house – day 258 – 260 – loft living

The last big job to do upstairs is to put the loft in order. There’s a great pile of insulation at one end of the roof space, where plumbers and electricians had moved it to enable them to work. Winter is upon us and we need to get the house ready and, naturally, keeping warm is a priority. Once the insulation is back in place, I’ll to put a raised floor over it, so we can store stuff up there out of the way. We think we have a lot of things in storage that we won’t be wanting any more, but it will take some time to get rid of it – we need to put it somewhere.

I’m spending another whole week at the house and this time around, I think we really will be able to get the house into a state that will allow us to arrange getting our stuff from storage. Then, perhaps, we’ll be able to start living a more normal life. Before we can do do this, we need to get all the decorating finished, so I can lay the wooden floor in front reception, study and hall.  There’s a lot of snagging still to do, but it’s a many small tasks that shouldn’t involve having to clear out rooms in order for us to complete them. But first the roof space.

Saturday

After talking through with Fiona about what we should do over the next few days, I got started on the loft. First task, to drill screw holes in the loft legs. You’re supposed use a power screwdriver to force the screw through the leg into the joist, but the plastic is hard, access is difficult and the screws are pretty blunt. After a few test screwings (with a pretty powerful cordless), I realised I would need to pre-drill them, before installation. So I spent the rest of the morning drilling four holes in each of the 96 loft legs I’d bought.

After a spot of lunch I hauled everything into the loft and set to work screwing the loft legs to the joists. The spacing between legs is governed by the width of the loft boards you install and the spacing between joists. Our ceiling joists are quite closely spaced together, about 30-35cms apart, which means you use a lot of legs per square metre. Unfortunate, this leg density doesn’t improve the floor loading, which is governed by the strength of the ceiling joists underneath, it just means you have to spend more money on legs and more time installing them.

With the first lot of legs in place, the next task was to retrieve the previously-moved insulation and put it back in place. I wasn’t sure how it had been laid before, but I had a plan. There were quite a few tubes of encapsulated insulation piled up in the corner and I thought I’d start with those. It’s quite tricky, balancing on thin ceiling joists trying to push four or nine metre length tubes of insulation between these legs. The tubes snag on the tops of the legs and tear the plastic wrapping. Eventually, I got a few tubes in place and I was ready to start installing some boards. I hoped this would clear some space in the loft and provide a platform for the ongoing work.

It was back-breaking labour, trying to hold oneself in an awkward position bent over and kneeling, using back muscles to take the strain whilst I attempted to get the screwdriver in a position to place awkwardly-located screws – in a cramped, dimly lit space. But, eventually, a working platform grew and it became slightly easier to do the rest of the job. However, as I removed insulation from the pile at the end of the loft, I also realised that:

  1. we didn’t have enough insulation for the whole roof space
  2. we needed more light at the end of the loft
  3. the insulation had been piled over a lot more crap left by the previous owners (and this would have to be removed)
  4. the job that I thought should take 1 1/2 days was going to take a lot longer.
  5. we have a small leak in the roof by the front chimney. The wood’s a bit damp, but it’s not rotting. I think it’s cracked cement flashing. Something to look at next year.

I finished working on the loft around 20:30, aching, grubby and very, very tired.

Sunday

First task – get more insulation from B&Q. They didn’t have the right kind, but I found something we could use – at £35 per roll, it wasn’t cheap. I also bought another disposable coverall (I’d already thrown out yesterday’s) and a batten lamp socket, to improve lighting.

Back in the loft, I put in the extra light, the new extra-powerful light bulb didn’t work, though, and I got started again laying the floor. After a while, I realised I should remove as much as possible of the previous owners’ rubbish before continuing laying floor boards. This little job took about three hours. There was old cardboard, hardboard, several kitchen cabinet doors (laid on the joists and used as loft flooring), lumps of expanded polystyrene (previously taped to the old water tank, presumably to “insulate” it), a PVC children’s mattress, a glass cabinet door, rugs, blankets etc. basically, stuff that should not have been there when we bought the house. Oh, and an asbestos water tank which I moved to the end of the roof space and wrapped in polythene.

With the old crap out of the way, I could get back to the business of insulating and flooring. I steadily worked my way around. It was easier work, with a few boards already down and with better light and I had also realised it was quicker if I drilled pilot holes for the screws when fixing the boards (the screws are too blunt to pierce the surface of the boards). Nevertheless, it was still a back-aching, grubby, confined job and I was glad to get out around 21:00. I was still not close to finishing the job and I needed more insulation, legs and boards. Checking online that evening, I could see Wickes sold what I needed, they had it in stock at Sittingbourne and it was half the price of B&Q’s stuff. In any case, at some point this week I need to make a trip to Axminster Tools to try and get router cutters, so that I could recreate a portion of the elaborate skirting board in the study. Some bits of it are missing from around the fire surround and need to be replaced.

Monday

I set off bright and early Monday morning and duly returned with what I hoped were enough supplies to complete the job. I also had a new pair of router cutters that I hoped would enable me to fake the study skirting board, also a couple more disposable coveralls (again half the price of B&Qs). However, I now had a few more boxes of legs to drill before I could get started again upstairs.

I’d got the main flooring complete by 20:30, but, by then, I was too tired to finish laying the remaining top-up insulation and installing a few boards around the loft hatch and water tank. I’ll leave that work until tomorrow.

Tuesday

I finally finished the loft around lunchtime. We now have 300mm deep insulation above all of the rooms and around 15 square metres of floored space. Plenty of room to store bulky, lightweight items. We still have nowhere for all our books, they’re too heavy.

Looking through the bills from the last few days, to do the job, I found I’d used

  • 156 loft legs
  • 16.4 square metres of loft boards
  • 1300 M4 30mm screws

No wonder I was tired. I’d spent 3 1/2 days in the roof of the house doing this, I’d barely seen any daylight and had not been able to stand upright for most of this time. If this is loft living, I think it’s overrated.