Are Space Saving Loft Conversion Stairs Legal in the UK?

Space Saving Loft Conversion Stairs: everything you need to know

The idea of space saving loft conversion stairs have grown in popularity as a practical solution for maximising limited space in homes and buildings. However it is crucial to understand if these stair designs meet the legal requirements in England and Wales.

Building regulations in the UK are a set of standards and guidelines that outline the minimum requirements for the design, construction, alteration, and demolition of buildings. They are in place to ensure the safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency of structures. These regulations also apply to the design of staircases.

Conventional Staircases vs. Space Saving Loft Conversion Stairs

Traditional staircases have a continuous rise and going, and provide a uniform path of travel going both up and down. Conventional stairs however have to take up a minimum level of space to be deemed legal (the dimensions governing design and many but all need to be 750mm wide for instance), which make them less feasible for compact spaces.

Space-saving loft conversion stairs are designed with alternating treads, meaning each step is split into two halves with the right foot stepping on one half and the left stepping on the other. This configuration minimises the stair’s footprint and in so doing, allows them to be installed in over smaller areas. This unconventional design does mean however, that there are certain considerations that need consideration regarding design to regulatory standards.

Regulatory compliance

Stair design is governed by Approved Document K: Protection from Falling, Collision, and Impact. Part K sets out guidelines and requirements for the design and installation of staircases to ensure user safety.

Approved Document K states that stairs should be designed with a rise between 150mm-220mm, and a going between 220mm-300mm. This range is designed to provide a safe climb and decent, and reduces the risk of falls.

Space-saving loft conversion stairs are steeper than conventional stairs pitch and in the main, have smaller treads. While they can be legal, it is of critical importance to ensure they comply to regulatory standard as set out in approved document K.

Meeting the Requirements

Here are the regulations governing the design of loft conversion stairs.

For comfort and safety the rise of each step must be between 150mm-220mm and the going between 220mm-300mm for the going. The stairs generally need handrails on both sides, and these must meet height, diameter, and overall design regulations.

Sufficient headroom (no less than 200mm) should be provided throughout the stairwell to prevent users from bumping heads. In addition, individual steps should be perceivably discernible, with contrasting noising or other such indicator.

Importantly, stairs should comply with fire safety rules as set out in approved document B, so they allow for safe evacuation in case of fire.

Consultation and Approval

Stair design is not easy so homeowners and DIYers should take advice from a qualified architect, stair manufacturer, or building control inspector to ensure that space-saving loft conversion stairs are suitable for your specific situation, and that they comply with building regs.

In summary

Space saving loft conversion stairs can be a practical solution in tight spaces, so long as their design and installation comply with building regulations part K and part B.