Making the Most of Your Loft Space

If you own your property and you have an underused loft space, you are missing out on the opportunity to enhance your living space in a way which can be much more economical than, say, building an extension.

If your loft is full of nothing but cobwebs, rafters and old pictures of your grandfather, even a basic conversion, adding a solid floor, roof insulation and an access ladder can give you tons of safe storage space which will free up other areas of the house. But the real potential of a loft conversion lies in turning it into living space, often an additional bedroom, office or playroom. This involves considerably more effort and expense, since the planning regulations for living space are more demanding, but it will certainly add to the value and utility of your home.


The essential element of a basic loft conversion is adding flooring. While this can be done by placing boards on existing joists, this misses the opportunity to provide a safer and more energy efficient solution. A modern solution is to add a layer of insulation, then raised loft flooring boards. This has the benefit of saving you heat energy, while allowing the insulation to work at its most efficient by not squashing it under boards.

Insulation is best laid in two layers, between the existing joists, then across the joists. The insulation of choice uses ECOSE technology, a bio-based binder which makes the material more comfortable to handle. It’s non-combustable, made from natural, renewable raw materials and is 70 percent less energy intensive to manufacture than traditional materials. Fitting this sort of insulation in your loft could save you about £250 a year on your energy bills.

It’s also important that your loft access hatch be airtight and meet industry standards. You can fit a loft hatch with a simple board, hinges, and push-push closing catch, but for safe and efficient access, an airtight, insulated access hatch made to NHBC (National House Building Council) standards with a locking catch will reduce airflow and the possibility of damp.


If you are using your loft conversion purely for storage, you can fit a hide-way ladder for access. You have the choice of many types and materials. The basic type might be a sliding aluminium design in two or three sections; this is mounted on a spring-loaded top hinge inside the access hatch, so once collapsed, it is swung up into the loft. The problem with these designs is that they can require clearance space inside the loft. Some wooden or metal ladder types are attached to the access hatch and will fold into the space above it, so they take up no additional space in the loft, while a third type telescopes or concertinas to save space. Which type you choose depends on what clearance space you have inside the loft, the size of the access hatch, and how much load you need the ladder to bear. Accessories for loft access ladders can include handrails, and inside the loft you might want to fit rails around the hatch or grab-handles at strategic points. Don’t forget you’ll also need a pole to operate the hatch!

Make sure when choosing a loft ladder that it is long enough to sit at a comfortable angle for climbing. European loft ladder standards cover aspects such as minimum weight capacity, angle of climb (61 degrees) distance between steps, height of the bottom step and so on.


There’s not much point in insulating the floor of the loft unless you also insulate the roof, where a great deal of heat can be lost. There are many ways to do this – with boards, breathable lining, thermal foil or spray polyurethane foam (SPF). You should take advice before opting for spray foam, because though it has advantages such as good sound insulation, it’s not suitable for all types of property.

You may also want to add utilities such as lighting and mains power to your loft conversion. If you plan to live in it, using it as a bedroom or office, much more stringent planning requirements come into effect. Though you can add some space to your loft by adding skylights and fixed stairs, a full loft conversion often means rebuilding the roof of the property to give more headroom. In a so-called hip-to-gable conversion, a sloping roof is replaced with a vertical one. In another design, the mansard roof extension, the sides of the roof are lifted to create a new pitched roof, and most ambitiously, a roof lift conversion will effectively add a new floor to your home, though understandably this is the most expensive of the options – but it can add considerably to the value of your home. ■

This feature was first published in Property & Home with Martin Roberts, Autumn/Winter 2023. See more here.

See also: How Home Insulation Can Save You Money


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