Boarding the Loft - a First Time Buyers Case Study!
In the process of buying our house, the loft was not high on our list of priorities to investigate. We enquired as to the state of the loft in each house we visited, but whether it was partially or fully boarded, or not at all, wasn’t going to be a deal-breaker. Allied to this, estate agents are not insured to venture into loft space themselves, or to allow potential buyers to do so.
On the odd occasions that we were shown around a property by the vendor, we got a glimpse of some well maintained and lit loft spaces. One seller was particularly proud of his loft, with several square meters of solid floorboards on which he could stand at full height; he said this was one aspect of the house he would miss the most when he moved on.
Ask the question!
As it happened, though, we were shown around the house we went on to buy by the estate agent. On enquiry, he said the loft had been “partially boarded”. Even when we went on to commission an independent structural survey, the surveyor’s insurance didn’t allow him to venture into the loft space. Nothing was mentioned in the contract about the loft (I assume this is the norm), and we didn’t ask. In hindsight, we had a golden opportunity to peek inside a week or so before exchange of contracts, when we revisited the property to measure up for blinds and curtains; the owner was there, chances are he would have been obliged.
Armed with this scant prior knowledge, we moved in. When we unpacked, we separated out items we wanted to store in the loft space: seasonal sports kit, Christmas decorations, camping equipment etc. It was only when we went to put these items up there that we realised the state it was in…
Assume the worst/ Err on the side of caution
True to the agent’s word, the loft had been partially boarded, but with a flimsy chipboard that cracked as soon as my boyfriend put weight on it. Most alarmingly, along these lengths of chipboard two large chest of drawers had been precariously balanced (we hoped) on joists. There was minimal lighting, so shadowy outlines gave hints of what else had been loaded on to the thin boards. We knew a lot of junk was up there, on insubstantial boarding that couldn’t support a person’s weight. With the situation as it was, we didn’t want to risk going through any bedroom ceilings. We needed to create safe and substantial flooring up there, light the space and clear out the junk.
A weekend was blocked off the calendar, when both my boyfriend and his father were available to tackle the job. My boyfriend measured up the loft space and ordered the appropriate amount of plywood. The supplier offered free weekend delivery in a morning slot, which saved him putting weight on the roof rack of his car and afforded them an early start. On top of his basic toolkit, he bought:
- Disposable overalls
- LED lights
- Work bench
- Electric saw
My boyfriend’s father brought the following with him:
- Spirit level
- Mains powered light
- Circular saw
Executing the plan
Getting everything down safely
Until they were ready to be cut down to size and nailed into place, the new boards were kept outside as it was a dry day. We kept a careful watch on the weather and had a ground-sheet ready to cover these in case of rain.
The workers then cleared a path along which any furniture and other items from the loft would be taken down. This extended from the loft hatch, down the stairs and outside the front door, and was covered in dustsheets (old curtains and sheets) There was an old wooden ladder left behind which was helpful; it wasn’t ideal, the wood of several rungs were missing but it did the job.
Having lit the area with LED lamps, they then crawled along the boards above the joists, and carefully removed the items one by one:
- Two futons
- Two chest of drawers
- Pair of wardrobe doors
- Cupboard doors
- Wooden worktops
- Dressmaking patterns (in large cardboard tubes)
- Drainage pipes
- Miscellaneous metal items: lamps bases, runners, curtain rails
- Countless pieces of wood, varying sizes
- Vacuum cleaner attachments
- Tapestry board/frame
- Display boxes
Needless to say, this is a non-exhaustive list. There were countless other items of bric-a-brac. From here, the items were separated by material and taken to the local recycling centre over the course of the weekend.
Removing existing chipboard flooring
From the farthest edge of the loft, the pieces of chipboard were removed and taken down, out of the house for recycling. They then worked closer to the loft hatch, until the existing chipboard was all removed.
On top of the existing fibre-glass insulation, new insulation made of sheep’s wool and recycled glass was laid down on. This helped us be a more environmentally friendly household, and was less likely to cause irritation.
Measuring, cutting and placing new boards
Working from the loft hatch outwards they then measured up sections to floor, cutting boards to size (outside, using the electric saw) as required. These were brought up into the loft as they were ready to be placed and screwed securely into place.
All in all, this was two full days’ work for my boyfriend and his father. It was worth it to first and foremost to have the knowledge that all of the heavy furniture up there had been removed. Secondly it was refreshing to know that the space was rid of the myriad of odds and ends left behind from previous owners; we knew exactly what was in the house now, and it was all our own. Finally, we could go forward in our new home with a secure space to store our infrequently used effects, which is invaluable.