How to Remove a Loft for High Ceilings
The loft, in your home can lower the height of your room, making it seem smaller than it is. If you are looking to expand the size of your space without physically making changes to the external shape of the house, you can do so by removing your loft completely, making the ceiling higher.
Understanding the Structure
The loft is basically built like an isosceles triangle that has been propped up at both ends of the base. The end supports of the loft are the same walls that carry the vertical load of the roof to the foundation of your home. Horizontal ceiling joists hold the sloping rafters in place while giving rise to a triangular shape. The joists are key to locking the entire structure and holding the walls in shape.
Dismantling Your Loft
There are some things you need to think about when looking to remove your loft for higher ceilings. Removing the horizontal joists can lead to a weakened roof structure, especially because the shape of the triangle is violated. You need to be extremely careful, when removing these joists, so as to ensure minimal collateral damage as that may weaken the overall structure of the ceiling above the loft.
When removing the ceiling joists, nailing plywood to the end walls or the insides of the load-bearing walls is a common way to distribute the weight load while adding shear strength against any sideway stress. Increasing the ceiling height can increase heating & cooling, therefore energy needs. Nailing plywood may help reduce these costs by creating an insulated surface.
There are a number of wires, pipes, insulation layers, heating ducts and vent lines that may require cover-ups considering that you are looking to remove the loft completely. While wires, pipes and vent lines can be re-routed, you may need to use fiberglass or rigid foam, along with nail furring strips along the bottom of each rafter, to reach the necessary insulation levels.
Removing Lofts in Older Homes
Older homes have a different structure for loft design, using 2x4 rafters for the joists, instead of the 2x6 of modern homes. Before you remove the joists, you should remove the entire roofing material and place a layer of plywood over the existing sheathing. A rigid layer of foam insulation, followed by a layer of skip sheathing and shingles completes the external roof structure.
At this point, you can begin removing the joists, while following the steps discussed to strengthen the interior section in the “Dismantling your Loft” section above.
Opening up the ceiling or installing a skylight may require the approval of an architect or structural engineer. You may require special tools to be able to remove the horizontal joists in your loft, as well as the flooring. You can install the strengthening structural changes once you are clear of the horizontal joists. It is important to remove only the joists, before installing the plywood on the side panels.
Any changes to the loft may require approval from the local house building authorities to prevent safety regulation violations. Please check with your local representatives for more information.