Wooden Loft Hatch?


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Established Member
3 Mar 2005
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This is a DIY question, Sorry....

Ever trying to think of ways to utilise what little space we have in this rather small house, I have decided to go up into the loft. Initially all I want to do is add a retractable ladder and put down some flooring so we can use it for storage.

The current hatch is of the awkward 'stand on ladder, push out hatch, extend ladder' kind. The ladder that I have seen here
does not come with an openable hatch. I just called the company and the guy suggested building one out of timber. For some reason I hadn't considered this...

So has anyone built one before? Is it a good idea? Any advice on construction would be very much apprecieated


for the money you are talking, B&Q do the whole thing, trapdoor, surround etc. - in fact I'm sure I did not pay anything like that for mine, but I can't remember how much it was.

You will almost certainly have to increase the size of the opening to fit one of these things, not a massivly complicated task, but not to be undertaken lightly either, you will be cutting through ceiling rafters.

Either way, the link you but up is IMHO expensive.

HI Wizer
I've done this a couple of times, it's really quite straightforward.
First make sure the opening is big enough to get the ladder, you, and the big box of Christmas decorations you are carrying through the hole all at the same time. Both ladders I have fitted reduce the effective size of the aperture considerably.

In one case the existing hatch was sitting in a matal frame, flush with the ceiling. I fitted two new noggins between the ceiling joinsts, then sawed out the plasterboard between them to make the hole bigger. The whole ceiling sagged a couple of inches! Fortunately I had already made the trim, like architrave, and I rather quickly mitred it and screwed it up, through the ceiling and into the joists above. The ceiling remained intact. Whew! (It was someone else's!).

The loft is closed with a turnbutton that came with the ladder. I would recommend the sort that have a "closing arm" as opposed to the ones you shove up with brute force and ignorance - I have the latter and the former are much smoother to use.

Your easiest option will be to remove the stops that the old hatch rests on, hinge the hatch flush with the bottom of the lining and refix the stops above the hatch. Done it several times when fitting loft ladders for clients.

Most of the B&Q ladders come with suitable hinges and latch that can be opened with the supplied pole.

thanks Les. I haven't seen the kits from b&q but will check it out next time i am there.

There are a few reasons why I chose this particular ladder:

1. It is good solid finished timber
2. Sturdy Handrail (good for the missus who is scared of ladders)
3. Spring assisted sliding mechanism (again easy to use for the missus.)

Thanks for the tips Steve. I will be making the opening bigger but hopefully not needing to cut through rafters. Did you make the door? if so, any tips on how to make this? Can you expand on 'closing arm' ? not sure what you mean...

Alternatively there are these over at screwfix
By "closing arm" I mean that some have a mechanism which aids opening and closing, whilst the cheaper ones just slide manually. The ladder itself is the same, but the mechanism is a boon, especially for anyone who struggles a bit. My 75 year old mum can manage hers. Just realised, that makes 3.

I made my trapdoor as a M&T'd rectangular flat frame and skinned it with 3mm MDF - lighter than solid MDF. And don't forget to insulate it by sticking polystyrene to it - it's no good having the ceiling insulated if there is a gaping great hole in it.

And don't forget to install a light switch low down, so you can switch the light on as soon as you get your head in, and more importantly so you don't have to climb all the way up again when you get down and realise you've left the light on...

And don't forget... etc etc etc.

BTW Mine came from B&Q too.

what about hinges steve? just normal butt hinges?
Depends on the geopmetry of you hatch, I guess. But yes, butts. You might need cranked ones.

Don't forget, to eliminate draughts, go up in the loft, get someone to close the door, then fix some 25x12 around the inside of the hatch, butting up to the door. That way it fits perfectly, even if your hatch is a bit wonky (which, of course, it never is).
I recall on a business call many years ago seeing a loft ladder and I think it was called a Slingsby. Super job, timber construction which worked on a counter balance system and produced stairs to the loft like a normal set of stairs to the first floor in traditional appearance.

Might be possible to construct something similar if you have that bent.
I have the wooden one in the garage. didn't pay that much at b&q (i think it was about 59 or so

In the house i have an aluminum one. and i like them better, they are lighter and smaller. and also the wooden ones they do expand, and if your loft is cold damp and airy, the mechanism will bite and will not slide any more. just consider that as well


I bought and fitted one of the B&Q ones. Had to enlarge the opening first and all went well.

When you fit it they advise fitting it from above with two battens screwed across the opening to make sure it fits flush. So I screwed on the battens, climbed through the gap and fitted the hatch assembly.

Then asked the missus to unscrew the battens so I could get out. Snag I had the drill/driver for doing the fitting and she had an ordinary screwdriver. She couldn't get the screws undone and I was stuck. :oops:

Had to take the whole thing out and start again.

Otherwise it was quite easy to fit.

I have just remembered I helped a neighbour fit is ali loft ladder 5 years ago and after fitting I let him slide the ladder into position.

I stepped on the laders first and the fixing screws came away . I managed to grab the loft opening but couldnt drop down until all the metalwork was cleared.

I dont know how they do it in those thriller films when they are hanging on. :roll:
Got one of the skinny aluminium ones with a sprung-fed return lever. It easily copes with my 6' 1''/200lbs + frame, even though my ceiling is nigh on 11' from the landing floor. It cost nowhere near £50-60 from one of the out-of-town sheds. The ceiling is neither even (1906 house + settling) nor strong, but adding supernumary joists to beef up existing ones, plus 2'' by 4'' cross pieces rendered some degree of stiffness to the hatch. The supernumary joists did not even have to span the whole house depth, but were run to the nearest internal solid wall and 2' past the hatch edge in the other direction. My builder in those far off days skimped on ceiling joist depth, so I cannot legally run a floor through the space, but I did install a 'walkway' to avoid plummeting through the plasterboard ( yes, the lath-based ceiling came down). This had the effect of additionally stiffening the ceiling adjacent to the hatch and removed any residual springiness left by cutting a new hatch. You can pick up a supply for loft lights from the wires serving the ceiling roses or switches - they're normally running over the fibreglass in this part of the world, possibly to avoid overheating if buried in the insulation. I've used fluorescent lights; lumen for lumen, they use less power and run cooler than Edison's invention. The hatch is a judiciously shaved piece of nice 3/4'' ply, primed, rubbed down, re-primed, re-rubbed, then coated with ceiling paint. The hinges are simple butts, slightly off-set to sink them slightly in the ceiling to reduce visibility. I ran a thin, round-edged batten around the hatch on the ceiling on the maxim that if you've got it, flaunt it; any attempt to hide it is usually less successful than a tasteful accent. Hope this helps, pm me if I've typed summat daft or cryptic. Sam

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