Boarding a Loft for Storage: A Storage Loft Conversion Guide




loft boarding in progress

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Boarding the loft is a quick, easy, and cheap way to add extra storage space to your home. You don’t need building regulations approval and most homeowners will have the necessary DIY skills to do the job themselves.

Add a new loft hatch and ladder and you’ve got the perfect set up for storing all that clutter and boxes of stuff you just can’t throw away. No more balancing boxes on rafters and hoping you don’t fall through the ceiling when you retrieve the Christmas decs.

Your storage loft conversion

Boarding out the loft and using the roof space as storage is one of the most common home improvement projects done today by UK property owners. It is far from a full loft conversion of course and shouldn’t be seen as such.

At this point then it may be worthwhile to spell out exactly what a storage loft conversion actually is.

Loft boarding regulations

A basic storage solution will not require building regulations approval.

But, and it’s a big but, it must be stressed that if you use the loft for anything other than storing items, than it will be classed as a habitable room and it will therefore require building regs approval.

For example, simply setting up the kids train set in the loft will be deemed making the room habitable.

And. in this case, the householder will need to apply for building regulations approval which will mean that a permanent set of stairs will need to be installed along with enhanced fire precautions and all the other criteria laid down in the building regulations.

You can’t for example, lay down some loft boards and pop a sofa up there. That makes it a habitable room and not a storage solution.

So, a storage solution must be exactly that. If you intend to do anything other than keep boxes of items in the loft you must carry out a full loft conversion. Simply laying down boards will not cut it. OK, having established that you’re only creating a home for the Christmas decorations and that collection on Beano comics you just can’t bear to part with, let’s move on.

Loft boarding for storage

Let’s look at the process before we get into the details. The usual way to convert the loft for storage involves a few different steps.

Firstly, it’s more than likely that the access hatch will need to be widened. Especially if you want to fit a ladder as well. And, for ease of access I really would recommend you go the whole hog and have a ladder installed.

Secondly, the joists may need to be strengthened. This can be done by doubling the existing joists and of course the insulation may need to be improved. We’ll discuss this later.

The biggest job will of course be laying the boarding itself and there are some great new materials available from the large DIY stores that are ready insulated and easily fitted by even the most technically challenged handyman.

Other improvements will include new lighting and perhaps a flush fitting skylight.

If the skylight window is fitted it should not require building regulations approval but the cautious property owner would still be well advised to check with their local council’s building control officers.

Finally, a storage loft conversion can be carried out very quickly and cheaply but if you don’t want to do the work yourself there are plenty of good builders out there who will do the job for you at a very reasonable cost.

How much is loft boarding and how many loft boards do I need?

You should be able to find standard chipboard loft boarding from around £15 per square metre. If you’re paying a tradesman to instal it for you expect to double that cost. A raised system of loft boarding is around £80 per square metre (installed).

Can you board a loft yourself?

Yes, you absolutely can. You could argue that knowing how to board out the loft is essential knowledge for anyone who wants to use their roof space to store items.

Unless the loft has been boarded anyone wanting to move around the loft would have to make sure he or she places their feet on the rafters, and the storage of items becomes very difficult.

Boarding a loft should not be too difficult and should be able to be completed even by people who do not consider themselves avid DIYers.

It may not even be necessary to board all the loft area.

It could be a waste as of time and effort to board where space is tight under the eaves because it would be impossible to store anything there. Not to mention the difficulty of actually accessing the area to lay the boards.

The first job is to calculate the amount of space in the loft area to be boarded. Measure the space you are going to board and calculate the number of square metres required by multiplying the length x width.

So, if the space is, for example, 5m x 4m you would need 20 square metres of boarding. Having made the calculations, it is a case of buying the boarding from the local DIY store such as B&Q or Wickes.

How to board a loft? A couple of obstacles to overcome

Although laying the boarding itself is pretty easy there may be a couple of difficulties to overcome before getting to that stage.

If your insulation has been laid over the joists, or if you have wires and cables running along the tops of the joists, then you will need to raise the joist level (unless you are using a raised leg system of loft boarding).

This can be done by using 3×1 inch timber and laying them crossways over the existing joists. Screw the new timber to the existing joists and lay the boarding on top.

The boards are fitted across the joists. It is best to fit them across several joists as this gives extra strength to the boards. Screw the board to the centre of the new cross timbers, or the existing joists if you haven’t had to raise the level.

But the boards to each other lengthwise but when starting a new row make sure the boards are staggered in length to add more strength.

By raising the level of the joists, you will improve the insulating properties of the existing material and allow some air to flow beneath the boards.

The boards could be screwed or nailed down but please don’t take the quick fix solution of nailing the boards. The use of screws is advisable as this means the boarding can be more easily removed at a future date should the need arise to access the electric cabling or insulation.

Stay safe!

Safety is an important consideration when carrying out a job, even at home. Gloves, goggles, and a mask should be worn when boarding the loft.

Working safely is very important when boarding a loft. While there is a temptation to stand on the joists while fitting the loft boarding this is very risky.

One slip could see a foot going through the floor, with the next job fixing a ceiling rather than completing the boarding. So, the best way round this is to use one of the boards as mobile platform while the boarding is completed.

More on boarding a loft for storage

Creating a basic storage solution is very easy and quick and you certainly don’t need much in the way of DIY skills to do the job and is fairly easy to learn how to board a loft.

The materials you need can be purchased very cheaply from DIY stores as either small panels or large (8’x2’) chipboard sheets.

The panels are more convenient to work with as they are smaller and easier to manage though will work out a little more expensive than the larger sheets.

Whichever material you decide to work with the cost of boarding your loft should only be a few hundred pounds.

And, the only other items you will need are wood screws, a saw and screwdriver.

The first thing to determine is the area of your roof space to see how many sheets you will need. Measure the depth and length and then multiply to work out the area.

If you are carrying out the project simply to provide secure storage then it may be wise to just board the middle without trying to reach the awkward area under the eaves – you won’t lose much space and the job will be completed much faster.

Before laying the boarding the joists can be raised, levelled and strengthened by laying timber battens across them (minimum 2”x1”).

This also a good idea if you have electrical cables running on the top of the joists.

If you aren’t adding some strengthening (i.e., you will only be using the loft for very light storage) ensure you have an electrician re-route the wiring – don’t be tempted to cut into the joists to ‘bury’ the wiring, this will weaken the joists too much.

Once the extra joists have been added simply butt the loft boarding against each other making sure they join in the middle of a joist, and then fix with a 1.5” to 3” screw.

If using longer screws make sure they are not so long that they will go through the timber and into the ceiling!

By the way, don’t nail the loft boarding down. Using screws enables the boards to be easily taken up at a later date if necessary and hammering nails in the loft could cause a plaster shower in the rooms below!

When working in the loft do take care not to step off a joist and wear suitable clothing. Goggles, hat, mask and gloves are important and make sure your arms are covered.

The fibres on the old-style insulation are horrendously irritating if they make contact with your skin and, of course, the mask is essential so that you don’t inhale any of the dust which will envelope you as you work.

When screwing the sheets to the joists take extra care to avoid electrical wiring. Each board will probably only require two screws to be made secure.

This kind of project will not normally require planning permission or even building regulations approval but if going any further, fitting a roof light for example, then contact your council’s building office to confirm you do not have to make an application for the work to be approved.

How to board a loft without loft legs

The raised leg style of boarding is great – but very expensive. It’s much cheaper and still easy to use traditional chipboard.

Using large tongue and grooved sheets of chipboard for boarding a loft is both quick and easy and can quite comfortably be accomplished by someone working on his own and is one of the easiest DIY loft conversion projects.

Packs of flooring grade chipboard are readily available from most DIY stores or independent joinery shops and are usually supplied in lengths of approximately 8’x2’.

To work safely when boarding a loft use one or more of the lengths of chipboard as a mobile platform instead of trying, and inevitably failing, to balance on the joists.

The chipboard is fitted directly to the joists but, when boarding a loft, ensure that the lengths of chipboard are laid at right angles to the joists, i.e., across a number of joists and not laid astride two of the joists.

Laying the chipboard across the run of the joists will of course add plenty of strength.

Starting in one corner lay the first board onto the joists ensuring the tongue is nearest to you, i.e., furthest away from the wall.

Screw the boards into place making sure you are not driving the screw anywhere near to cabling or piping and that they are not closer than a couple of inches to the edge of the board.

Once the first board is secured run PVA clue into the end groove of the next board. Push the second board flush with the first ensuring the joint is tight by tapping with a hammer.

Complete the first row in this fashion, cutting the final board to length if required.

The next row of the loft flooring is begun by running the PVA into the full length of the groove on the first board before pushing the board flush into the already secured first row board.

Then simply carry on the same procedure with the rest of the boards remembering to run the PVA into the full length of the groove as well as the butt end of the board.

The final piece of boarding will probably need to be cut to size and forced into position with a prybar.

When boarding a loft in this fashion you may to consider cutting an access hole in one or more of the boards to allow easy access to cabling or piping.

Loft boarding and insulation

adding insulation to the loft floor before covering with chipboard loft boarding

Though you can use blanket material like in the image above, the easiest insulation to use is loose fill material such as vermiculite. You simply pour it between the joists and lay the boards on top. This will help keep the loft cool in summer and warmer in winter while preventing excessive sound.

Loft boarding and ladder

Adding a pull-down ladder to your loft will cost around £200 and you can add another £75 for a light. But as a do it yourself project for a 20 square metre loft with ladder and light you would need a budget of around £600.

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