To lofty heights we climb

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).

original loft hatch

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:

new loft hatch

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).

loft ladder

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 🙂

One man’s rubbish is another man’s…. rubbish

Apparently the previous owner’s tenants didn’t leave a forwarding address and having lived in the house for around 15 years, just abandoned it with all the junk they didn’t want any more.

The majority of this was cleared by Mr B before I viewed the property – he said it took him 4 days and two lorry loads to clear it.  After I heard this story I recalled that a few months ago there’d been some ‘house clearance’ emails with long lists of things on the Freecycle mailing list and realised it had been this (now my) house.  But the first I heard of any of this was the surveyor’s report which mentioned “Many items are stored within the loft” (Mr B had not being able to access the loft as there was no ladder present). There was some deliberation with the advocates on account of this, apparently when you buy a property you are normally entitled to ‘vacant possession’ but I ended up buying it ‘sold as seen’ with the agreement that I could dispose of the contents as I wished.

Before I got the house the Maplin Electronics ‘deal of the day’ was a 4×3 multi function folding ladder, knowing there was no loft ladder present and being pretty confident that at 5’1″ tall I was going to be in need of a ladder at some point – I decided to make it my first house related purchase 🙂  With the deal of the day, plus a voucher code and cashback, it was about £36 – not bad considering it’s currently selling for £60.

So on the day I got the keys I tentatively poked my head up into the loft to see what was up there and realised pretty quickly that this was going to be a two person job!  Paul had been warned before he booked his ferry that if he visited me the weekend after I got my house, we’d be doing DIY so the very night he arrived (after the pallet trip), we started hauling things out of the loft.

Until each of the bedrooms looked like this:


the ladder was wedged in like this:


and the view from the top of the ladder was like this (I’ve blurred the baby’s face out):


Sadly, clearing someone else’s rubbish out wasn’t anywhere near as exciting or interesting as you’d think it could be.  It was, as Mr B said, simply like they’d never been to the tip, they’d just moved everything aside.  Most of the stuff was empty cardboard boxes and old carpets (which in fairness I think pre-dated the last lot of tenants).

Things of note (term used lightly):

  • 1 computer monitor
  • 2 small TVs
  • 5 very old electric heaters including one ceramic one (I tried a couple – they didn’t get hot, they just made my fingers tingle).
  • Bin liner of soft toys
  • About 70 VCR tapes
  • About 20 PC games
  • Bin liner of washed and folded linen
  • Sleeping bag
  • Brand new roll mat
  • Loads of old carpet in various states of decay (including a spectacular 1970s swirly green number)
  • Spanish guitar (with a split seam)
  • Artist paint set
  • Glass painting set
  • Book on house plant care (I note this as unusual in being the solitary book)
  • Several board games
  • 3 old mirrors
  • Wrought iron candle holders
  • Large witch’s broomstick
  • Small witch’s broomstick
  • Blinking skip light
  • Letters about tax and benefits
  • Fencing kit (foil, mask, gloves etc)
  • Stack of 1980s vinyl records
  • Bed frame including rails
  • Old broken stereo and speakers
  • Old printer
  • Naked lady lamp
  • Vase
  • Tennis ball
  • Cricket ball
  • Pile of sea shells
  • Original xbox (no controllers or games)
  • Very minging duvet
  • Pair of boxer shorts
  • Pair of men’s sandals in box to be returned
  • About 15 empty beer cans
  • Stationary
  • School reports
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • 4 or 5 computer mice
  • Bits of wood
  • Golf clubs in golf bag (and some extras which wouldn’t fit)
  • Golf trolley
  • Old phone
  • Letters in brown envelopes which turned out to be love letters written from the prison.

We filled Paul’s van as with as much stuff as we could and then took it on probably the scariest journey of my life – a lefthand drive 1964 VW camper, on wet roads in a side wind, driving in back to back traffic through Ballabeg/Colby (when the Shore Road is closed so all the traffic is going that way) with the windows all misted up and erratic windscreen wipers…. I was not a good passenger.  I also had very wet feet by the time we got to the tip!  The van did hold an impressive amount of stuff though so the majority of the junk was gone in just one go.  I went to put the videos in the reuse section but apparently they already had too many, seems all that video tapes are good for these days is the incinerator.

We also did a trip to Manx Metals in Balthane with all the metal bits and made a grand total of £5.11!

The following weekend I did two more trips to the tip – I’d offered Matti the golf clubs but he’d turned his nose up (although he swiped the balls), so I kept the wooden woods and took the others and the golf trolley to the reuse section.  I also took a mirror, the fencing foils and naked lady lamp – all of which were snapped up before I’d even finished unloading the car.

Being a bit of a hoarder, it was difficult to not keep more of the stuff than I did, but seeing it being taken away so quickly from the reuse section of the tip, helped.  I’ve still got the following though so I might have to get a bit more ruthless with myself yet:

  • Sleeping bag (I’ve washed it – I might give it away yet but thought it might come in handy)
  • Brand new roll mat
  • Spanish guitar (with a split seam)
  • Artist paint set
  • Glass painting set
  • Book on house plant care (can’t bin books – sorry)
  • Stack of 1980s vinyl records
  • Vase
  • Table cloth (which plan to use as a dropsheet – I actually meant to keep more of the linen back for the same purpose but the bin liner obviously got muddled up with the other bags)
  • Tennis ball
  • Cricket ball
  • Pile of sea shells
  • Old phone (might be handy for testing)
  • Panda teddy bear (I’ve washed it!  Paul also claimed a set of magnetic turtles of the roof of his van).

I had some fairly strong reservations about posting photos and lists of other people’s former stuff on the web but heck, they’re the ones that left all their junk but no forwarding address!  I hope I’ve taken care to ensure there is nothing which will enable them to be identified.