Boarding a loft is a quick way of getting extra storage space and you don’t need many tools, just a drill, a saw, ruler and a pencil. If you are a DIY novice there are a few things that you’ll need to watch to make sure the job is done properly.
Take a Look at Your Loft
Firstly look at the loft space to see what’s possible. Older houses are likely to have joists that are capable of taking your weight as you walk around the loft but this is less likely in newer houses, where tight cost control means that thinner joists are used. Look at where the cables go too, do they run above the joists or do they run through holes drilled in the joists?
Finally measure the amount of usable space you have. If the loft height is very low and you can’t get into it easily it’s probably not worth boarding the whole lofts. In this case just put a few boards around the hatch opening. Armed with your measurements get down to a DIY store or wood yard and get some boards.
Get the Right Raw Materials
You can use any wood to do the job as long as it’s strong enough but it makes sense to use tongue and grooved flooring boards. As the name suggests these have a groove and a matching tongue round each edge so the boards lock together and stay in place, adding support too. Many DIY stores sell these in packs specifically for boarding lofts and sometimes include the screws in the packs.
The boards in these packs are usually 4m by 1, or sometimes 4m by 2m. If you have a large loft area to cover and have good access you could consider larger 8m by 2m boards which would speed up the floor laying part of the job. But these are heavier and unwieldy, making them difficult to manoeuvre into the loft, so think carefully before buying larger boards.
If you have thin joists you’ll need to strengthen them before you start laying down boards. Many people add a layer of 75mm by 38mm joists at ninety degrees to the originals to spread the additional weight.
Make sure that no cables are trapped. If they are clipped on top of the joists, which are the older thicker types, you can cut slots in the top of the joists and drop the cables into them. Do not cut slots for this purpose in thin joists as you will further weaken them.
While you’re up in the loft you could lay down some extra insulation, especially if you are laying down extra joists. This is an opportunity to probably double the amount of insulation in the roof. Remember not to pack the insulation too closely around electrical cables though as this can be a fire risk.
Laying the Boards in the Loft
Wearing a mask, goggles and gloves, start by screwing down boards at the loft hatch and outward in all the directions that you intend to board. Slot boards into these first ones, going across the joists rather than following the same direction. Screw them down into the joists, being careful not to pierce any pipes or cables.
You can glue the boards together but this would make them difficult to remove if there was a problem in the roof space in the future. Draw lines in thick felt tip that show where pipes and cables go so that you know which boards to lift if anything does go wrong.
Don’t use nails or there will be a fair bit of plaster on the floors of the bedrooms by the time you’ve finished hammering! Drill pilot holes then screw in one and a half inch nails, countersinking the holes so that the heads of the screws go slightly below the surface of the boards. This will help boxes and bags slide across the floor rather than snagging on the raised screw heads.
Finally, a hint that will help the job go more smoothly. Take one board around the loft with you so that you can support your weight on it while working. If you try to do this job while balancing on the joists you are very likely to put a foot through into the ceiling below.