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Valid Escape Routes From a Loft Conversion and Dormer

Postby Rich319 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:09 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm planning to convert my loft in to a bedroom by adding a dormer but am struggling with building control regulations as the current staircase terminates in to an open plan living room. The Building Control recommendations are to partition the staircase, which I would rather avoid, so I'm seeking alternative options. As I am also creating a single storey rear extension, I'm wondering if exiting via the loft (escape) windows on to the single storey roof is a valid (Building control approved) means of escape.

The logic behind my thinking is if it's currently OK to escape via a bedroom window on the first floor, the distance between the loft window and the first floor roof would be the same distance.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.


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Loft Light attic lighting products

Postby michaelscad » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:14 pm

Building Control Subject LOFT CONVERSIONS TO 03
Guidance Note
Issued 12/01/07 Rev Page 1 of 5

If you intend to convert an existing loft space into additional rooms you will need to apply for Building
Regulation Approval. You may also need Planning Permission if you live in a Conservation Area or a Listed
Building and/or are installing a dormer window. This guidance note deals with the points, which most often
cause difficulties - if you cannot find ways of dealing with them, it may not be possible to convert your
loft at all.

From 6 April 2007 there have been significant changes to requirements for loft conversions. Most of the
reduced standards that have existed for a number of years have now been removed and loft conversions are to
be treated, as would a new 3-storey house.
As a result more onerous conditions apply requiring the formation of a fire resistant protected escape route out
from the loft to the dwelling’s final exit, in order to prevent occupants been trapped in a fire.

This guidance offers advice on loft conversions to existing bungalows and existing two dwellings - if you already
have a 3-storey premise and wish to convert the loft, you are advised to speak to Building Control first.

1. Form a protected route out from the loft rooms to a
final exit at the ground floor.

The upper storeys must by served by a fire protected stairway
(protected at all levels) which either at ground floor level:

a. discharges to a hall served by an external door, or

b. there must be at least two separate escape routes available to
an external door - separated by fire resistant construction and
fire doors.

If you have an open plan staircase it will therefore need to be
enclosed (see notes below).

The protected stair enclosure should be enclosed in a minimum
30-minute fire resisting construction to protect the escape route for
the occupants to make a safe escape.

All doors opening onto the protected stair are to be FD20 or E20
fire resisting doors. One concession is that there is no need to fit
self-closing devices to any fire doors indicated in Diagram 2.

You must ensure that the new loft access stair is an extension of
the existing stair enclosure to avoid the creation of inner rooms i.e.
where escape can only be made by passing through another room
(this situation is not acceptable).

The new stair has to continue up in the existing stair enclosure (in
which case the fire door and additional separating structure will be
at the top floor level). Alternatively if there is only one room in the
loft space, the loft stair can be contained within the room itself and
a fire door provided at the base of stair landing position, where it
exits onto the existing first floor landing.

NOTE: If you are converting a bungalow’s roof space this protected
enclosure may not be necessary see escape window notes below.

Building Control Subject LOFT CONVERSIONS TO 03
Guidance Note
Issued 12/01/07 Rev Page 2 of 5

2. What if I have an open-plan arrangement in my house i.e. stairs are open to the main living
areas and are not enclosed by a traditional hallway leading to a final exit?
Where the existing house is open-plan, it will be necessary to provide a new 30-minute fire resistant partition
with fire doors to enclose and extend the escape route to a final exit as indicated above in Diagram 2.

You can provide sprinkler protection to the open-plan area in accordance with BS9251: 2005, in conjunction
with a fire resisting partition and door (FD20 / E20) positioned to separate the ground floor from the upper
storeys. This door should be so arranged to allow the occupants of the loft room(s) to access an escape
window at first floor level in event of a fire in the open-plan area. Cooking facilities must however in all cases be
separated from the open-plan area with 30 minute fire – resisting construction.

3. Do I need to provide an escape window to the loft
conversion rooms?

Leaving aside the requirements to adequately ventilate the 450 mmminimum 450 mmminimum
rooms you form via opening lights to windows. Escape
windows are only required to be installed to habitable rooms
in loft conversion to bungalows i.e. floors less than 4.5m
above ground level.
opening area not
Provision of compliant escape windows removes the need to less than 0.33m
have a protected escape stair to loft conversions with floors
less than 4.5m above ground level.

For loft conversions to existing 2 storey dwellings - you now side hung window top hung window
cannot to rely on an escape windows to make safe escape, as 1100 mmmaximum 800mm minimum
it is considered that you will be able to reach the ground floor
internally via the fire protected stairway. internal floor level

Escape Windows Requirements:

Escape windows are to have an 0.33 munobstructed clear

openable area and have no clear dimension less than 450mm
high and 450mm wide (the route through the window may be
at an angle rather than straight through), appropriate escape
catches and hinges must be fitted to ensure this clear opening Rooflight or Roof Window
is achieved.

The bottom of the openable area must be a minimum of
800mm and not more than 1100mm above the finished floor
level. NOTE: for roof windows the minimum height to the
openable area is 600mm.

Locks (with or without removable keys) and stays may be
fitted to egress windows, subject to the stay being fitted with a
release catch, which may be child resistant.

Windows (particularly top opening casements and roof
windows) must be designed to remain open without needing
to be held by a person making their escape.

Windows should be accessible via a ladder and allow escape
to a place of safety.

Building Control Subject LOFT CONVERSIONS TO 03
Guidance Note
Issued 12/01/07 Rev Page 3 of 5

4. There should be no inner rooms to the loft accommodation.

Rooms within the loft should be designed so that there are no inner rooms i.e. where escape can only be made
by passing through another room.

Exceptions: a. dressing room; or b. bathroom, w.c, or shower room; or c. inner rooms with escape windows to
floors not more than 4.5m above ground level (i.e. bungalow loft conversions).

5. Automatic smoke detection and alarms.

Mains powered and battery backed up (either rechargeable or rechargeable) smoke detectors must be installed
on each storey in accordance with BS5839-6: 2004 – Grade D - category LD3 standard.

All detectors must be interlinked together so that all sound even if only one is triggered and must be placed in
the circulation spaces / protected stairway within 7.5m of every habitable room door. If however due to the
layout of the loft there is no circulation space, a smoke detector should be fitted in the loft room itself.

Smoke detectors should be mains powered to a single independent circuit on the dwellings mains consumer
unit or a single regularly used local lighting circuit. Provide a means of isolating power to the smoke alarms
without isolating the lighting.

Detectors are to be positioned so that they can be reached for maintenance and testing i.e. not over stairs etc.

If floor area of the loft exceeds 200m2, the building will be considered to be a ‘large house’ and the fire
detection system will need to be improved as follows:

a) Large dwellings of 2 storeys (excluding basements) to have fire detection / alarm system of Grade B -
Category LD3 (BS 5839-6: 2004).

b) Large dwellings of 3 or more storeys (excluding basements) to have fire detection / alarm system of Grade
A - Category LD2 (BS 5839-6: 2004).

6. Provision of fire doors.
Any new door forming the protected escape route protection will have to be a FD20 / E20 fire-resistant door
fitted in an appropriate frame as recommended by the fire door manufacturer. Intumescent seals may also have
to be fitted to the frame or door edges as recommended by the door manufacturer to ensure it achieves the
FD20 / E20 rating. You will need to check the installationre commendations on purchase of your fire doors, if in
doubt - order the doors with the intumescent seals fitted.

All existing doors on the escape route, including bathroom doors need to be replaced with FD20 / E20 fire
doors and this might involve the removal and replacement of door frames to accommodate the thicker fire
doors and to achieve the appropriate fire rating standard. Similarly intumescent seals may also have to be
fitted as previously mentioned above.

If you wish to consider upgrading the existing doors e.g. they may be of historically or architectural merit, you
will be required to upgrade them to an approved method supported by appropriate manufacturers test data and
confirmation that the doors meet their upgradeability standards. N.B. (Not all doors can be upgraded e.g. they
may be too thin / infill panels and fixings inadequate etc – so consider the implications carefully if you choose
this option).

There is no requirement for these fire doors to have self-closers fitted – but if you are a builder or architect you
are advised to inform your client of the importance of managing these fire doors i.e. keeping them shut etc.

Door hinges may need changing to steel hinges – as all hinges on fire doors should have a minimum melting
point of 800 degreesC (brass and aluminium hinges will fail prematurely).

Any door glazing needs to be 30 minute fire-resistant and of appropriate safety glazing – fixed in in accordance
with the glazing manufacturers requirements to ensure the fire-rating is achieved. (Particularly important if you
intend to upgrade existing doors - as glazing rebates / beads will likely require improvement or/ replacement).

The amount of fire resisting glazing is unlimited in doors under the fire rules, but the larger the glazing panels
the more difficult it is to meet safety glazing and fire resistance requirements.
Building Control Subject LOFT CONVERSIONS TO 03
Guidance Note
Issued 12/01/07 Rev Page 4 of 5

7. Construction of the walls forming the protected escape routes.

You need 30-minute fire protection to the escape routes and the walls forming the protected routes need to be
carefully checked to see if they will achieve the required fire rating. Masonry walls will achieve the standard, but
if they are of stud construction you will be expected to prove that they provide 30 minutes fire-resistance; for
instance lath and plaster walls may achieve only approximately 20minutes fire-resistance and will require
upgrading. All new walls will have to be suitably constructed to a full 30-minute fire resistant standard.

Ensure all pathways that are likely to bridge the escape routes fire protection are suitably fire stopped or fire
protected e.g. tops of walls / around services / drainage pipes /air vents etc

If fire doors are not to be fitted to the bathroom (due to low fire risk – unless boilers are fitted) - then the fire
protection needs to be checked around the perimeter of the bathroom walls as an extension of the escape
route fire-protection. Pay particular attention to the effects of the drainage pipes and vents that bridge the

Any glazing that exists in the walls forming the escape route enclosure must be at least 1.1m above the floor
level or stair pitch line and changed to 30-minute fire-resistant glass e.g. georgian wired safety glass
(pyroshield safety). If there are existing glazingames to be adapted – it fr is likely that they will need
replacement to ensure the new fire resisting glass is properly installed in accordance with the manufacturers
recommendations to achieve the 30-minute fire rating.

You must also ensure that any roof spaces that remain over the top of the fire resistant walls are extended up
to the underside of the roof covering or a new half hour fire resistant ceiling is provided in accordance with
Diagram 6 below.

8. Provision of fire resistant floors.

For loft conversions to existing 2 storey dwellings, the new floor must be of 30-minute fire-resistant construction
i.e. 30 minutes load bearing capacity, 30 minutes integrity and 30 minutes insulation (30/30/30). If you are
retaining your existing ceilings, which are usually suspended from the new floor construction, you will have to
upgrade any sub-standard ceiling construction to ensure the new floor achieves this required rating.

The existing first floor construction would also normally have to be upgraded to a full 30-minute standard
construction (which could mean under drawing the existing ceilings). However this can be avoided if the
existing floor construction (separating rooms only) is of a ‘modified 30-minute standard’ i.e. reduced
performance of 30/15/15 e.g. 12.5mm plasterboard with joints taped or 9.5mm plasterboard and skim or lath
and plaster with 16mm plaster finish over laths;

AND the following conditions are satisfied:

a. Only 1 storey is to be added and the storey contains no more than 2 rooms; and
b. The total storey floor area is not more than 50m2; and

c. Floors which separate rooms from the protected escape route / circulation spaces are upgraded to or
achieve a full 30-minute fire resistant standard.

Building Control Subject LOFT CONVERSIONS TO 03
Guidance Note
Issued 12/01/07 Rev Page 5 of 5

9. Can you achieve enough headroom over the new
stairs and landings?

A fixed staircase (or alternating tread stair where there is
inadequate space to fit a traditional stair) complying with
Approved Document K must be installed to form permanent
safe access into the converted space.

You must have a minimum of 2 metres headroom over the
stairs and landings. Reduced headroom standards can be
applied to the stairs where the flight is parallel to the roof
slope (as diagram opposite).

Be aware that the space and headroom currently available in
the roof space will be considerably reduced by the provision
of a new structural floor / the fixed staircase / stair enclosures
and guarding / providing insulation to walls and ceilings etc.
Ensure that the finished space and headroom will make a loft
conversion viable before continuing down the design process.

10. General considerations.

a. Modern houses with trussed rafter roofs are usually unsuitable for loft conversions, as the inner members of
the truss cannot normally be removed. You are advised to seek advice of a suitably qualified professional to
establish whether or not the roof structure can be altered to accommodate the planned accommodation.

b. The existing ceiling joists in the roof will almost certainly be inadequate for use as floor joists. In most cases
it is possible to install new floor joists and support beams between the existing ceiling joists to maximise the
headroom available. You are advised to seek professional guidance and provide calculations for any
support beams you intend to provide to support the floor.

c. The new rooms will need to be fully insulated to prevent excessive heat loss and sound transmission. While
there are many ways of achieving this, we would recommend that you check your chosen method with your
Building Control Surveyor before any insulation is installed. Be advised that the provision of this insulation
will often reduce the headroom to the existing loft space.

d. There are many other areas where the Building egulations R impose requirements relating to loft
conversions, but if you can deal with the points raed in this is document, you will be well on your way to
achieving compliance.

e. You are however STRONGLY advised due to the complex nature of these types of application that
you make a full plans application - where the majority of the problems can be resolved before you
start the works.

© Crown Copyright reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Further information can be obtained from the
Building Regulations 2000 Approved Document B (2000) or from your Building Control Surveyor. All views expressed in this document are those of the
Council and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or any other Local Authority.
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Postby michaelscad » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:28 pm

i.posted a reply to this which was very long there's an.approved document M access to dwellings you can download free
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Postby Rich319 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:59 am

Thank you very much for taking the time to post that reply, it’s very much appreciated. I’ve seen the Fire Regs document but it doesn’t explicitly mention anything about my question re leaving via a first floor window onto a roof (not that I’m expecting it to, as my request is quite specific). So, I was wondering if anyone ‘in the know’ had come across this scenario before?

Many thanks,

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Postby Dirty_Bertie » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:56 pm

Some might suggest that you build a temporary wall to enclose the stairs and as soon as building control sign off, the builders remove it.

It’s very naughty but from what I’ve been told it happens all the time. It used the be the same with fitted door closers. Building regs used to insist on them for all internal doors, but people would just remove them as soon as building control singed off. So they were dropped from the regulations a few years ago. Many believe the same will happen to the temporary wall solution too.

But obviously it then poses a risk to fire safety, so no one would recommend it. And neither would I.
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Postby ,@wmoTF39@b>+z » Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:07 am

HI everyone. Bumping this thread- I have the same question of whether the availability of a flat roof on the ground floor below a loft conversion would allow for less stringent requirements for an internal protected escape. I also wonder about escape ladders etc.

I want to open up the downstairs and convert the loft of what is currently a 2 storey terrace. Local building control have advised options are either 1. protected stair throughout or 2. sprinkler + separation between ground and first floor.

It would be great to hear if anyone has practical experience of alternative solutions to the 2 options above which are satisfactory & safe.
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