The silent heat stealing draught vampire...the loft hatch
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This is important...but usually pretty easy to fix
Loft hatches are often forgotten about when it comes to preventing heat loss from a home.
Heat always rises so any gaps around them will be steadily ‘chimneying’ heat out of a home unnoticed 24/7. The more heat that escapes through a loft hatch, the easier it is for cold draughts to come in elsewhere in the house.
Lofts can easily get pretty chilly in winter so gaps round the loft hatch will mean very cold air will gradually ooze down into the home cooling it down once the heating has gone off or when colder weather arrives.
We are all familiar with the term ‘vampire power’ for electricity being wasted. This is the equivalent ‘vampire heat loss’.
The sections below describe how to fix this on two different loft hatch types and the section lower down also shows a simple way to check that what you have done has worked.
Fixing it on the type of hatch shown above
This is for loft hatches where you have to push the hatch panel upwards and typically have to move it out the way to one side to access the loft.
There are a wide range of self-adhesive spongy seals that will do a good job of fixing this to suit the gap between the hatch panel and the wooden frame it sits on.
The ‘P’ shaped one shown here is one of the most useful I find for loft hatches as it is very good at adapting to different gap sizes - loft hatches don’t always sit evenly all the way round.
With a hatch like the one above you can fit the seal from below with appropriate step ladder and don't need to go into the loft.
The seal needs to be stuck on the ledge on the woodwork around the hole and not the hatch itself. (See later photo)
Give the surfaces you want to stick to a quick clean with household cream cleaner.
Once dry it will really help the self-adhesive seal stick and stay stuck for a long time.
A self-adhesive seal should last several years but will need checking and replacing from time to time (maybe every ten years).
If you think you already DO have seals on your hatch do at least check on it to see what condition it is in, as some seal sponges do degrade and do often become unstuck.
This very short YouTube video with a wonderfully cheery enthusiastic Australian woman describes exactly the method I've written about above for this type of hatch.
This photo of my own loft access hatch shows the (rather scruffy!) seal stuck to the ledge that the hatch will sit on.
The seal is nicely squashed under the hatch once lowered into position in the photo below:
The loft hatch in the top photo is also made of strips of wood, which have gaps between them which will also be quietly leaking warm air.
These need to be sealed up with decorator's caulk or frame sealant (basically any flexible sealant) which can be done on the top side of the hatch out of sight so doesn't have to look pretty.
A creative idea if you have the above type of loft hatch
One creative idea from someone on Facebook was to use a SECOND downward hinging loft hatch underneath the type of loft hatch you see above, providing a second barrier to draughts and cold from the loft.
This would only be possible if the existing loft hatch is small. These products give you an idea of what I mean.
This is obviously an investment that would take a few years to pay for itself but for energy loss and comfort it makes a lot of sense.
Fixing loft hatches that hinge downwards
Some hatches are on hinges that mean the hatch opens ‘downwards’, usually to make it easier to fit and use a ladder like the hatch shown here.
These are much trickier to draught-proof but it will be worth it I promise!
In my experience these are traditionally APPALLINGLY sealed from new and will take a little more time and thought to seal properly.
Again, fit the seal to the frame around the loft hole and not the hatch itself. All the same tips from the other guide above generally apply.
These might need different seal types to the P section suggested above and may take more experimentation. It may mean different thicknesses of seals in different places.
With one of these it will also mean some help as you need to go into the loft, have someone close the hatch from underneath (someone you trust to let you out!) so you can work out what thickness of seal you need to do the job.
These can SOMETIMES be a pain to draught proof for the following reasons:
SOME loft hatches of this type (usually wooden ones) don't even have a ledge that that seal can be stuck to which will (a) mean they lose a LOT of heat, and (b) it might mean you need to fit some wooden strips around the edge to actually have something to fix seals onto.
Some hatches also don't have a very good way of actually keeping the hatch 'up and closed tight' so it may need a bit of DIY thought to work out how to keep it closed more tightly. I'm afraid I can't give any guidance on this here as there are too many different situations that might need slightly different solutions working out how to do this. If anyone has any great advice or thoughts on this specific sort of problem, do let me know and I'll update this article.
It's sometimes a pain working around the loft ladder too so it might be worth removing it to get good access to do the job.
An alternative solution
Posted as a suggestion on Facebook. I suspect this would be much less hassle to make draught proof than the methods above. It'll also be much better from an insulation point of view.
Checking for gaps afterwards
Once you’ve done the job you can actually check if the seal is sealing properly just by using a small piece of paper. I've shown what I mean in this photo here using a yellow post-it note.
If you can easily slide the paper between the new seal and the hatch then you still have a gap, which might be very localised. Most seals can be stacked with two layers quite happily to help with that.
Insulating a loft hatch is also important to do but I will cover that in a separate article at a later date (do subscribe for updates!). Draught proofing the hatch is more important.
I bet you never thought loft hatches could be so much fun! Nor did I....
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