How to gain safe access to the loft
Creating access to the loft is a great way to make more use of your loft space and there are lots of things to consider when installing hatch door and loft ladder. Starting from getting the right loft ladder for you, installation and thinking about your own safety when completing the project. It is always better to have another pair of hands to help you.
Some ladders come with a hatch door. But if yours doesn't or if your old hatch door isn't strong enough, you can make a new one quite easily. You can choose from 12mm or 19mm blockboard, MDF or plywood. It is very heavy to work with the thicker board, but if you opt for the thinner board, you may need to add a batten to take the hinges.
Start by measuring the hatch opening and cut a door from your block board, MDF or plywood. If the 12mm board is too thin to take the hinges, nail a strip of 50mm x 25mm batten to the hinge end of the board. Then screw the hinges onto the door.
The door should open downwards, therefore fix the other side of the hinges the same side as you want the ladder to go. Then screw through the hatch lining into the joist or trimmer.
Most ladders come with a push or turn lock/release catch that you'll need to fix to the other side of the door. Make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions when you fit it.
Ladders do differ. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. And don't be tempted to stand on the new loft ladder until it's fixed in place. You'll need an ordinary ladder, securely positioned, to get up to your loft to do this job.
If you want to store heavy items in your loft, make sure you keep them at the sides rather than in the middle of the loft space.
Lower the ladder to the floor and fit the top stops on it, according to the instructions. Drill some pilot holes, drive the ladder hinge screws through the board into the joist or trimmer below, and onto the front face. Fit the loft ladder guide assembly to the frame. You can fit the handrail now, or (if you've got a power pivot system) you might find it easier to do this after you've installed it.
If your ladder has a power pivot system, use the template supplied to mark the position for the pivot arm on the floor of the loft. Mark the position of the screws with a bradawl. The pivot system can usually be fitted to either side of the ladder.
Position the power pivot arm according to the manufacturer's instructions and screw it to the loft floor. With the ladder in a fully-stowed position in the loft, attach the pivot arm to the one side of it.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for lowering and storing the ladder. This usually involves putting the hook on the end of the ladder's pole into the catch on the underside of the door, and rotating the catch to lower the door. Then place the pole hook into the socket in the centre of the bottom rung on the middle section of the ladder. Lower it until you reach the stops, release the locking catches and lower all sections of the ladder.
To store your ladder, simply release the catches, move the ladder into a closed position and engage them. Slide the ladder upwards until it can swing through the loft opening and ease it into the loft space with the pole. Hook the end of the pole into the catch on the door, raise the door and twist the catch to close it.
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The minimum recommended depth of insulation across the entire loft floor is 270mm. To stop heat escaping into your loft through the hatch door, try cutting and sticking a square of insulation board to its underside. Or you can buy a ready-made insulated drop-down hatch door which simply screws in place.