Safe loft hatch solutions: Choosing the best loft hatch and ladder
Choosing the best type of loft hatch and ladder can help your loft to feel a whole lot more accessible, rather than a mystical fantasyland like Narnia! With so many options to choose from, we break down the different choices.
Choosing the best type of loft hatch and ladder can help your loft to feel a whole lot more accessible, rather than a mystical fantasyland like Narnia. With so many options to choose from, we break down the different choices.
Types of loft hatch
When it comes to choosing the best loft hatch there are two different types – drop down and push up.
Best loft hatch – drop down
Drop down hatches are ideal if you have more floor space below your loft hatch entrance.
They are typically made from either plastic or steel, are easy to operate and are a good choice if you are passing larger objects or furniture up and down. Some drop down hatch doors can also be completely removed from their hinges.
Older wooden drop down hatches can be draughty, but newer plastic drop down loft hatches tend to offer much better insulation. As the door is pushed against the frame to close it, the door adds pressure to the compression seal to offer better insulation.
If your loft hatch is in a prominent place in your home and you’re concerned about aesthetics, then it’s good to know that drop down hatches are easy to paint to match your ceiling decor.
Best loft hatch – push up
Push up loft hatches are really convenient if you have less space to access your loft, for example, if the hatch is situated on a landing.
With a push up loft hatch, the door isn’t attached to the outer frame and is pushed up into the loft space so it doesn’t hang down into your living space.
Some people are of the view that push up loft hatches are not as well insulated but more modern push up hatches now offer much better insulation.
If price is something that you are factoring into your decision of choosing the best loft hatch, in comparison to a drop down loft hatch, push up hatches are less expensive.
Fire-rated loft hatches
Not everybody will need to consider a fire-rated loft hatch. A fire-rated hatch may be required if you have converted your loft to a living space, or if your home has more than three levels. If either of these situations is the case for you, consult with a professional before choosing a loft hatch.
For a guide on loft hatch pricing, take a look at our loft hatch installation cost guide.
Types of loft ladder
There are three different types of loft ladders: sliding, folding and scissor. These are made from either timber, aluminium or steel.
Sliding loft ladders
Sliding ladders are great space savers as they are made from 2-3 sections. They are easy to fit and are usually fixed to the joists in your loft.
Sliding ladders are often made from lightweight aluminium so are not designed for heavy-duty usage, so bear this in mind when you’re considering what you are planning on carrying up into your loft.
Telescopic loft ladders
Telescopic ladders are the best loft ladder for a small hatch. They are especially good for homes that are tight on floor space around the loft hatch, especially in new build homes.
As telescope ladders are a simple design they also tend to be more economical on price. If you have very tall ceilings (over 2.8m) then a telescopic ladder is not recommended for safety reasons.
Folding loft ladders
Folding ladders are made of 2-3 sections that fold flat on top of each other and stack neatly and rest on the loft hatch when closed. More often than not are made from timber, so feel more sturdy underfoot than an aluminium sliding ladder.
A good quality timber ladder usually comes with a specific-sized loft hatch frame attached and ready to be installed into your hatch opening. Often timber hatches and ladders have a sprung door, making them easier to operate.
Folding loft ladders also have secure locking mechanisms to keep the ladder safely folded away, or locked in place when in use. As folding ladders and hatches come as a unit, they come in different hatch sizes, so you may need to widen your loft hatch opening to fit your desired hatch frame size.
Heavy-duty loft ladders
Scissor and concertina loft ladders are almost at industrial level, so are not usually used in the home. However, some homeowners do choose to go for a high-end electric loft ladder.
Semi-automatic or fully electric ladders are usually a folding style and will partly or fully unfold themselves at the touch of a button. This will come at a price. For more information on loft ladder pricing, take a look at our loft ladder installation cost guide.
What to consider when looking for the best loft hatch and ladder
Space – Consider the size of the space you have and where the loft hatch is located. The type of property will also come into play in your decision, as will the ceiling height of the room your hatch is located in.
If you’re starting from scratch make sure:
- You have at least 100mm between the hatch opening and any wall or obstruction
- There is sufficient headroom at the chosen hatch opening into the loft space
- The loft hatch position doesn’t have obstructions (e.g a water tank)
Ladder installation – When planning to install a ladder make sure it can run in the same direction as your joists.
Structural integrity – Make sure that no structural integrity will be lost if you are cutting a new opening for a loft hatch.
Storage – Think practically about what you intend on storing in your loft and how often will you need to access it.
Weight load – As we mentioned above, you need to think about what weight the ladder will need to bear. You need to combine your weight, plus the weight of the items you are carrying.
Maintenance and extras – When choosing the best loft hatch and ladder combination, consider if you will need or want balustrades, handrails, ladder extensions, and the type of hinges or lock/catch that you need. A well-installed and good quality loft hatch and latter should last for 10 years or more.
Best loft hatch – catches and insulation
The size and type of hatch and ladder you choose will also have a bearing on what type of catch you need to secure it. Most push up hatches and plastic drop down hatches have plastic swivel catches.
Heavier drop down hatches with ladders attached need a more substantial locking mechanism. Some have a touch catch, sliding bolt hatch, or shaped key hatch. Some people choose to have a lockable hatch, which is a good option if you are renting out your home.
Insulation and draft proofing
When it comes to insulation requirements, there are different grades, so consider what will be stored in your loft. Clothing, papers or anything prone to damp will require a higher grade of insulation.
Most push up hatches you can buy now have a compression seal or foam strip around the edge of the loft hatch. When the hatch is shut the seal will stop any draughts in either direction.
The door itself can also have a piece of insulation fixed to the back to help reduce and heat loss or heat transfer between the living space and the loft.
If you have a drop down hatch, the compression seal or the foam strip will need to be on the outside, acting like a draught excluder. You will also need to put an insulation strip on the inside of the hatch to create a good seal.
As you can see, there are a variety of options when it comes to choosing the best loft hatch and ladder combination. Ultimately, the best option for you and your loft will depend on your specific requirements.
If you’re ever in doubt, get in touch with a local tradesperson to get the benefit of their experience and advice.
Are loft hatches subject to building regulations?
No, unless you are converting a loft space to be a living space. If you are planning on making changes to your loft hatch or loft space it is always best to consult with a tradesperson to make sure your changes are legal.