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
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.