Loft Conversion Ladders - are they still permitted.
Retractable ladders for a loft conversion are now really a thing of the past although I
do still come across some historic examples of when these were permitted under Building regulations. In a nutshell,
if the room being formed within the loft conversion is deemed to be habitable then retractable or pull down loft
ladders far access are not acceptable as they do not aid good means of escape in the event of a fire.
I often come across some historic examples of loft conversions using pull down or retractable loft ladders for
accessing the loft conversion but these are few and far between. Some homeowners have tried to get away with using
loft ladders for the loft conversion by saying that the room will not be for habitable use. Most Building
Inspectors do not accept this approach. It’s a bit like saying that I have a fridge but I will never use it for
storing food in this 90 degree heat.
It is also very hard for the Building Control dept. to control or police so it is not advisable going down this
route of using ladders for a loft conversion.
Some homeowners have got them approved for when it is not a full conversion, clearly of a limited size for
storage or the occasional train set. Each Building Inspector will have their own departmental threshold as to what
they can accept as a non-habitable loft conversion.
Another more acceptable approach for using a ladder type of stairway for a loft conversion is the use of space
saver type stairs that have ergonomically cut treads to allow the movement of feet at a steeper pitch. These are
normally installed at an angle of around 70 degrees and usually only in a straight flight (part of the Building
Regulations requirements) and installed fixed (non retracting).
However, the Building Inspector will only accept the use of these space saver type loft ladders for a loft
conversion if the homeowner or their loft conversion designer or architect can prove that a fully complaint set of
stairs cannot be installed for the property to access the loft conversion.
It has been my experience that it is possible in most cases to install a compliant set of stairs. I reality, it
is only the steeper pitch of the stairs the Building regulations are accepting as all other design matters must be
adhered to such as clear width, hand rail heights, balustrade gaps and head heights etc.