There’s a lot to think about when you plan a loft conversion. Along with planning permission, designing the exterior and interior, one of the most important things is fire safety.
Most fires that occur could have been prevented with fire alarms and proper fire safety. Although it’s not something we want to think about, fire safety could literally save lives. The same rules apply to the rest of your house, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same to your loft conversion.
Here’s a short guide on how you can take fire precautions and follow the legal regulations when constructing your conversion.
The best chance of escaping a fire is by having a fire system in place. Fire alarms are compulsory in homes, and it’s wise to have an alarm in each room of the house. Mains-powered smoke alarms are usually found in hallways and landings. The alarms need to all be linked together, so that even if only one alarm is triggered, all the alarms go off in the house, to alert people in different rooms, such as the loft.
Even though the alarms must run on mains, you should also have batteries available in case there’s a power cut in your property.
While you can technically escape through a window, this isn’t recommended. Accommodating an escape route from the loft to the entire stairwell is very important. This means the staircase should include plaster boarding and plastering below, allowing for a 30 minute protection time. The ceilings and floors can also be plastered.
A sprinkler or mister system can be used if you don’t want to enclose the open stairwell. If a window really is the only option you have, then make sure the window opens to at least 450mm, and the glass is fire-resistant.
Depending on the structure of your home, party walls, which are situated between you and your neighbour, must be made fire-resistant in the loft. Extensions, such as dormers, need to be fire-resistant, including the neigbours side, to prevent the fire from spreading across multiple properties. Containing the fire in one place will reduce the risk of it spreading and damaging further.
Another important change to make when converting your loft, is to change the existing door into a fire door, to protect the hallway. The main reason for installing fire doors is to create a corridor between the loft and the external door, providing a safe escape route for anyone in the loft.
A fire-resistant door should have a rating of 20-30 minutes protection time minimum, giving the person time to escape if they are in that circumstance. If you don’t want to change your door, for instance, if it’s old or vintage, then you can actually use intumescent materials to paint the doors, essentially using fire-resistant materials.
It’s important to remember, that although these rules feel overwhelming to add your already long to-do list, they are only there for your own safety. Alongside helping you get planning permission, following the regulations properly will protect you and your family in the worst case scenario.