Having had two midnight tours of other people’s lofts in the last few months (thank you James B and David A) – I got serious loft envy. My loft is a decent size (it’s about 6m by 6m) and has a decent amount of headroom (certainly for me). For a self confessed hoarder that amount of loft space is akin to Nirvana but, like all heavens, it lacked a decent stairway…. and boarding…. and insulation (it was previously insulated with junk).
The loft hatch spanned two joists and was around 28in by 28in (yes, I’m going to switch to imperial when measuring old things). It wasn’t tiny but I thought it might be a bit of a squeeze for some things - there was no built-in loft ladder so the main problem was that, when standing on the top of the step ladder, I pretty much had to jump into the loft and to get out I had to lower myself down taking all my weight on my arms until I was positioned directly over the top of the ladder and drop. It was fine but not something you’d want to do regularly (or something you could do while carrying anything).
The joists in my house run from front to the back which is left to right in the picture. As you can see there are walls on either side of the hatch – one of these walls (left of the picture) goes up into the loft. At the back of the hatch (furthest side away in the picture) is a structural brick wall which holds up one of the purlins. So I figured with all this support around the hatch – it wouldn’t hurt to cut out one teeny tiny bit of a joist to make the hatch bigger. I thought about this for weeks, did a lot of googling and then sent Dad up the step ladder to verify that it would all be fine and to double check my measurements. He concurred. The new hole would be around 1120mm by 740mm. I tried to shop locally for a hatch – the builders’ merchant supplied Werner ladders (£129 + VAT) but at 550mm by 1130mm it was not suitable for my needs. So I ordered a 1100mm by 700mm spruce loft hatch with integrated ladder from BPS systems, it was actually cheaper to order from the same company via Amazon as it came with delivery to the Isle of Man for £139 all in.
Dad and I installed it a couple of weekends ago – I can’t deny it, it was a massive phaff – partly because Dad likes to do things the smart way (which isn’t always the quickest way) for example, using two purchases (a 3 by 4 and a 3 by 3) to lever the hatch into the loft might sound like a good idea but not when it takes you half an hour to first de-tangle all the ropes. Oh and the existing joists weren’t straight so I spent a lot of time on that ladder with the plane and / or sander and the laser measurer trying to get it right.
Below is a photo from inside the loft once it was installed. The joist that is about half way up the photo is the joist that was cut – so you can see how much bigger the hatch is now. The joists are only 3 inches high so rather than have the frame protruding I added more 3 by 2 on top (that’s the timber you can see around the edge). As the frame was smaller than the existing ceiling hole, it needed some packing as well. Remember that fake beam in the dining room? Well the wood was really good quality and exactly the right size so it got a new lease of life in the loft (that’s the varnished wood with bits of white paint on in between the frame and the 3 x 2).
The ladder doesn’t look straight in this photo because it’s not – I left it a little long as I’ve not decided on the flooring in the hall yet (easier to cut a bit off than add a bit on…)
And from below:
So obviously the architrave needs to be fitted yet but as the ceiling needs skimming I’ve left it off for now. Yes, there is a index card taped to the door – those are my notes for the electrician to say what I wanted installing in the loft (strip light with pull cord and a couple of sockets). The bit of tape on the ceiling behind the hatch is where the smoke detector will go. Oh and you can also see where I’ve been stripping the door frame (and also how high I can reach).
This is how the ladder folds up (this photo is taken facing the opposite way to the others) – I particularly liked that it didn’t use any additional space in the loft. I’m not sure I would have had it facing this way had there been a choice but if it faced the other way there would have been a brick wall at the top of the ladder (see photo from inside the loft). That white thing on the purlin is a grab handle (aimed at people with poor mobility) which I screwed there to make it easier to get on and off the ladder. The dirty marks on the bottom right of the door are because one of the ‘tips’ in the instructions says to set the ladder away from the door to give your feet more room – makes sense but the problem is the screws supplied aren’t long enough and because they are a weird thread and fit into self locking bolts within the door you can’t use any others – I tried setting it out on some blocks and gluing the blocks for extra security but it didn’t hold and it basically wasn’t worth the risk.
Oh and I was both aided and hindered by Dad’s cordless drill – as you can see (sorry about the blurry photo), it’s been adapted to use 12 C sized batteries. To give Dad his due, it’s a fantastic drill – it drove it those 4in screws without any fuss and it goes for months on one set of recharable batteries but it weighs an absolute TON! When you’re in a very hot loft, precariously balanced on two joists, leaning over a hole in the ceiling, while trying to screw straight – ideally you don’t want the drill you’re holding to have a significant impact on your centre of gravity!
Anyway that’s it – I’m pretty pleased with it. Now I just need to get the loft insulated and boarded