The vast majority of people board their loft for storage. But what if you want to set up your model railway in your loft? Read on to find out what you need to know before you get started!
1. Access to your loft
One of the first things to consider when thinking about setting up your model railway in your loft is access.
Most new-build homes have a simple insulated loft hatch. While you could simply add a ladder and get on with it, it’s worth thinking about what you actually need:
- If you are going to carry large items into your loft, do you need to extend the size of your loft hatch?
- What kind of ladder do you want? Some loft ladders come with their own loft hatch (see below).
- Think about the layout for the model railway in your loft: Is ti worth moving the hatch to a different location?
Extending or moving your loft hatch is easily done in most cases and only requires some plastering and decorating work. But it’s best to get it done before setting up your model railway in your loft.
2. Getting in and out of your loft
When choosing loft ladders there are a few things to consider. The most important thing is to choose a ladder which is up to the job and will get you in and out of your loft safely and comfortably. Check out this great guide to help you choose a loft ladder and check out our range of loft ladders to get an idea of what’s available.
The next thing to consider is the fit of your ladder. You need to take into account if you have enough space to:
- extend the loft ladder on your landing
- stow the folded loft ladder in your loft
- move the loft leader from the loft to the landing and up again
This is important as loft ladders have different storage options: For example, the Youngman Eco S Line Timber Loft Ladder takes up a larger hatch area but fits completely within its own hatch footprint when stowed.
Whereas the Werner ABRU 3 section Loft Ladder rests on the floor of your loft beside the hatch, taking up valuable space. Also, a sliding ladder like the Werner has to move through a large arc inside the loft when being put away. This can potentially limit your choice of hatch location.
For more advice on making sure your loft ladder is a guaranteed fit, check out this guide.
Finally, if you want to store your model railway in your loft, you might want to think about the aesthetic and ergonomic elements of your ladder. A wooden loft ladder made from natural spruce is (arguably) much more attractive than an aluminium one and has excellent wide treads for foot comfort.
3. Loft Flooring and structural integrity
Modern roof trusses are not generally designed to accommodate a habitable space. They are, however, designed for occasional storage. To be precise: it is possible to add 25kg of static loading per square metre plus 180kg of dynamic loading per square metre (basically a person walking around).
Our raised loft flooring, LoftZone StoreFloor, can even exceed this and has been tested up to 500kg/m2 – way more than you would reasonably want to store in your loft. (Check out the full technical details in LoftZone’s BBA certificate). However, if you want to load your loft floor with more than 25kg/m2, you need to get a survey from a structural engineer first.
Also, our raised loft flooring can be fitted around the existing vertical truss webs without the need for any alteration to your timbers. But depending on the model railway in your loft you might want to consider replacing the truss members to get a more open-plan layout. This can be done by an experienced loft conversion company.
4. Insulation and temperature
The biggest problem you may face when setting up a model railway in your loft is temperature. Ideally, you want to have enough insulation to avoid suffering scorching heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in winter. This includes both insulating your loft underneath your raised loft flooring and the pitched roof itself.
It’s an easy task as far as building regulations for insulation go as well, as
“any work associated with thermal insulating material to or within a wall, ceiling, roof or floor”
does not require a warrant. (With the exception of applying insulation to the outer surface of an external wall which does require one – not that you are likely to be doing that).
5. Ventilation and natural light
Once you have good access, sound loft flooring and suitable insulation, you should consider ventilation.
By far the most effective method is to install a Velux window – providing both ventilation and natural light. A second window on an adjacent or opposite wall can provide a refreshing through-draft and further natural light.
Including the fitted blinds recessed into the windows is a good idea for controlling any direct sunlight that might cause uncomfortable heat or glare.
6. Lighting and power
With your model railway in place, you are going to need at least a couple of power sockets and plenty of light. And no, a single pendant bulb simply won’t cut it. Not only do they not provide enough light in terms of lumens, but their small light source also casts harsh shadows in all directions.
To provide a much more even light across all nooks and crannies of the model railway in your loft without harsh shadows you need as large a surface area of light source as possible. This is where strip lights come in handy.
There are bright, low-wattage LED bulbs available to replace their energy-sapping fluorescent ancestors in 4ft to 6ft lengths. You can even choose the colour temperature of the bulb – whether you’d like a cool daylight or a warmer white.
7. Planning permission & building regulations
It’s up to you to make sure you are aware of your local planning authority’s policies and guidance documents.
Generally speaking, unless you are altering the roof by adding a dormer window extension or balcony, you won’t require planning permission. As long as you keep any alterations to within a 1m space ‘bubble’ surrounding the roof in Scotland (150mm in England and Wales), it is a “permitted development’.
Check out the Scottish Government’s guidance on Permitted Development to find out more.
According to the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, it is the duty of the owner to ensure compliance with building regulations, and a building warrant must be obtained before any work commences. Thankfully, there are a number of exceptions which are outlined in the regulations which do not require a warrant (regulation 5 and section 3).
In short, boarding your loft for storage doesn’t require a building warrant. However, a loft conversion would. Find out what else you need to know about loft boarding & building regulations.