stairs to loft conversion

My son moved into a small Victorian terraced house about 12 mths ago which I have been helping him to refurbish and generally improve. The house has an existing loft conversion, not very professionally done, accessed by stairs from the first floor landing. When he moved in these stairs had a door at first floor landing level, but opened out directly into the room above (the loft conversion) with a surrounding balustrade. This door was a right old bodged job, so we removed it and my son actually now prefers to have no door at all - at the bottom or the top of the stairs. Is this OK as far as regulations go? If not, what will the situation be when he decides to sell the house and move? Can he be forced to construct a new door?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
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When he bought it his solicitor should have got a declaration from the vendor that all work had been done to the appropriate regulations and that the documention be supplied to support that. If not then he may have a cause of action against the vendor or his (Your son's) solicitor. Without the documentaion he may find it hard to sell unless remedial action is taken.
Peter Crosland
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So do I take it that there is a regulation re enclosing the staircase or separating it from the room above (or landing below) with a door?
I seem to remember his solicitor obtaining or trying to obtain documentation re the d/g windows and velux window, but nothing about the loft conversion or stairs.
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petek wrote:

Stupid isn't it? They chase up Part L documentation which is worth next to nothing in terms of safety, and completely miss the blindingly obvious!
Tim
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petek wrote:

I am not an building regs experts...
But it is my limited understanding that if the loft conversion is done on a 2 storey building, making it 3 storey, you need door(s). Exactly where the doors are or if the stairs should be enclosed or not, I'm not sure, someone will probably be along later with more details.
Doors are easy to put back. He'd be better doing it now, when he has the correct advice, than later, for his own good, but it's hardly going to be a problem on sale to fix. I would do it now, as it is one of the better aspects of Building Regulations - fire safety.
I'd be slightly worried about the structure of the floor and ventilation aspects of the roof if you think it's been a bit bodged. Particularly the roof, as you don't want rot developing. If the floor was dodgey, the ceiling would probably be cracking by now, so it's probably not as bad as it seems - still worth double checking the roof:
As your son can soundly blame one of the previous occupants for this (so he has nothing to worry about), why not ring up the council Building Control department as ask if you can have a short meeting with the BCO. They should have records of this job if it was done by the book - that will allay any fears. If not, they might give you some advice on checking bits. They will be more than happy to advise on the doors issue. If the work was done more than 12 months ago, they can't force you to do much, with some exceptions - they should however be quite helpful if you go to them - at the end of the day, most BCOs aren't jobsworths, they are more than happy to give advice on making sure a building isn't unsafe.
That's what I'd do anyway.
Tim
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petek wrote:

nope!
He may have trouble if he can't produce certification for the conversion (especially as the fire risk ought to be spotted on the survey). If he can provide certification then there is a chance folks would miss the fact the door has been removed.
Depending on the use made of the top floor, he ought to look carefully at the fire related aspects here. e.g. if the top room is used as a bedroom I would not be comfortable living in the house in that state.
(An aesthetically pleasing landing is not worth it if the potential result is charred children for example!)

Probably not - depends on if he wants to sell it though...

Building regs document B1 is what you need here (www.odpm.gov.uk) it is easy to follow and has the information you need.
Basic rules are however:
Since we are talking about a three storey building, there must be fire separation between first and second floors. This can be done with a FD30 fire door at the very top, or by enclosing the stair way with fire resisting material (i.e. 12.5mm plasterboard and skim) and fitting the self closing fire door onto the first floor landing. The ceiling of the first floor will also need to be fire resisting - 12mm PB and skim again, or a fire resisting filling installed into the floor/ceiling space (e.g. rockwool).
There needs to be mains power interlinked smoke detectors on each floor.
Doors that open onto the escape route from the ground or first floor rooms need to be made self closing. (but they don't need to be fire doors as such), OR, the escape route can be fully enclosed and separated from the rest of the building. The enclosing may not need to extend right to the front door if there is more than one possible exit route once you reach the foot of the stairs. (See diagram 5 in the document)
Habitable rooms on the top floor need to be fitted with "means of escape" windows.
--
Cheers,

John.

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petek wrote:

You'll know how legitimate the conversion is from the reports you had when you bought the house. It doesn't matter much what you do when the house is yours, but consequences of knowingly doing something dangerous may come home to roost if there's trouble.

Probably not, but it might make selling the house easier. Surely restoring it to the state it was in when you bought it, when it was hopefully OK, isn't hard - just re-hanging a door?
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IIRC, the staircase to a second floor must conform to fire regs if an addition since these came in. And again IIRC putting a suitable door at the bottom of it is one way.
--
*Eschew obfuscation *

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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It is absolutely categorically required. It must also be a fire door.

Assuming he lives that long, it may need to be replaced before selling.
It sounds like the loft conversion may not be compliant with many laws. Does it have the following:
1. Strengthened floor joists. 2. Decent insulation to the ceiling. 3. An escape window to an externally accessible location. 4. Only self-closing doors leading to the stairway on all floors. 5. No open plan stairs. 6. Mains linked smoke detectors on every floor. 7. Fire resistant construction separating the loft from the rest of the building.
Christian.
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Christian McArdle wrote:

I had exactly those same words in my initial reply, but then decided that was a little too harsh and deleted them (must be getting soft in my old age!) ;-)
--
Cheers,

John.

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Blimey - now I'm scared stiff!
Having given some thought to this "loft conversion" as I described it, I may be wrong and it may have been there for some time. The floorboards in the loft all look as old as the house itself, as do the stairs from the first floor landing to the "loft" room (I recently had to do some repairs to a broken tread and put extra supports underneath). I have also lifted a floorboard recently for other reasons and the joists look to be normal floor size not just roof size, so it may be a genuine "room" not a "loft". Perhaps this is why the solicitor didn't concern himself or mention it as a conversion. The house was built about 1900 by the way.
Ceiling is plastered and sloping as the roof is, so not sure if there is anything between it and the back of the roof slates in the way of insulation or water/damp proofing. The space between the floorboards and the ceiling (lath & plaster) of the room below looks to contain no special fireproofing, just accumulated dust and muck from the last 100 years! Velux window has recently been fitted in the roof but it just opens onto the roof so you couldn't really call it a means of escape.
On a positive note, and to his credit, he has had the sense to fit smoke detectors at the bottom of the stairwell on the ground floor, on the first floor landing and also in the (loft) room above. Unfortunately the house is so small they go off every time he burns a piece of toast!
As far as the old door goes, this was most definitely a bodge job by the previous owner - I have come to recognise his work! The stairs are at the end of the landing, IYSWIM, and the bottom 2 treads extend out onto the landing. The bodged door was at the height of the second tread and opened outwards, towards you, when going up. This meant that it didn't fit very well at all and was really awkward to open. I'm not sure how I could make a decent job of a replacement, especially with an auto closer, but in view of all your comments I will have to try!
Thanks for all your comments, and apologies for this long post. Any further thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Pete K.
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petek wrote:

That sounds fine then. Some houses of a certain era did have an attic room from the get go.

Seeing as we're in winter - how cold is it up there? Trust me, if there was next to no insulation, you'd feel it! When I were a lad, I rented a room in the attic in a big old house in Reading - complete with electric slot meter. It took 3kW to get the mid sized room upto temperature in January, 2kW to hold it, and when the heater was off, you could feel the temperature plummet as you were lying in bed, in real-time, so to speak. This house would not have had state of the art insulation in the roof.
If it's been done a long time or is original and nothing major's shown up - all is probably well. The way you wrote the original message made me think the entire loft conversion was done not so long ago by a previous occupant who was a bodger - sorry if I misread...

Well if it's all been there a long time, no point in panicking like a chicken IMO. Take a pragmatic view and see how things can be improved in the near-medium future.
First things though, which are relatively easy and not too expensive, and will help a lot, and I would recommend doing asap:
Put a decent door back as everyone has suggested, with a good fire rating and a closer - you can get closer hinges with inbuilt springs which are less ugly than a traditional closer. Might solve the problem you mentioned below too. The hinges are 1" wide x 3" long (approx) barrels containing the spring. A metal peg adjusts the torsion. Then two hinge plates, fit as you would any normal hinge. Don't know where you get them though - they were fitted in my last flat. I could do some ASCII art if you like.
Buy him some mains linked smoke alarms, and a heat sensor for the kitchen, for his birthday ;-)
You can get RF linked mains smoke alarms - might be the quickest to install. The important thing is that any smoke downstairs should wake the person in the loft room - that's not feasible unless the alarms are linked.
Just my opinion. Hope it helps :)
Tim
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petek wrote:

OK that is rassuring. You may find that it is not insulated to the same standard one might today - but that is more of a running cost issue than a safety one.

If it has been there a while and is not damp, then there is a fair chance it is OK. Again it may not be to current standards but if it an old conversion that is to be expected.

I am not sure how well a L&P ceiling rates in that respect. Perhaps someone else knows?
(if it is a problem it would be easy to screw a layer of plasterboard to the underside of it and skim it).

Means of escape refers to the type of window and its positioning. It needs to be hinged at the top (rather than in the middle like a normal roof window) so there is a big enough opening to get through. The base of the window ought not be more than 1.7m from the eves down the slope of the roof to make reaching it from a ladder possible.

the autocloser can be no more than rising butt hinges if you want. You can also get chain closers that fit into a hole drilled into the frame and are completly invisible with the door shut.
--
Cheers,

John.

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Thanks to all of you for your excellent and sensible advice. I know both of the door closer types mentioned - the sprung hinge and chain type, not to forget rising butts of course. So, in summary, it looks like a mains linked fire alarm and a new door on the stairs for safety's sake, no matter what building regs say.
Thanks again. Pete K.
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