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If you want to convert your loft for habitable use you will need to install a staircase. Using a company like http://www.sussexandsouthcoast.co.uk is a good first step if this is the first time you’ve ever converted a loft space. Careful design of this can be critical to the success of your loft conversion. If there is enough headroom it is often best to continue the stairs in the existing stairwell. This saves space and gives a feeling of continuity within the home. Alternatively part of a room will have to be partitioned off to accommodate the new staircase. Wherever the stairs are installed it should be designed in accordance with the following guidance:

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Fire Precautions — Fire precautions are a major concern for the Building Regulations. The most dangerous fires generally occur at night when everyone is asleep. When converting your loft you will need to ensure you have mains powered, interlinked smoke detectors in the hall and/or landing areas of every floor.

Escape windows — These are windows large enough to allow people to escape or be rescued through them. They need to have a clear opening area of at least 0.33m2 and a clear width of at least 450mm. The bottom of the opening light should be no more than 1100mm above floor level and they should allow people to escape to a place free from danger. Escape windows need to be fitted with escape hinges that allow the window to fully open. Some of the standard hinges fitted to UPVC windows do not achieve this. It is wise to check this with your glazing supplier.

Two Storey Houses — The Building Regulations requirements for fire precautions in two storey housing are quite simple. It is generally felt that if you couldn’t get out down the stairs you could jump or be rescued from a first floor window. If you are converting the loft of a bungalow you will need to ensure that you have mains powered interlinked smoke detection at ground and first floor level and that all habitable rooms at first floor level have an escape window.

Three Storey Houses — When you convert the loft of a house and create a third floor the Building Regulations require you to look at the fire precautions a lot more seriously. Mains operated smoke detection need to be fitted. Due to the height of your new floor, you can no longer rely on escaping through the windows so the only safe way out is down the stairs. It is therefore vital that the stairs are protected from fire. To protect the stairs all of the doors that open onto the stairs need to be half hour fire doors and the stairs should discharge into a hall with a door direct to the outside. Alternatively, the stairs should deliver into a space with access to two external doors, separated from each other by fire resisting construction and fire doors. Generally, unless a sprinkler system or alternative escape stairway is provided, stairs cannot discharge into other rooms in three storey properties.

Four Storey Houses — If your house already has three storeys, loft conversions become more complicated. Careful design and planning is required to ensure that fire risks are minimised. You are likely to need to install a sprinkler system or a second escape stairway. This type of project will need specialist design.

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