Open plan kitchens - building regs facts
An open plan kitchen/dining and living space offers great versatility and is one of the most popular home improvement projects we get involved in.
If you currently have a small kitchen and are considering knocking through into another room to create a larger space, before taking down any walls there are a few things you should be aware of.
Creating an open plan kitchen will undoubtedly require you to knock down at least one wall to create the larger space and there are two types of internal walls; load bearing and non-load bearing. A structural engineer, architect or builder should be able to advise you which type of wall yours is.
A load bearing wall is one which holds up a structural part of your home such as the roof, the upper floor or a staircase. If you need to knock one of these down, you must replace it with a beam which will take the weight of the load above. Beams can be made of concrete, steel or wood and will need to meet fire safety regulations to ensure they provide 30 minutes of protection.
If you are taking down a load bearing wall you will need to make a building regulations application and provide us with calculations for the beam from a structural engineer, which our inhouse structural engineer will then need to verify before you start work.
If your wall is non-load bearing and does not take any load from above in most cases you do not need to notify building control. (If your home is a listed building however, listed building consent will be required.) If you have any doubts a simple floor plan of proposed before and after work can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can advise you further.
Layout and escape issues
One of the first issues you will need to consider as you start your new kichen design will be whether you will be able to escape safely in the event of a fire. A kitchen is regarded as a ‘special’ location in the house and other rooms need to be separated from it in case of a fire. You should be able to get out of your home without having to go through your kitchen. We recommend you speak to an architect or agent or our building control team as early as possible to ensure you understand any additional fire safety measures you may need to include such as mains connected fire detection or in some cases sprinkler systems. If your open plan kitchen will expose your staircase to the kitchen there are additional rules that come into play which can also affect other floors in your home.
When might you need sprinklers?
If you are intent on a truly open plan living area which means your stairs are open to the hallway, this will be something you need to consider as building regulations state there must be a safe passage through open plan spaces adjacent to stairs. Most homeowners would probably think twice about installing sprinklers as they can be perceived to be expensive. However, it is not an issue to be taken lightly and there are several systems approved under the building regulations including water misting systems which are less invasive.
Mechanical ventilation needs to be installed in kitchens rather than a recirculating design. This is because your extractor will have to work extra hard to remove the smells, co2 and water vapour produced when you cook and prevent them from permeating the whole room. Without the right ventilation mould will also be able to flouish.
Bi-fold and patio doors
If you choose to include new bi-fold or patio doors in your open plan kitchen you will need to ensure the glazing meets minimum safety and building regulations standards. This type of glazing is known as safety glass and is resistant to breaking or breaks in a way that minimises the risk of injury in the event of an accident. Your supplier should confirm that your glazing meets these standards and will there will be a kite mark on the glass to prove it. Building control will need to see this as proof before being able to sign off your project.
Opening up space in your home can be more involved than you might think but with the right advice, will be money well spent and we welcome your architect or agent consulting with us sooner rather than later to make sure your design is achievable. You may also find this video from LABC useful as well as the information in our Guide to Extending your Home.