Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Want loft storage but your builder / developer recommend you don't?

Do you have a new build house?
Want loft storage but your builder / developer recommend you don't?
Want to know why they recommend you don't get your loft boarded?

This is very common these day's that pretty much all developers / builders of new homes do not recommend you board your loft.
So why won't they recommend boarding out your loft?
The answer to this is twofold. Firstly they do not like to recommend any products, tradesmen or service providers for the simple reason if things go wrong they don't want the comeback.
This I can understand as they cannot guarantee these tradesmen will be reputable even if they have been used by others in the past, so they leave it to you to find your own tradesmen / services.
I recommend you use a Safe Trader scheme, usually run by your local council by trading standards who have a list of reputable tradesmen in your area.
The second reason they don't want you to board your loft is the fact that there is a lot of insulation in new builds and its very high, so they presume to board a loft they insulation would have to be removed or worse still squashed.
Unfortunately this can be the case with a cowboy builder or DIYer who has no knowledge of building regulations or good building practice.
Not too many years ago there was an influx of these "so called joiners" knocking on the doors of new build housing estates and selling cheap loft boarding from as little as £200.
What these guys didn't know is how to install a safe strong supporting sub-frame to hold the boarding and storage weight.
They used to remove the loft insulation and throw in the eaves or worse still they would squash it down so much it popped the plasterboard fixings, and later caused damp and mould issues.
So as a result of all this come back on the builders / developers over the years they have decided not to recommend using your loft for storage.
But... There is now a way to safety board your loft for storage even if you have high insulation levels without having to remove it or squash it down.
There is a system called LoftZone raised loft floor, and this allows a simple but very unique raised platform to be built above the insulation levels of up to 300mm, without any compromise to the existing insulation.
This system is supported by the carbon trust, its energy efficient and is made in the UK. It's won many awards including invention of the year at the Ideal Home Exhibition.
So now you know there is a product to board a loft in a new build house why won't the developers use it? Now the problem is that the builders / developers still have their blinkers on and even though some are starting to see the light, they still won't recommend boarding your loft for storage for no other reason than because of bad boarding in the past.
Now this new system has been introduced on to the market and is professionally installed by factory approved and certified installers. Things are about to change.
Oh yes, although the builders / developers will never recommend a trade but having your loft boarded professionally they cannot disagree with as it is all done to a code of practice, is safe and does not affect the loft insulation, cause condensation or weaken your ceiling or roof.
Done professionally you can get storage in your new home without fear of it being done in the wrong way or some poor DIY job someone may charge you for.
FREE surveys and written detailed quotes should always provided for this type of work, (as simple as it may seem) it cannot be guessed at. Never do the deal over the phone or by email.
If you are looking for a qualified installer for these types of loft storage products why not start by searching
Link to safe trader
Northwest Approved Installer

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Topped up your loft insulation? What about the old inefficient loft hatch ?

Old Wooden Loft HatchReplacing an old loft hatch must be done correctly, no point modifying an old push off hatch by reversing it putting hinges on and a catch without adequate draft seals, insulation and locking points.

In some cases it can't be helped as you may want to preserve the look of the ceiling by keeping to traditional wood or finish to match the rest of the house. Although when done correctly it will be a little more expensive than a new purpose build loft hatch.

In most cases it is not necessary to do this and it's far more cost effective and makes more sense to install a brand new draft sealed British Standards approved hinged door hatch and frame.
Most of us at some point or another had our insulation updated to the government recommended level of 270mm.
This will make a vast difference to your energy bills over the years. In some cases you can get green deal grants to have this installed for free, but even if you are not eligible for free insulation it doesn't cost a fortune to buy your own, or have installed professionally.
The one thing we do forget to upgrade is the loft hatch.
Old loft hatches have gaps and they don't seal shut properly, whistle to you on windy days and are pretty much useless to climb through to enable you to fit a ladder or use your loft for storage.
It's important to consider having a brand new latest specification draft proof loft hatch installed if you're considering using your loft for storage as it may need to be done just to get a ladder in.
Hand made or reversing the door (Like picture above shows) to convert an old hatch is not recommended as this will not reach building regulation specifications and not all reliable at draft excluding or being energy efficient.
Professionally Installed Loft Hatch Replacement or DIY?
Professionally installed as it can be a pretty big and physically demanding job depending on the age of your property and location of the hatch. You could say the older your house the more difficult and expensive it can become.
But it's still affordable you get a brand new enlarged loft opening and loft hatch professionally installed from only £90 on average so it is always worth considering.
The Manthorpe GL250 loft hatch that we use has been independently tested by the BRE to BS EN 13141-1:2004, and easily surpasses the requirements for air leakage which are outlined in the current building standards, certification is available.
The revolutionary design of the multi-point catch mechanism means that the GL250 door can maintain a more effective air tight seal around the entire accessible opening, helping to meet the air leakage requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations and preventing the problem of moist warm air entering.

Many drop down hatches suffer from ‘sagging’ over time, a problem that can cause the middle of the door to bow away from the door seal, creating an air leakage path. To prevent this issue, the GL250 door has 12 independent catch points located around the perimeter of the frame, operated from a single position with a unique sliding mechanism.

With the sliding cover replacing a conventional twist action locking mechanisms on the door, all of the hinge, catch and fixing geometry has been carefully located outside of the door seal, meaning that there are no holes through the door that could pose an air leakage risk.

When the cover is located in the fully closed position it also completely conceals the hinge detail. The positioning of the doors pivot point is intended to maximise the accessible area available to the user when the door is open and the pioneering hinge design allows for it to be fully removed from the frame quickly and easily for simpler installation and better access with larger insulation options.

The fixings for the frame also screw directly up into the ceiling for easier installation, also providing pressure in the optimum direction for the frame to ceiling seal.

The back of the door panel has been optimised to increase the amount of space available for insulation, allowing the 50mm of expanded polystyrene to cover a greater area within the structural opening to create a better thermal barrier.
Our expert trained installers can do most hatch replacements within a day or less and without too much fuss or inconvenience to you and your home.

DIY on the other hand! well you would need to be very competent to take on this job and you must have good knowledge of general building work to understand what you can cut away and what needs to be strengthened.
Cut away the wrong thing and it could weaken your ceiling and may collapse if walked upon. If you are not a 5 star DIYer I wouldn't tackle this job yourself, let the experts do it.
Call Andrea on 01772 361163 or 0161 663 2651

Friday, 8 May 2015


I get asked a lot about how strong a ceiling needs to be, or will it be able to take the weight of boarding on the existing ceiling.
A ceiling is a ceiling that is all it is meant to be, they were built to hold up the plaster board or lathe plastered ceiling and for the occasionally walking on the joists for services reasons.
Some older properties because of the type of roof timbers such as a purling support system or a trussed roof will make a difference to the overall strength.

Older ceilings like a Victorian terraced tend to have a purling supported roof which is a big beam from supporting wall right through the support wall opposite. Some have extra support in the centre which rests on the internal supporting brick walls so the purling’s do not sag over the years.
If you have ever had a look inside an older terraced house style loft you may have seen strips of wood hanging around attached from ceiling to roof? These are known as hangers, and they are there to give extra support (especially in the center of a bedroom) to prevent the ceiling joists from sagging over the years.
Usually 3x2 timber joists runs from the back wall under the eaves of the roof to a central wall for support then from the central wall another set of joists run to the front of the house under the eaves. A lot of older properties suffer from ceiling sag which is normal because the roof may have also sagged but the hangers come loose where the nails have rusted away so they stop bearing weight. These all need to be checked and broken or loose ones need to be replaced with modern timber versions anyway before considering boarding.

So will your ceiling take the weight required to board, store and to walk upon?
Answer is, yes if done correctly.
Adding a batten (2x1 or 2x2) strip of wood is nowhere near any use or support and hardly adds any strength to the existing ceiling, new supporting timbers must be much more substantial than this.
Also you cannot get hardly any insulation underneath to insulate your home.
It’s not rocket science but some “cowboy builders & joiners” really have no clue. But a specialist will know all there is to know about doing this job correctly.

Here are a few ways to add strength and support for a professionally built loft storage area;
·         Check all ceiling hangers are fixed and not rotten or broken, replace if they are.
·         Check ceiling joist thickness must be at least 3 inches by 1.5” (75mm x 38-40mm)
Any thinner than this and a suspended floor will have to be installed
·         Construct a new floor frame called a sub-frame out of minimum 4”x2” set at 24” Centre’s
·         Lay the frame in the centre of your loft with the supporting wall in the middle of you frame and the outer edges underneath a purling’s.
·         The reason for this is the central area weight will be taken on  the supporting central wall of your Victorian house which goes all the way through to the ground floor footings and the overhang under the purling’s is so you can add purling hangers to your sub-frame
·         Adding purling hangers to the sub-frame will take the weight and allow you to level the floor in line with where the sub-frame fits on the central supporting wall (highest point)
·         Hanging the frame on the purling’s will take off any pressure to the ceiling joists below and will raise it enough to get insulation underneath as well as allowing important air flow ventilation through the insulation.
·         Once the sub-frame has been leveled and adequate supporting hangers have been fitted the new sub-frame will be very strong and allow at least a couple of people and lots of storage to be supported without any worries of it damaging your ceiling.
·         Once the sub-frame has been levelled set in place and fixed down then you can lay down the boards, ideally in staggered formation if possible without creating waste.
·         Never nail down only screw down you may need to remove the board at some point and nailing can crack ceiling plaster work with the impact.

So if you didn’t do all this preparation work before hand and you simply laid boards on to the existing ceiling without the extra support and strengthening you will be asking for trouble? It will put pressure on the ceiling causing increased sag and the more weight the more it will become worse and eventually it will crack or damage the ceiling beyond a simple repair and replacing a ceiling timbers and plasterboard is very messy and very expensive to do.
Worst case scenario is that the ceiling falls through!!!
Loft boarding is part of general building, as simple as it may sound as a professional company we have to work to building rules and regulations. Building in general is all about making it safe to use and sticking to rules to prevent any weakening of the existing structure. Anyone choosing to ignore these rules should not be in the building profession.

A trussed roof has a lot of extra support via the web timber frame work (the criss cross timber frames in your roof)
Usually the ceiling joists are part of the actually trussed roof frame so they are already very strong and never really require any added support if the new storage floor system being added is designed to distribute the weight evenly.
We use LoftZone StoreFloor which is a unique stilt and beam system designed to be installed directly to the existing ceiling joists to raise the ceiling floor above the insulation so as not to squash or remove any existing insulation which is normally up to 270mm high.
The new metal cross beam (sub-frame) runs opposite to the existing joists so this allow the new storage floor to distribute the storage weight more evenly and solving the problem of tall insulation getting in the way. Three jobs in one;
1.       Adds better storage weight distribution
2.       Raised the storage level above the insulation
3.       Create extra storage where you could normally have it

Most new loft joist are around 4” to 5” tall allowing room for the first 100mm of insulation to go perfectly in between the joists then a second 200mm layer laid opposite the first.
Being on average 2” thicker and slightly wider than is predecessor in the Victoria era this instantly give the ceiling joist more support to handle modern style loft boarding solutions like the LoftZone StoreFloor system.
Normally as we did with the Victorian house we only use the central area in this case this would be the highest parts down the centre of the loft known as the apex of the roof. Using the eaves can be done but this restricts access and the pitch of the roof is lower which also cuts down on the storage height, so you must consider if it is worth using these area.

So how much weight can a new loft take?
It can handle a fair bit of weight as a rule if you cannot lift it to the loft then that one item is too heavy so you need to split it up in to different boxes.
Total weight is really determined by the strength of the ceiling timbers, extra reinforcement and how well the storage floor is built. Most strengthened ceilings can manage at least two or three people and many storage boxes containing general items so long as you distribute things evenly throughout the loft then you would be surprised at how much weight can be stored in your loft.
For advice on this please ask the surveyor when they do a site survey they will give you their professional opinion on your type of loft as to how much storage weight is possible.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

So what exactly do I need to create a storage area in my loft ?

If you have never thought about extra home storage in your loft before then you might want to know what it involves and how much it will cost.
The most common questions I get asked will be answered right here.
Using your loft for storage isn't a new idea, a small percentage of us have been using our lofts for many years by placing down old broken down kitchen cupboards and any old lengths of wood we could find.
Most DIYers will simply lay them down on the existing joists by removing or squashing the insulation so they can be fastened down. Or worst still, just laying them perched on top of the insulation with good intentions of fastening them down one day.
What we didn't know back in the day was that loft insulation was going to get thicker and taller and require air flow and zero compression to work at 100% efficiency.
How times have changed, with thicker insulation, building regulations, government recommended this and that its hard to keep up with it all.
These days we can no longer just lay boards on to joists, we have to raise this boarded level higher than the insulation to avoid any compression or worst of all, having to remove what we put down to save on our heating bills. (Gain storage but loose money day after day on rising heating bills).
Now you dont have to remove the insulation or squash it as we have specialist equipment to raise the boarded level above the insulation, so no compression and no removal, keep your insulation down un-squashed and still save on your heating bills by using a system called LoftZone Raised Loft StoreFloor.
Very clever system consisting of 3 components, a tri-support stilt and a uni-support stilt all combined with a steel box section cross beam. All this put together will create a very strong, and safe raised boarded storage area in your loft above the insulation.

So what do you need to create a loft storage area?

If you have never had a loft made in to a storage area before then this bit is essential reading.

The differences between a new house and an older house can change things slightly but as a pointer an older house may need a loft hatch if it doesn't hinged and fold down, it will need to be changed, and it has to be big enough to get you, a ladder and things through.

1. Ladders... A fixed stowaway ladder is a must, it not only makes things easier getting in to the loft but its also very safe and wont wobble or move like a step ladder. Never balance on a step ladder or use an unsecured ladder to gain access to your loft a fall can be fatal.
A starting point for ladders is a good quality aluminum sliding fold away ladder that fixes to the loft floor sub-frame and stows away neatly in to the loft using a reach pole to push it in.
There are various ladders on the market for various jobs including concertina and wood options.
Our surveyor will suggest what is best for your loft.

2. Loft Hatch... You need to get in and out of your loft as easily as possible so the right size is very important. No point squeezing though a tiny hole as you will not get much up there to start with. The standard size today is a 726mm long by 566mm wide plastic draft seal and insulated hinged and folding down loft hatch. a British standard and building regulations accepted hatch used commonly in new build houses throughout the UK.
Most new houses over the past 3 years or so will have suitable loft hatches already installed but if its a lift up plastic or wood then it will need to be changed. The reason for this is not just because of the size of the opening its because the ladder wont operate in the hatch if its to narrow and the hatch lid wont lift up enough to get it off because the new ladders sits right above the hatch door. This is not a big job for professionals like us, but could be for a DIYer.

3. Lighting... You have to be able to see what your doing up there so a light is important. Never use a portable electric light that plugs in on your landing socket as these can be lethal if the cable rubs on the metal ladder (which often does). It must be a fixed permanently wired in to the existing lighting circuit. A choice of a bulb or a tube light is available, the tube being a lot brighter than a bulb.

4. Boarding... All loft boarding must be laid down on a sub-frame. A sub-frame is either an additional set of wood joists laid at right angles to the existing joists or a stilt and beam system (LoftZone Raised loft floor). Either is good providing it is above the insulation and will not compress the insulation when the boards go down. (Remember there must also be an air gap under the boards to allow good air circulation)
Having chosen the correct sub-frame we then install interlocking high density loft panels (or boards) these are specially designed for loft boarding and are of a suitable 18mm thick and very strong when installed correctly.
So how much boarding will you need? well that is entirely up to you and your budget and also what will fit.
We always say go for the higher central area of your loft, if its a trussed roof like in most brand new builds it would go down the centre of the A part of the frame. If its a terraced or a detached then up to the main purlings is usually sufficient storage around 12 to 15 m²
Never completely board your loft out as it is a loft space and it needs air circulation to work so keep the eaves free at least.

So that is it really, unless you want safety rails, roof dust sheets or a mini loft conversion (luxury loft room) there is nothing else to consider.

The cost for basic new build 4m² storage area with ladder and light start from £330
The cost for a terraced or detached 4m² storage area with ladder, light and hatch start from £499

These are only examples and vary depending on the amount of boarding you need.

1. Suitable strong fixed ladder
2: Suitable sized and hinged loft hatch
3: Good fixed lighting
4: sub-frame and boarding central area

Now all you need to do is call us for a FREE no obligation fixed instant quote
0800 8799967 and ask for Andrea