Safety must form an
integral part of your thought process when plannign a loft conversion. Some of the major issues you will need to address are:
The existing ceiling joists will not be sufficient. Steel beams are often required to support new loft flooring.
A professional will need to draw up the structural design and all steel beams and supporting walls and floors must be fire resistant for at least thirty minutes.
Unless you are planning to use your loft simply as storage then roof lights will need to be installed. The main safety implication under the loft conversion regulation is that supporting rafters must be doubled up on either side of the roof lights.
Something which certainly should not be overlooked is the means of escape from your loft conversion in the event of fire. The loft conversion regulation stipulates that staircases should be enclosed by a door, wall or partition which is capable of resisting fire for at least thirty minutes.
However, an existing door can be retained as long as they are unglazed and are, or can be made to be, self-closing and escape windows are fitted into the loft conversion. But, the decision to retain an existing door should only be taken after confirming that the door and frame are in good repair.
Note – doors into bathrooms and toilets may have glazing which is not fire resistant but there are no other exceptions.
Escape windows are a sensible and easy precaution to take. Top hung roof lights are used as escape windows and they must have a clear opening sufficient for an adult to get through and must be located in a position where it is possible for it to be reached by a rescue ladder. For this reason escape windows are usually sited on the front elevation of the house.
Mains powered smoke detectors must be fitted and any electrical work undertaken in the loft conversion must comply with the electrical safety section of the building regulations which means that any electrical work must be notified to your local council and be carried out by a registered contractor.
The minimum headroom on loft stairs is two meters though if this cannot be achieved then a slightly reduced headroom may be acceptable but will have to be made clear on your building regulations application.
Often overlooked in the planning stage but vital in order to be granted approval. Achieving the criteria should be routine for your builder but the main points are that the ridge vents (5mm gap) must be positioned to ventilate the loft conversion above ceiling level.
To prevent condensation from a vapour check layer should be installed at ceiling level.
And, unless breather felt is used, eaves vents (25mm gap) need to be provided.
The actual government published loft conversion regulation can be read here but the above are the main safety points to consider.For more info see the related pages below
Vermiculite Loft Insulation is an echo-friendly alternative to traditional insulation materials
The old loft water tank will need to be moved if the roof space is being converted into a habitable room
Structural calculations for loft conversions are of course hugely important to ensure safety and that the proposed plans meet building regulations