Your Ques­tions An­swered

Won­der­ing how to get a mort­gage for your barn con­ver­sion, un­sure how to meet fire safety re­quire­ments — or want­ing to know how to re­move all traces of pre­vi­ous live­stock habi­ta­tion? Our ex­perts ex­plain all

Homebuilding & Renovating - - Contents - Paul Hymers Paul is a build­ing con­trol of­fi­cer and Home­build­ing’s Build­ing Regs ex­pert.

Our ex­perts an­swer your most com­mon ques­tions about tack­ling th­ese con­ver­sion projects — from heat­ing and fire safety, to bring­ing ser­vices to site, mort­gages, in­sur­ance and more

QThe barn I am plan­ning to con­vert is in a re­mote lo­ca­tion with poor ac­cess. Is it true that I will need a sprin­kler sys­tem? What else do I need to con­sider?

As well as the nor­mal fire safety re­quire­ments un­der Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions, spe­cial ar­range­ments may need to be made to en­sure that emer­gency fire ser­vices can reach re­mote barn ren­o­va­tion projects, which may of­ten be si­t­u­ated along long, nar­row ac­cess tracks in ru­ral ar­eas.

Ac­cess roads usu­ally need to be at least 3.7m wide, sur­faced and ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing 12.5 tonnes, with gates at least 3.1m wide, and pass­ing ar­eas or turn­ing points ev­ery 20m. Fire en­gines need a ham­mer­head or at least a 16.8m turn­ing cir­cle di­am­e­ter to turn around if the road length is over 20m. Since this 20m rule is a legacy from the days when fire trucks were horse-drawn and not easy to re­verse, it is ex­tend­able but it re­mains a mas­sive in­con­ve­nience if more than one ap­pli­ance is de­ployed.

Be­cause of th­ese ac­cess is­sues, some barn con­ver­sions in­clude their own fire hy­drant (ex­tended from the wa­ter mains), to al­low fire­fight­ers to con­nect hoses to a stand­pipe. Pri­vate hy­drants should be de­signed in ac­cor­dance with BS:9990:2006 and po­si­tioned not more than 90m (the length of the fire hose) from the ex­ter­nal door. Ex­ter­nal hy­drants are usu­ally ‘wet’ (per­ma­nently filled with wa­ter) rather than ‘dry’ (kept empty and filled by the fire bri­gade when they at­tend an in­ci­dent).

A more com­mon so­lu­tion to poor ac­cess is to fit a do­mes­tic sprin­kler sys­tem. When de­signed and in­stalled to BS:9251:2005 through­out the home, sprin­klers should save lives by sup­press­ing the growth of fire in the early stages be­fore it has the chance to spread and pre­vent es­cape. Bear in mind that smoke, rather than flames, is a big­ger threat to life and sprin­klers can’t be ex­pected to pre­vent or re­duce the amount of smoke. There­fore, smoke alarms are still es­sen­tial.

There is also an ac­cepted stan­dard for wa­ter mist­ing sys­tems as an al­ter­na­tive to sprin­klers. Th­ese sys­tems re­lease a fine spray and aim to sup­press fire by re­duc­ing the oxy­gen avail­able to the fire, en­gulf­ing a room in a damp fog. Rel­a­tively new in this coun­try, they don’t dis­pense wa­ter in such vol­ume, hence have a sep­a­rate stan­dard: BS 8458:2015.

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