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    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2010
    I posed a question in a previous discussion (the thread was entitled “Install insulation in 1st floor without pulling up floor boards”, started by dan_aka_jack) but the thread has now gone “cold”, so I have taken the liberty of raising the point again, as it was a bit off-topic.

    In the thread mentioned above, Skywalker pointed out to dan_aka_jack that a significant source of heat loss from the ground to the first floor is via the stairwell. I had already been thinking about this aspect and was considering fitting a temporary door (it would only be necessary in the winter months) at the top of the stairs to minimise heat loss from the ground floor. The door would be “glazed” using twin-wall polycarbonate sheeting so as not to block the daylight and would not be capable of being locked (for safety reasons).

    My question is, would installing such a door contravene any building regs? I only ask because I have never seen such a door fitted in a domestic setting, but then perhaps I have never been in a house owned by an insulation nerd like myself! More usually seen in commercial premises like hotels and B&B’s (presumably more to comply with fire regs than concerns about heat loss?).

    Thanks for any thoughts/comments.
    Unless you spend a lot of time sitting near the top of your staircase, I think putting the door at the bottom of the staircase would be more effective. This is the standard pattern of cottage stairs, tried and tested over centuries.

    I'm not sure that twin-wall polycarbonate sheeting is the most beautiful material to make a door out of. A slightly more decorative version is this one http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y228/biffvernon/002.jpg that I made last month from oak and toughened float glass for the doors and lead and mouth-blown cylinder glass for the side panels. It's not designed to be temporary, but it does stop a lot of heat from a living room wafting up the stairs.
    • CommentAuthorMike George
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2010 edited
    Hi Jeff.

    Re, building regs. [Part K] Domestic

    Doors which open into a hall or landing adjacent to the stairs.

    Any door at the top or bottom of stairs must be located so that when opened, the door is in all cases at a distance of at least 400mm from the top or bottom tread of the stairs

    Doors which open into a room rather than a hall or landing can be located wherever you like.

    See p8 http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_ADK_1998.pdf
    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2010
    Biffvernon - thanks for your comments. I cannot put the door at the bottom of the stairs because the staircase is of classical design i.e. spindles and a handrail (as in your photo). It can only go at the top unless the whole thing is boxed in, which I would not want to do. I realise that twin wall polycarbonate is not a particularly aesthetic material but it is very functional as I have discovered when I made some removable panels over Velux windows. The upstairs bedrooms are usually only used by visitors, mainly in the summer when the door to the landing would have been removed and put in storage. Your door looks very good but far too elegant for my application!

    Mike George – thanks for your response. Looking at page 8 of the Building Regs (Part K), if I have interpreted it correctly, it looks as though a door can only be at the bottom of a flight of stairs and not at the top anyway, so my idea is a non-starter?
    Hi Jeff,

    I always thought the 400mm rule applied to top as well as bottom of stairs. But reading the document it seems not. I suspect that if the door opening were at a distance equal to [or greater than]the width of the stairs away then it would be permissable. Such doors are certainly commonplace. Best to check with Building Inspector though as ulitimately the bregs are down to their interpretation.
    • CommentAuthorRobinB
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010
    We just use a heavy curtain at the bottom of the stairs. It makes a big difference. I lined it with a remnant of windproof polar-fleece fabric. Easier than putting in a door and can come down in summer.
    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010
    Mike George - thanks for your further response. Even if I had to have just 400 mm clearance at the top of the stairs, let alone a stair-width, it makes the whole idea less attractive, because I can forsee that I would have to make a kind of "porch" on the landing in order to comply. I think fitting internal insulation (75 mm Celotex) on the ceiling of the stairwell and to the ceiling/dwarf walls on the landing (which is ongoing at the moment) will have to suffice. Actually it feels warmer up there already; in fact when I'm working on the insulation I have to turn the radiator off as it is too hot!
    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010
    Robin B - thanks for your response. I have a similar curtain as you describe over the front door, which as you say is very simple and effective. However putting one on the stairs would block the light coming down from the Velux window on the landing, and on which we rely to illuminate the stairwell and hallway. These would be quite dark otherwise. Some sort of transparent curtain would be ideal e.g. like those vertical plastic strips they use in the doorways of refrigerated warehouses!
    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010
    Robin B - having done a bit of research on the Internet this afternoon I see that my tongue-in-cheek idea about a transparent plastic curtain is absolutely feasible! There are several different companies in the UK that offer narrow clear PVC strips for pedestrian doorways, specifically for keeping heat in. There are hook-on varities that would be easily removed. Don't know if a BR officer would classify them as a door though with attendant restrictions on the size of landing area etc!
    • CommentAuthorJeff B
    • CommentTimeJan 16th 2010
    Since my last posting I have purchased and installed a set of transparent PVC strip curtains (yes, I confess, PVC, but I believe there was nothing else that could have been used in this application) and I can report that they have had an immediate effect on heat loss up the stairwell. This is only subjective as I have no data but it is noticeable that warm air is now being trapped at the top of the stairs and on stepping through the curtains it is discernably cooler on the landing than it used to be. Conversely just cracking open the TRV on a low setting on the landing radiator allows the landing area to warm up really quickly as heat is trapped there, not just due to the curtain but also thanks to the 75 mm of Celotex internal insulation and the 150 mm of fibreglass under the floorboards. So all-in-all quite pleased with the result. The cost of the curtains and rail etc. was £58 including VAT and £12 p+p.
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