Loft Ladders, Loft Stairs and Loft Conversions: Understanding the Many Building Regulations

Loft LaddersJust do a quick internet search on building regulations in the UK and you will see a confusing myriad of UK local authority laws that govern the use and erection of loft ladders, loft stairs and loft conversions. For example, why must loft stairs conform to building regulations, while there is no such requirement for loft ladders? This is because local authorities see the installation of a stairway as the beginning of a process to use a loft as a living space, rather than storage space. In this case, the regulations are more stringent. Loft areas that are used for storage generally aren’t accessed often. This is different from accessing a loft that’s been converted into living space that people will need to access frequently, such as a sleeping or study area. With more frequent use comes a greater chance of an accident. So, the enhanced building regulations exist to prevent injuries and to ensure the conversion proceeds according to all relevant rules and standards.

Nowadays we seem to have more possessions than we could ever use. Even items that aren’t particularly useful have monetary or sentimental value that often prevents us from discarding or donating them to a charity shop. If you need to store such items in your loft for infrequent access, a loft ladder will be the lowest cost and lowest hassle solution.

A Few Details on Applicable Building Regulations

Escape or ‘egress’ during a fire is one concern many local authorities have regarding loft ladders and loft conversions. If the space is used as a bedroom, this becomes a prime consideration because a person can escape more quickly by way of stairs than a ladder. For this reason, any loft stairs you install come under the purview of your local authority. Some homeowners claim that installing stairs simply gives easier access to a loft that’s being used for storage, but once the stairs are there, most local authorities recognise the loft’s potential as a living space. Though this often is not directly stated, the fact is that a loft almost always transforms into a habitable area when stairs are installed, and the rules are there to prevent injury and misuse.

Undertaking a Conversion Project

Whilst it’s not strictly necessary, we do recommend that you obtain a copy of the rules that apply to your project and read them thoroughly. What you’ll discover is that the regulations are highly detailed. The regulations we’re discussing are those that apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, they’re different. So, what exactly are building regulations? Well, they set out the minimum standards that are allowed for construction and design. For loft conversions, there are five main categories. Structural stability, fire safety, ventilation, access method and insulation.

About Structural Stability

If you plan to use the loft for living space or to store particularly heavy items, it’s likely you’ll have to reinforce existing ceiling joists or install entirely new ones. You’ll also need to ensure that load-bearing walls are adequately strong to support any increased weight. The same is true of loft ladders. They must be substantial enough and conform to all regulations. Many homeowners opt to install steel beams designed to support the enhanced joists. Also, evaluate the roof to ensure whether or not it should be reinforced or altered to conform with the loft conversion’s design.

About Fire Safety

Fire regulations are the strict and rightly so. It’s imperative that any loft conversion fully conforms to all applicable fire and safety regulations, including those related to fire doors. The converted loft’s walls and floor must have the ability to resist fire for thirty minutes. If you’re using glass in the conversion, it must be fire-resistant as well. Be sure to provide a method of egress by way of a protected stairway. In the past, escape windows were considered adequate, but the regulations no longer allow them, except in very narrowly defined applications. You’ll also be required to install fire alarms that are operated by mains power.

About Ventilation

Be sure you understand the terms “rapid ventilation” and “background ventilation” when undertaking a loft conversion. To provide rapid ventilation, you’ll have to install a window with a size that equates to 1/20th of the loft’s floor area. If the converted space will become a bathroom, mechanical ventilation that extracts 15 litres per second is required. The roof must be ventilated to prevent moisture condensation, along with both the eaves and ridge. Finally, an airspace of 50mm minimum must be allowed between the roof and any insulation you might install.

About the Access Method

Many homeowners underestimate the cost of a loft conversion. So, when it comes to choosing an access method, they choose affordable loft ladders over staircases. Be aware that building regulations tend to be quite strict and detailed regarding loft access, but choosing a loft ladder over a staircase can save substantial sumsif you are just creating a storage area.

About Insulation

For a loft to provide truly useful space, it should be thoroughly insulated. In fact, the building regulations and relevant amendments require that the loft, along with any new internal walls, must be insulated.

Just a Few Examples of Building Regulations

The building regulations are highly detailed, so be sure you have a good understanding before beginning the conversion. Here are just a few examples of how you’ll have to conform.  Since 2005, domestic electrical work is controlled under Part P of the regulations.  Beams must not bear into chimneys or the party wall between chimneys. A party wall is a structure that is placed on the border between two properties. It’s important to be careful in these cases, since disputes with neighbours can arise due to the wall being a party feature. The only non-fireproof interior door that’s allowed in a loft conversion is the one that accesses a toilet or bathroom.

As you can see, choosing loft ladders is perhaps the easiest decision you’ll need to make to access your loft space safely and effectively.

Ladders and Scaffold Towers are a Leading UK Distributor of Ladders, Loft Ladders, Scaffold Towers, Aluminium Ladders, Extension Ladders , Ladder Accessories and all access equipment.

Ladders: They’ve got history!

ladders Ladders are commonplace items that most of us take for granted. Did you know, though, that the ladder has a place in human history that dates back to the Mesolithic period, about 10,000 years ago? Cave paintings found in Valencia, Spain depict two people carrying baskets or bags. They’re using a long ladder to access a wild honeybee nest and raid it for its precious content of honey. The ladder as we know it in modern times was developed by the ancient Egyptians and ancient Hebrews.

Ladders: Forms and Types

The rigid ladder is the most common type. It was originally made from timber and in ancient times from plaited grass. A modern ladder can be crafted from timber, aluminium or glass fibre. Aluminium is a popular material for ladders because of its strength, durability and light weight. It’s not advisable to use an aluminium ladder when working around electrical sources, because aluminium will conduct an electric current. In this case, a glass fibre is the preferred choice, because it’s an electrical insulator. The rigid ladder comes in a variety of styles and sizes. A step ladder or platform step ladder is a popular choice, with the extension ladder running a close second. One remarkable type of ladder is the Multi Purpose model. This can be used as a workbench, free-standing ladder, stair ladder, stair platform ladder, stand-off ladder, gardening or painting platform, and double-sided step ladder.

Ladders: About the Step Type

The step ladder is perhaps the most popular model. In an important development, in January 1862, an American named John H. Balsley received the first patent in the US for this type of ladder. The step ladder is so named because the rungs are set in a stepped rather than a runged configuration. Before the patent, the step ladder was not foldable, but Balsey’s model was designed with hinges at the top that allowed users to fold the ladder for easy storage. Also called an A-frame, the step ladder is now used all over the world.

Ladders: A Few Comments on Safe Use

Before using a ladder, evaluate the surroundings in which you’ll be using it. Consider, as well, the area in which you plan to deploy the ladder and whether you’ve chosen the correct ladder for the task. Whether indoors or outdoors, a ladder always should be set up on a dry and level surface that’s firm and will not shift. Never deploy a ladder on top of another surface, such as a table, to gain additional height. If you’re setting up a ladder near a door, put a sign on the other side of the door warning that a ladder is in use. Outdoors, never use a ladder in high winds, rain, or if the ground appears slippery. Take stock of yourself before using a ladder. If, for example, you’re suffering from an ankle or foot injury, it’s wise to postpone projects that require climbing a ladder. If you’re suffering from an illness, such as a cold, that might affect your ability to climb and balance, don’t use a ladder until you’re feeling better. To use a step ladder properly, open it until it’s fully extended. Then use the locking mechanism to keep it correctly and safely deployed. Before you buy a ladder, take some time to determine what type is right for you. For most indoor home and DIY tasks, a step ladder is the best choice. If you need to reach the second storey of your home for painting or window washing, select an extension ladder of the correct height.

Ladders: Safety Considerations and Popular Models

Perhaps the most important safety issue to consider is the height you’ll need to reach when using a ladder. It’s important never to overreach by leaning sideways on a ladder – it’s essential to dismount and reposition the ladder so you can reach safely. Pay attention to a ladder’s maximum load rating, which is the combined weight of the user and any tools or materials being used or transported on the ladder. Due to the extensive range of ladder types available today, you should be able to find a safe, well-built ladder regardless of your budget. As mentioned earlier, the step ladder is the most popular type because it’s self-supporting. Straight and extension types are not self-supporting, which means they must be leaned against a stable vertical support surface, such as a wall. Extension models have a unique design in which two or three sections nest together. The second section (and if your ladder has a third section) can be raised and locked into place, which increases the ladder’s height significantly. The step ladder comes in a variety of models, including light-duty types for everyday tasks, medium-duty models for more complex projects and trade or industrial models. A step ladder with a height of about six feet is a good choice. For lighter, lower indoor tasks at home or in the office, a step stool is adequate. You also should consider storing a fire or rescue / escape ladder in strategic places around the home, such as in each bedroom.

Ladders: Selecting the Right One

It can be difficult to determine the correct height for a ladder because the entire length of a ladder cannot be used safely. So, you need to consider what’s called the usable height of the ladder. When using a straight or extension ladder, avoid standing on any of the top three rungs. This rule effectively eliminates two to three feet of height, so buy accordingly. An extension ladder needs three to five feet of overlap between the sections to ensure safe use. When using an extension ladder to reach a roof, it’s important that it extends three feet above the surface. In addition, remember that a straight or extension ladder must be leaned, and this reduces the ladder’s usable height.

Judiciously chosen ladders will serve homeowners, businesses and tradesmen safely and well.

Ladders and Scaffold Towers are a Leading UK Distributor of Ladders, Loft Ladders, Scaffold Towers, Aluminium Ladders, Extension Ladders , Ladder Accessories and all access equipment.