Loft boarded & full of junk? Here are practical solutions...
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There are zillions of lofts around the UK with junk, boarding or walkways preventing the right amount of insulation being fitted necessary to minimise bills.
I know from personal experience how hard it is to get motivated to sort this out as it isn't the most enjoyable of jobs, and can loom in the mind as a time-consuming task.
This article has some practical advice, ideas and products that can make the whole process a lot easier and quicker, allowing you to increase the loft insulation to the right level and still have storage space for junk.
"I know I need to get up there and sort it but....." is a common thought when the subject of loft insulation rears its head. Groan!
According to 2020 figures, around a quarter of homes in England and Wales either have too little or no loft insulation.
We are regularly bashed over the head with the warning "You could be wasting up to 25% of your heat if you don't have enough loft insulation". It is true, though!
What's more, with hotter and hotter peak temperatures in summer, higher levels of insulation also help keep homes cooler in summer!
This graph shows how stable room temperatures are in mid-September in an unheated home with a fully insulated loft. By contrast, you can see from the orange line how much the loft temperature changes from day to night.
The chart below shows how much heat (the vertical axis) is lost into a loft for different thicknesses of loft insulation (the horizontal axis).
As you can see even having 100mm of insulation reduces heat loss significantly. This is what many homes still have. Going up to the recommended 270mm level reduces the heat loss to a third of the level of 100mm. Many homes still only have 50mm!
Sorting the loft out is probably a once-in-a-lifetime job, so it's time to face the music 😀
Only you know your loft and what you want to store, what access needs you have and what storage solutions might work for you. Here are some photos of different approaches and products I have seen that might give you ideas and fire you up to get up there and have fun.
Insulating without losing storage
1. Raised joists using timber
This is a photo of my daughters house where they have used Loft Leg products to raise the boarding. The result incredibly sturdy.
2. Raised storage on roof webs
You can make this sort of storage shelving yourself, but there are also companies who have ready-made systems.
The product shown below is made by a company called Loftzone.
This product is similar, and is made by The Loft Access Company:
A double-decker system, thought I'm afraid I've. no idea where from.
3. Use insulated loft-boarding
There are a number of insulated loft-board products out there, sold in sheets measuring 1200mm x 600mm. Prices start from around £20. The 100mm-thick product insulates around 20% better than the 170mm of conventional loft insulation top-up roll. The 75mm board is almost as effective as the 170mm top-up roll.
The Tekwarm product is widely available, but there are a number of others on the market.
Avoid using insulated loft boarding for very large areas, as it reduces the ability of the space underneath to ventilate properly.
4. Cross timbers across the roof timbers
This photo of my own loft shows a raised storage platform created using a couple of pieces of treated 3 x 2 timber spanning the main side roof timbers.
In summer, loft temperatures can easily exceed 40C, while in winter they can go below freezing. This isn't a happy environment for storing stuff. Does it really need to be up there? It is an awful environment for old photo albums!
Consult a qualified electrician as to whether you need to take any actions that may need to be taken regarding covering or lifting wiring.
Once you are ready to lay any insulation, take plenty of photographs of the various areas, especially if you are covering any cables or plumbing: this can make it much easier in years to come if anyone wants to make any wiring or plumbing changes.
A well-sealed loft hatch is really important, as is ensuring that you don't block up the ventilation in the roof. These are both important to avoid condensation issues in lofts. Loft condensation can quite quickly lead to rotting roof timbers!
If you have loft condensation issues, I have a whole bunch of articles that will help you understand the causes of damp issues in the home. See here.
If you need very infrequent access to a particular part of the loft, scaffolders planks fixed down might be all you need. I have a couple actually hidden between two layers of my loft insulation in one area that I can pull back the top layer of insulation to reveal and use.
Why not take the opportunity to improve your loft lighting if it is poor?
It's a perfect opportunity to sort out any pipe insulation that isn't in a good state or ought to be thicker.
Hopefully the above ideas will help you realise what is possible and nudge you into action, if you needed nudging. For further detailed guidance and suggestions (including safety tips), again focussed on helping YOU do it as a DIY-er, click on this link to a really good web page.
Here are two excellent video guides on laying loft insulation for a DIYer:
DIY installation - the video really gets going at 1 minute 30 and has some great practical tips. Total watch time around 5 mins.
A longer video (12 minutes) that covers more detailed stuff. This also shows you a solution for dealing with downlighters.
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