Residential Design series Stairs and ensuites 1

June 26, 2018



Stairs and ensuites. 1

Roof Conversions and Attics need to be serviced by a set of stairs that comply with the BCA. If you live in a two-bedroom cottage and are considering utilizing your roof space to create additional living areas then there are a number of issues that need to be considered.

The stairs will have to be centrally located beneath the area you are hoping to access. If you wish to locate them further towards the rear of the house then you are going to have to extend your addition to accommodate the stairs.

Since the typical inner city terrace or cottage has high ceilings you are gong to require 17 to 20 treads to reach the attic level. Therefore you are going to loose approximately 4.000m to 4.500m of wall space to accommodate the stairs. In other words that second bedroom is going to be severely compromised once the stairs have been installed. Unless you are into levitation it is unlikely that you will create an additional bedroom with a simple attic renovation or a roof conversion.

Many of my design clients have overcome this problem by moving a bathroom from the rear of the house into this reduced space that now is used to accommodate the stairs.

The positioning of the stairs is also a very important feature of the design. In the case of an attic the stairs must finish close to the apex of the roof. This way the stairs will be following the rake of the roof and there will be enough headroom as you climb the stairs. Generally I discourage people from running the stairs across the house. The net effect of this is to cut your roof space in half generally at the point that is the most useable area.

Many of my clients also want a bathroom or ensuite installed in their attic space so as they avoid using the stairs during the middle of the night. As far as I know there are no composting toilets that operate efficiently in attics, therefore you are going to have to use the traditional method of disposal. Naturally this will involve running water up to the attic space and then the sewerage pipes will have to go back down. This is an intrusive and expensive exercise. Of course if your renovation involves the installation of a new bathroom beside the stairs then you can direct the sewage from the attic ensuite down the wall to this more centralized location. However if nothing of this magnitude is proposed then I would look carefully at the problems associated with the waste disposal before you commit yourself to that ensuite in the attic. The other issue that you need to consider in the attic ensuite is light and ventilation. A number of inner city councils have tightened their conservation controls and simply will not allow front dormers or sky windows that can be seen from the street. This means that you will have to install mechanical ventilation to comply with the code. Once more this complicates the building procedure and inevitably adds cost.

The simple truth behind this article is to weigh up all of your options before committing yourself to these expensive renovation costs. Simply stated if your family is desperately short of space and your budget is tight then you may not be able to afford the type of renovation that will solve all of your space problems. Your best option may simply be to move to a bigger more suitable home. This suggestion usually goes down like a lead balloon.

Good building and design!

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