As we approach the end of one year and the start of another we see it’s time for a clear out, a new start, or a new home improvement project. The inspiration from this usually comes from something that happened over Christmas. Perhaps you need to repaint the living room after a comment about the dated colour of the walls; perhaps you need to de-clutter the dining room after you realised there wasn’t enough room for everyone round the table; perhaps you decided to get loft ladders fitted after dropping too many boxes trying to carry them down a step ladder.
Getting a loft ladder is a really good DIY project to get involved in. Most loft ladders come with free fitting, but with a little knowledge, some time and the right tools, it is a job that most homeowners can do themselves. Here’s a basic step by step guide to enlarging the loft hatch prior to fitting most types of loft ladders (i.e. the sliding type, as concertina loft ladders do not need as much space inside the loft). Always follow the manufacturer’s fitting guidelines; the instructions below are designed to give you an idea of the size of the job.
- Start by measuring the size of the hatch you will need. This information will be available with the ladder online
- If the existing hatch is not big enough, you will need to enlarge it. This can be done relatively easily
- Pull the loft insulation away from around the area you are going to working on and remove the existing loft hatch
- Next, remove the lining from the frame around the opening carefully, being sure not to cut into the ceiling
- Then remove one of the trimmers (which make up the shape of the loft hatch along with the joists), tapping it out carefully with a hammer
- Mark out the size of the new hatch on the joists around the old hatch hole. Be sure to keep the new hatch in roughly the same place as the old one, as the joists will need to be in the same position in order for the new hatch frame to sit comfortably
- Nail the new trimmer pieces to the joists on the marked line, fix the ceiling boards to the new trimmer, then cut away the plasterboard that forms the ceiling until it is flush with the new frame
- Fit a new lining around the trimmers to make the hatch hole look like it did before
- Fix the loft ladder pivots to the frame or the trimmer, depending on the manufacturers instructions
- Put the loft ladder onto the pivots and test that it operates smoothly and that there is enough space in the loft for it to operate and slide away safely
- Cut a new hatch from 18mm MDF, and paint it to blend in with the ceiling
- Attach the hatch to the frame around the loft opening, and possibly to the bottom of the ladder, so the hatch opens and closes automatically with the ladder. Refer to the manufacturers instructions on this point
- Replace the loft insulation around the hatch
- Tidy up after yourself, putting back all tools, fixings and empty tea mugs, then hoover the floor underneath the loft hatch
- Take the new loft ladder for a test climb, and be satisfied with your handiwork.
When it comes to fitting the ladder itself, this is where the manufacturer’s instructions cannot be beaten. Each type of ladder is different, as is the hatch and direction of the ladder from the loft, so when we take these three variables into account, as well as the homeowners’ ability to undertake a DIY task of this magnitude, it becomes impossible to offer a step by step guide to fitting loft ladders.
Most loft ladders do not have complicated fitting instructions though, especially the concertina types, and can be installed fairly easily by someone with a little practical DIY knowledge. The only time it may become difficult is if the loft ladder has been designed specifically for the space and shape of the home, as the fitting instructions may depend on the construction of the ladder. Additionally, bespoke loft ladders may need to be fitted by the company that designed and built them.
If a space saving staircase is a more suitable option for attic access than a loft ladder, then having some professional help to install it may be a good idea, as space saving staircases are treated as permanent staircases by most local authorities and therefore are subject to the same building regulations and planning permissions as a regular staircase. It is better to be safe and have the job done by someone experienced than to risk your or your family’s life on an improperly installed staircase or ladder.
There are some companies that provide a fitting service with their loft ladder offerings. However, while they can be reliable (generally the fitters are employed by the ladder company and are not external contractors) they can also be more expensive than hiring a local, trusted tradesman or even than going down the DIY loft ladder installation route. Sometimes you may see ‘free fitting’ advertised, but you often find that the price of the ladder without fitting, advertised elsewhere, is significantly cheaper than the one with free fitting. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free fitted loft ladder.
On top of potentially saving yourself some money, the best benefit to using a local tradesman is helping your local economy and small businesses. Try to find a joiner, rather than a carpenter to carry out the job, including adapting the loft hatch. Joiners typically have more experience working with roof joists and frames, and are also adept at handling and using ladders. A normal day rate for this type of work is somewhere between £130 and £170 depending on the area you live in. If you compare the cost of the ladder, plus one day of labour to enlarge the hatch, this works out cheaper than some companies offering a package deal on ladders and installation.
An easily installed loft ladder for everyone
The Youngman Easiway 3 section loft ladder is, as the name suggests, one of the easiest loft ladders to fit and use. The model comes supplied with all the fixings, hinges, operating pole and illustrated instructions you could ever need. The directions can be downloaded from our website so you can see what is involved in home fitting before you buy. There are easy to follow diagrams and simple explanations for each step that would enable a relatively novice DIYer to successfully install the loft ladder. However, if you have read through the instructions and still feel it would be too much for you to fit this loft ladder, then the instructions are detailed enough for a professional to follow without feeling patronised. This loft ladder needs a hatch of 17 by 20 inches, which is a normal, average size for a new build house. The floor clearance it can do is between 2.3 and 3 metres, which is a good range for most homes.
The ladder itself is a very good one when compared to the rest of the loft ladder market. Not only is it supplied with everything you need to fit it, this Youngman loft ladder is also supplied with everything you need to use it, such as the operating pole and hand rail to make ascending and descending more stable, especially when carrying a Christmas tree under the other arm. The Youngman Easiway loft ladder has two inch wide, non-slip treads which, along with the hand rail, make this ladder one of the easiest to climb. It is connected to the loft floor, rather than the hatch or a joist, making the opening and descending of the ladder from the hatch very smooth and safe. It can take loads of up to 15.7 stone, which should easily cover a person and a few heavy boxes. The Youngman Easiway 3 section loft ladder is one of the most popular models in the UK, offering great value for money on a product with simple yet very effective design.
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