How to make use of your loft space

Home for the Christmas decorations

We all struggle to find room in our homes for the Christmas decorations, those clothes that you can't quite throw away or books and mementos.

If you have a loft in your home, and you really need some extra storage space, it's really simple to convert your loft into a practical and useable space. All you need is some basic DIY skills and a few tools. Plus, the good news is its fairly low cost, and it can reduce your heating bills too.

You won't need planning permission if you're only using your loft for light storage. But if you need to store heavy items then a full or part loft conversion may be better, as excessive loads can cause ceilings to sag and put pressure on door frames.

Let us help you get started. We'll show you all you need to know, from access to insulation and everything in between. Read on to discover more.

Start with a safe platform

The loft in your roof is a great place for storing the things that you don't want, that are bulky or that you don't use very often. One way of utilising the space in your loft fully is to panel or board it. If you are going up into the loft to do anything then you need to create a safe platform to work and walk on. B&Q loft panels can be used to both create a safe platform, and to panel the loft.

Boarding loft

Here's a shopping list of things you'll need to board your loft:

Step-by-step guide to building your loft

1.

Loft Size

The first step is to work out the space you want to panel whether that is the whole loft, a section in the middle or a section close to the loft hatch. Work out the length and width of the space that you want to panel to calculate the area - this will also help in determining how many packs of loft panels you will need.

Top tip! Most people only board the central area of the loft as there is limited headroom nearer the edges.

Usually if you are insulating the loft you will cover the whole of the loft with insulation so will need to calculate the whole loft area. If you plan to insulate your loft first, see the Insulation section.

2.

Insulation

If you haven't done already it is a good idea to insulate your roof. To learn how to insulate your roof properly we recommend that you view the B&Q How to insulate your home - first steps video.

3.

Before you begin

You won't be able to fix the panels to the joists if there are any wires or insulation running across the top. If this is the case then the easiest solution is to affix long pieces of 75mm x 25mm timber across the joists at 90 degrees to them - effectively raising the joist height by 25mm. A single piece of timber should therefore be attached to several joists Simply screw the new timber to the existing joist at each intersection where the timber crosses. Raising the joists will also leave a gap between the insulation and the boards that aids airflow.

4.

Laying the Loft Panels

If you've laid laminate flooring before then this process should feel fairly similar. Loft panels should be laid across several joists (or several pieces of timber if you have had to work around wiring) in order to achieve a strong and secure area.

It is easier to follow an existing straight line like a wall or roof truss if you can, but this may depend on which way the joists run.

Lay the first board, then lay subsequent boards end to end to form a row before fixing. B&Q loft panels have a tongue and groove fitting system which makes them easy to push together for a tight, secure fit. Once you have your first row (you may have to cut the last board for it to fit) secure to the joists as per the pack instructions.

Subsequent rows are fitted in the same way. Always stagger the panels in a brick pattern so that the joints are staggered and not aligned.

Measure the headroom image
5.

And finally...

Always remember to wear a mask and goggles, and watch your head for low beams. Mind your feet too and only stand on the joists, as the ceiling will not be able to take your weight.

A good quality loft ladder will last a lifetime

The normal way to get into your loft is through a loft hatch. This is either a panel which can be lifted up and pushed to the side, or it will be mounted on hinges with a catch.

Wobbling about on a chair, or going back and forth with step ladders is not the best idea. The safest and easiest way to get into a loft is with a permanently installed loft ladder.

Loft ladder

Loft ladders are easy to install and cheap to buy. A good quality loft ladder will last a lifetime. The most common type of loft ladder is the aluminium extending ladder.

Once you're up there, you'll need to be able to see what you're doing! The best solution for your loft is a mains powered light with a switch as near to the loft hatch as possible.

Any electrical work should be completed by a qualified electrician, but it's a relatively simple job so shouldn't cost too much.

Torches and battery powered lights are also an option. Some of the LED torches now offer reasonable light output and long battery life.

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Now it's time to get organised!

So, you have your lovely new loft space for storage, with a ladder and lights. Now it's time to get organised!

Top 4 tips

  1. Plastic storage crates with lids will protect your items from dust, plus you can stack them on top of one another - creating even more space.

  2. Loft spaces can get hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so try not to store anything that might get damaged by extreme temperature.

  3. Write content labels for each crate to make it easy to find things in the future.

  4. Find new homes for items which you no longer need. Ebay and FreeCycle are good places to try.

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