Loft Conversion Access and Stairs Options
Accessing a loft conversion is usually via a Building Regulations compliant set of
stairs. Gone are the days when a ‘pull down loft ladder’ was an acceptable means of accessing the loft conversion.
However, the Building Regulations do allow for certain flexibilities regarding the final choice of access stairs
that you might want to use within a loft conversion.
Safe means of escape is of paramount importance for a loft conversion especially in the second and third storey
application of a loft conversion. This article wont go into all the aspects of fire safety, early warning and
compartmentation but will simply focus on the types of access stairs a house owner can consider for a loft
Firstly, as a general rule, if a loft conversion is to only serve one room or even a bedroom with an en-suite or
separate bathroom for example, the clear stair width can be reduced down from 800mm to 600mm. This can be very
useful for some very tight spaces for the new stair well so it should be considered as a design option. This is
applicable for a first and second floor application for a loft conversion
Secondly, a compliant stair case under Building Regulations irrespective of its clear width should always be
considered first. This means that the new access stair set for the loft conversion must have minimum and maximum
rise and going dimensions combined with a maximum pitch angle. Other dimensional criteria applies for the hand
rails and balustrade.
Should a compliant set of access stairs not be possible for the loft conversion then the Building Regulations
will allow for the installation of a ‘space saver’ set of stairs that have alternating specially cut treads and a
steeper spine pitch of around 70 degrees.
However, these are a very last option and the Building Inspector will want it proven that a compliant set of
access stairs is not possible for the loft conversion before accepting the space saver stairs as a suitable
alternative. This is because in the event of fire a panic situation will usually arise and as these space saver
stairs requires a thought through regimented way of using a specific step for each specific foot. It can be very
easy to get the sequence wrong along the flight of space saver stairs that could cause tripping and falling.
As a general rule of thumb, space saver stairs are easy to use for the able bodied and fit between the ages of
say 12 and 55. Others outside of these age limits and less functional bodies may find them difficult to use even in
a calm and normal use condition. What would happen trying to get down these stairs in a panic fire situation can
prove disastrous for some people.