Often missed possibilities for stair location and arrangement will lift an otherwise usual conversion of the loft. People always believe that there is only only one place to position the stairs up to a loft, but there are a variety of creative options that might dramatically affect both your new loft floor and your current upper-floor plan in certain situations, and certainly with the help of the imagination of a good architect. Read on to explore some of the concepts and solutions for your conversion that might succeed.
Outside-in and inside-out jobs
This generous loft conversion seems straightforward enough from the outside, but in the positioning of the staircase, the trick to providing the best possible space for the loft room internally was, and it was a redesign to the exterior architecture that allowed this.
A conveniently placed dormer is only visible at the top left of the frame, behind the chimney, which allows the staircase to come up to the left. For the current master bedroom and en suite bathroom, this leaves the best of the renovated loft space.
Think of steps above stairs…
Loft access staircases are often essentially put directly above the current staircase below. In certain ways, this is because the stairs are not only the most convenient way to go but also the most efficient.
However, before committing to spending several thousand on a renovation scheme, it’s always worth spending the time with the contractor to discover whether there could be architecturally clever alternatives.
But still, look for your latest staircase to be individually located
For eg, it will always be that it would fit well for a staircase away from the steps below. (See also ‘Peruse a private staircase’ possibility, below, for another alternative.)
Since every situation is different, there are no hard and fast rules, but in short, the dilemma at hand is all about where it is best to exit the lower floor, where it is best to arrive at the upper floor, and how a staircase will more efficiently connect those two points.
Although this charming loft space is bright and airy, if it were not for the need for an enclosed landing and fire door at the top of the stairs, the room would be roomier.
However, the Construction Rules on the required head height above a staircase suggest that the top of the stairs always has to be placed at the highest point of the loft (and most useful). Normally, the fire separation rules also mean that the top of the staircase must be walled in with a separate entrance.
As a result, often the newly built loft housing can have to be crammed through the staircase and the landing that meets it. Nevertheless, if the layout of your home allows (and as you’ll see in the next photo), there may be options.
An alternate solution that can prevent the issue of a bulky landing enclosure dominating the space upstairs is to carry the staircase into the room. In this case, you’d see the bedroom door at the foot of the stairs instead. There is a need for a landing (you can not just place the door on the bottom step) and this can pose its own problems, but there can be tremendous advantages in terms of light and room in the loft.
In Sussex, this loft conversion places the door at the foot of the stairs, and as this covers the opening of the landing on the floor below, it ensures that the room above opens up while you ascend the stairs. (A split-screen is the graphic, showing the views up and down the stairs.)
A bookcase also protects the decline and provides extra room instead of a balustrade.
Examine the probability of a private staircase
For instance, the rules on fire separation would occur if the loft is to be converted to build a new bedroom or study.
However, if the loft offers, say, an en suite bathroom to a bedroom below, then there is typically no need for fire separation between them, and a small access staircase may offer an enticing and functional alternative, such as this beautifully designed timber helix.
Speak to a specialist about the applicable legislation first to find out what the particular choices could be and be able to run them past the Building Management department of the local authority.
Take measures alternately
Where there is insufficient horizontal space to accommodate a correctly shaped staircase, what is known as an ‘alternate step stair’ is one alternative. The idea of this is that with each move when you walk on alternate feet, it is only appropriate to have a step when you go up on alternate sides.
Most of these look pretty clunky to my eyes, but they can be beautifully built and very fun to look at, as this picture illustrates. However, they are not always suitable as a method of escape, depending on the use of the loft, so check the construction codes to ensure that anybody who uses the staircase can feel safe navigating steps of this sort.
Continue to keep the light flowing
One valid fear many individuals have is that, with the installation of a new staircase, converting their loft would make their current landing very dim.
The innovative use of a glass floor panel here makes it possible for the sunshine to spill down to the floor below.
Opt for an open-plan loft mezzanine
Another way to circumnavigate the need for separation from flames, and all the security measures that go with that, such as sealed landings, is to make the loft room an open-plan mezzanine. This is just one space for regulatory purposes, so no different walls and fire doors are needed (though, again, you will need to ask about the specifics of your particular project with Building Control).
Although this would not be sufficient for certain cases, in a single-occupancy home or as an occasional guest bedroom, it can fit very well.
To be both sculptural and functional
A staircase’s first and most significant condition is that it allows secure and reliable access from floor to floor.
Stairs, though, exist in double-height spaces by definition and, as such, have the ability to construct stunning and sculptural characteristics within your house. So, before only opting for the regular alternative, it’s still nice to explore the possibilities. Not really, a little clever and stylish architecture adds tremendous costs, but it could bring enormous benefits to your home’s look and sound.
Have you got your loft converted? If so, what kind of staircase is there for you, and can you change it?