Attics have such romantic notions attached to them. It seems they’re always stuffed full of treasure in books and movies.
But if you’ve popped your head up through the opening to take a peek around, you know the average attic is more likely to offer up nail spikes and dusty smells than family heirlooms.
You can make your top space more useful for storage or other uses by adding in loft boards for a start. The addition of a floor makes it possible to move about the space safely and provides a base for whatever you move up there.
Be forewarned, however. Tossing some plywood down over the joists is not the best way to go, although it will keep your foot from ending up sticking out the ceiling below.
Proper loft boarding takes into account your space layout, roof design, insulation, and safety. But beginner DIYers often fail to consider these and frequently make these mistakes instead.
1. Ignoring the Roof Design
The structure of your roof supports the joists and floor of your attic. Whether you have rafters or trusses can determine how much flooring you can install and what the space can be used for.
If your house has a joist and rafter roof, you have more flexibility in setting up an attic floor since they usually leave large, open spaces with fewer obstructions. A trussed roof can restrict the amount of loft boarding you can install and add to the cost since you have to cut boards to fit around the structure.
Have a professional do a structural analysis to confirm that the roof structure can handle the added weight of people and storage in your attic. They should check your walls, support beams, joists, and roof for any issues.
2. Squashing Insulation Down with Boards
Attic insulation plays a key role since you can lose nearly 25 percent of your home’s heat through the roof without it. Putting a loft board down across your joists presses the insulation down to the height of the joist.
Compressing insulation like that cuts down on its performance by 50 percent and causes your energy bills to jump. It’s better to increase the height of the joists or raise the loft floor with plastic legs. This also helps create a gap between the boards and insulation to allow for airflow that keeps condensation from forming.
3. Moving Electrical Cables and Pipes
Your attic might be a warren of wires, cables, and piping, especially in an older home. There is the temptation to cut into the joists to move those items around to place boards on the joists.
This is not advisable as it weakens the strength of the joists, which are about to have more weight added with the flooring and whatever you decide to store in the attic. The better plan is to raise the floor level to run above any wiring or pipes.
4. Adding Space by Taking Out Trusses
Since a truss roof creates more obstacles to work around, it might seem easier to remove a truss than to cut your flooring to work around the truss. But you need all those trusses to ensure the overall weight of the roof and your flooring is properly distributed.
That’s not to say you can’t ever take out a truss, but you want to get a professional out to ensure you can do so without risking the reliability of the roof. They can help you figure out whether a truss can be removed and what additional support needs to be added to keep the roof from sagging or collapsing.
5. Blocking Lighting Cans
If you have can lights in the room below the loft, putting insulation and then flooring over them can be hazardous. Halogen and incandescent bulbs run quite hot, so they need plenty of airflow to keep them from overheating and causing a fire.
LEDs run cooler, but it’s still not advisable to cover them with insulation.
Check your options for covers that allow for plenty of air around the fixtures while keeping air from flowing around the light to the room below.
6. Too Much or Too Little Flooring
It’s tempting to cover the entire attic space with flooring to ensure you can use every inch. It’s equally tempting to lay down only a few boards by the access panel and plan to never go all the way into the loft.
The best plan lies somewhere in the middle. Covering every inch might have you spending more on materials than you need to or blocking ventilation in the eaves.
Covering too little makes it difficult to expand storage later or pull down items when they’re needed. You want to ensure you put down enough flooring to meet your storage needs and leave room to move around to find what you’ve stored.
7. Improperly Installed Ladder
While not exactly part of the loft flooring, a well-installed ladder provides convenience when you’re using the attic space for storage. If you’re working with a reputable installer like Instaloft, you should be able to count on the ladder being placed safely.
Make sure you keep space at the top of the ladder clear to make getting on and off the ladder safe and easy.
8. Ignoring Safety
If you plan to make this a DIY project, plan from the start to work safely. The two easiest aspects to take care of are that the loft is well ventilated and well lit.
With an unfloored space, you might want to install crawl boards that allow you to move around more easily and reduce the risk of poking a leg through the ceiling below you. And consider knee pads to reduce pain in your joints. Add in a dust mask and gloves to complete your safety outfit.
Add Loft Boards With Confidence
If you’re looking to take better advantage of your attic space, loft boards provide the floor for additional storage or other uses. But keep in mind that there is more to installing them than just nailing them down to the joists. Proper installation can give you the usable space you need without damaging your home.
Check out our other articles on home remodeling projects for the attic and other home spaces.