough for an adult to climb through as an emergency roof exit. The important dimensions of roof escape windows are:

  • Size of opening - 0.33metres square, 0.45 metres minimum height and width.
  • Height of window bottom edge from floor (to prevent falling but allow climbing out - 1100mm maximum, 900mm minimum (Dormers)), 600mm minimum (skylights).
  • Distance to roof edge - for rescue by ladder - 1700 mm maximum.
VELUX Emergency Windows
Picture by Velux

VELUX manufacture escape / access windows, for example:

  • GPL Top-hung Emergency Escape / Access Window
  • GVT Conservation Escape / Access Roof light
  • GP8 M08 Top-hung White Polyurethane Roof Window

TopSmoke Alarms

Building regulations recommend mains operated smoke alarms in all loft and dormer conversions.

Statistics show that survival rates in domestic house fires double when a smoke alarm is fitted. An alarm rapidly alerts you to the presence of smoke so you can deal with the danger or evacuate the building.

There are two main detection methods alarms use:

  • Ionisation: These alarms are sensitive to burning fire and trigger before there is thick smoke.
  • Optical: Optical alarms are better at detecting slower burning fires such as slow -burning electrical wiring.
  • Combined: These are best at detecting slow-burning and flame fires.

Velux produce the WSA 100 smoke sensor and also produce a Smoke Ventilation System.

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