Knowing your options regarding loft boards is essential if you are looking to board your loft correctly. Keep reading to learn about the different options available to you and how to install them like a pro.
Installing loft boards in your home is beneficial for several reasons. It can help create a useful storage area in the loft for Christmas decorations, suitcases and other season items to declutter the habitable rooms below. It can help create a safe access way to equipment installed in a loft, such as solar panel invertors. If done correctly, it can also help to save on energy costs.
It is believed only 1.8% of new homes in the UK meet the highest energy efficiency rating. By insulating and correctly installing the right loft boards you can save on bills, help save the environment and create a useful storage area in your home.
But where do you start? And can you do it yourself?
In this guide, we will tell you all about loft boarding, the boarding options available, and how to install them correctly and energy efficiently.
The Different Types of Loft Boards
Whether you are using your loft for storage, or for safe access to equipment in the loft, the boards you use must be solid, supportive and durable.
The most popular thickness of loft board for a storage area or walkway is 18mm. This is more than sufficient for storing items in your loft and walking around in there. However, this can be increased to 22mm if additional strength is required.
Loft boards typically come in small 1200mm x 320mm panels or large 2400mm x 600mm sheets. The larger the boards the more cost effective and quicker the project, however the decision generally comes down to the size of the loft hatch.
Before you rush out to buy your loft boards, you will need to consider the most suitable material.
The most common material for loft boards is chipboard. Chipboard is made from reconstituted wood - often shavings, chips or sawdust, compressed and held together using natural or synthetic resin and then formed into boards.
Chipboard is widely available from builders merchants and DIY superstores, is strong and the most cost effective option.
Moisture resistant chipboard often referred to as P5 chipboard, generally green in colour, is an option if moisture and humidity is a concern however these boards tend to be significantly more expensive.
OSB (oriented strand board) has emerged recently as an alternative material. OSB is formed out of compressed layers of wood strands with adhesives (wax and synthetic resin). The strips of wood in each layer are placed deliberately to create a very strong panel that is now almost comparable in cost to chipboard.
Plywood flooring boards are also an alternative option for loft boards. Plywood is stronger and more durable than chipboard and stiffer than OSB, as it is made with thin sheets of veneer glued together with adjacent layers at right angles to each other. Plywood is significantly more expensive than all other options and is the main reason it is rarely used for loft flooring.
Whichever option you choose ensure that it has tongue and groove edges. This is an important structural feature of loft boards and can help to ensure the resulting floor is strong, movement is minimised and there is sufficient support throughout the floor.
Things to Consider About Loft Flooring
Before installing loft boards there are a few things to consider. Incorrect loft boarding can significantly reduce the thermal performance of your insulation, and even invalidate your new build NHBC warranty (more about this here).
Before boarding, make sure your loft has the correct depth of insulation. Current government guidelines suggest that at least 270mm of mineral wool/quilt insulation is installed to achieve a U-value of 0.16 W/m2k and ensure that the homes heat is retained in the habitable rooms below the loft.
If you have installed the correct depth of insulation, then make sure you do not compress it when installing loft boards.
Studies have shown that compressing insulation can reduce its thermal performance by over 50%. In new build homes compressing insulation can also invalidate its NHBC (National House-Building Council) warranty.
The best way of avoiding these issues is to raise the loft boards on plastic Loft Legs or loft flooring stilts. This is a simple, quick and cost effective solution.
It’s important that your lay your loft boards in a staggered pattern. This will make sure the joints are offset and ultimately make the floor stronger and more robust.
If there are any downlights in the ceiling below the loft and the fittings are being covered by insulation, ensure they are covered with a Loft Lid to provide the required space around the light and reduce the risk of the fitting overheating and fire risk.
Before starting the loft boarding project, ensure there is adequate ventilation in the loft space, and any vents in the space are clear. Ensure any works carried out (boarding or insulation) do not interfere with the existing ventilation as this could cause issues down the line.
Insufficient ventilation caused by blocked vents can lead to condensation problems and longer terms issues. When warm, moist air from the home rises into the attic, it can condense on the cooler surfaces of the roof and insulation. Without ventilation this condensation can buildup and can lead to mould growth. In extreme cases this moisture and mould can damage the roof, insulation, and other materials in the loft. More detailed information can be found on ventilation here.
Other Considerations for Loft Flooring
Avoid altering or removing structural elements in the loft. Trusses, beams and joists are structural elements and interfering with these may cause serious structural issues.
Is Loft Boarding a DIY Job?
While there are thousands of professional loft boarding companies in the UK, if you are “handy” and have some basic DIY skills then boarding the loft yourself is easily achievable.
Work out what part of the loft will be boarded, measure the space, calculate the number of boards required and purchase the materials you need.
A handy list of tools and materials required for the job is below:
- Electric Screw Driver
- Safety glasses
- Tape measure
- Loft boards
- Loft Legs
- Loft Lids (if required)
- Screws (4mm x 30mm)
Firstly, it is good practice to create a plan of how the loft boards will sit in the loft and work out how many boards will need cutting and to what lengths. Remember, loft boards will be installed perpendicular to the joints or trusses in the loft.
Secondly, begin by installing Loft Legs at the correct intervals along the first truss/joist to meet the loft board joints. Then install Loft Legs in a similar manner on each truss/joist to create a grid formation. Loft Legs should not be spaced further than 600mm apart. Finally, lay loft boards on top of the Loft Legs screwing through the boards and into the top platform of the legs. As mentioned above best practice is to stagger the boards when laying them to achieve a better end product.
Using The Loft Space
If you have a trussed roof construction, consider shelving the outer 'hard to reach' areas with Loft Ledges rather than boarding at floor level.
This allows you to create a clear central walkway with loads of organised storage space at the sides of the loft.
Once the loft boards are installed it is important not to overload the space with storage.
It is recommended that no more than 25Kg/m2 is stored on loft boards. This is to allow for the weight of a person walking on the boards as well as the long term static storage.
If you are planning to convert your loft into a habitable room it will impact the type of boards you use. This type of project will require a structural engineer and most probably structural alterations to the roof. For the purposes of this blog we have only considered the options available when using a loft for storage.
Board Your Loft Like a Professional
There are a lot of things to consider when you are planning to board your loft. By understanding the types of loft boards, loft board materials, insulation, and other considerations you can board a loft that will benefit you now and in the future.
A correctly boarded loft will save you money, raise the value of your home, and create much needed additional storage.