It is quite easy in the early stages of planning the additional space to be gained from the attic conversion, to overlook access to the attic from the rooms below or in some cases adjacent, as in the case of a lean-to attic conversion. The staircase or landings and possibly passages will take up an unexpected and in some cases a disappointing amount of the valuable attic floor area conversion. Whilst the Building Regulations have been relaxed somewhat in their requirements concerning the staircases to attics, allowing the loft 'ladder' type staircase and of course the more decorative, smaller spiral staircases, it must not be forgotten that good access is needed not just for personal reasons but also to install furniture and fittings.
The small spiral staircase may provide a very interesting architectural feature within the house and indeed be very compact within its plan space requirements, but is not very practical for furniture or even for such items as baths if these are to be installed in the new conversion. It is not a very clever idea to install the bath and then fit the staircase! This is the same as fitting a large water storage tank in the loft and then making the trap door too small to get a replacement through.
It is strongly recommended, therefore, that a sensible sized staircase be installed for both access and safety reasons, and its impact upon the ground below must be considered. It may, for instance, be necessary to sacrifice a small ground floor room to provide space for the staircase and this in turn may have an effect on the planning requirements of the loft space above. The stairwell, whichever form it takes, will necessitate a reasonably large hole to be formed in the floor of the new loft and the structural implications of creating this must be carefully planned.
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