How to clean a loft

I have recently cleaned out, insulated and boarded the loft. I
searched the archive and picked up some useful stuff. In exchange,
I'd like to share what I have learnt about the cleaning...and my pain.
Top tips:
- When buying a house, specifically mention to the vendor that
"vacant possession" means that he cannot leave 30 year old beds, old
drawers, six doors and an old broken glass door in the loft.
- If a loft has not been cleaned out for 130 years, you may need to
set aside more time than you were expecting...
- If you can get someone else to do it, do.
- If you can do it in cold weather, do. It's sweaty enough in all
the gear anyway, but with hot sun on the roof...
The following is based on the loft being as horrible as ours - ie 20
full buckets of dust from the loft of a 2 bed terrace
Procedure:
1. You need:
- Tyvek suits
- dust masks
- old wellies
- knee pads
- rubber gloves
- goggles
- dustpan and brush
- a suitable vacuum cleaner. Old loft dust has a lot of soot in it
and this will kill domestic hoovers. I got a Dyson from the tip and
it didn't work. Following recommendations on this group (see
archive), I bought a Wickes wet or dry cleaner (a rebadged version of
the Earlex) and got the large cellulose filter from Earlex. When you
assemble it, don't fit the castors or it's a pain in the loft when
working on crawl boards. You'll need to buy a little brush attachment.
- dust sheets for the room where the hatch is and for under the
ladder.
- two (or more) buckets double-lined with bin bags
- lots of bin bags
- inspection lamp and spare bulbs for when you drop the inspection
lamp
- boards to allow you to work on the rafters - eg six loft flooring
panels
Everything you take into an old loft to do this job will get very
dirty very quickly and will take a lot of cleaning up. If you can use
stuff you can throw away after, good. If you need a radio, put it in a
clear poly bag.
2. Go to loo, bid farewell to family, stroke cat, put on suit/mask/
gloves/goggles and climb up into the loft. I dispensed with the
goggles after I'd removed the old insulation, but up to you.
3. Seal the loft hatch opening with something - eg clear polythene and
gaffer tape. You'll be creating dust and you don't want it coming
down into the house. If you seal it with something opaque, you will
not be able to see anything when you drop and break the inspection
lamp while you are on crawler boards with your head in the eaves.
Note: I rolled up, bagged and took to the tip the old insulation at
this point.
4. Sweep off the purlins, all other roof timbers and the walls to
remove dust and loose material from these. Don't do this when you have
cleaned the floor of the loft (bitter experience speaking).
5. Starting in a corner, sweep up as much of the dust between two
rafters as you can and repeat the process with the other rafters,
emptying the dustpan into the buckets. Do all the sweeping before you
use the vacuum as sweeping creates dust and you'll have to repeat the
vacuuming (bitter experience speaking). When your buckets are full,
tie both bags and carry them out of the house in the buckets. You
could, I suppose, just carry the bags out, but if one splits, you'll
be living in the shed for a bit. Likewise, don't forget to take your
boots off.
6. Vacuum the purlins, all other roof timbers and the walls.
Tip: when suction drops, turn off the cleaner, hold it on your leg at
45 degrees and give it a few sharp whacks, turn it a quarter turn and
repeat till you come full circle. What you are doing is shaking the
accumulated dust off the filter into the tub. If this ceases to work,
open the cleaner and brush the dust off the filter into the tub and
then empty the
tub into the bucket. Tapping the metal bottom of the filter will also
take off a lot of dust.
7. Vacuum the floor. Order is: top of rafter, sides of rafter, then
lath by lath.
8. When you've finished, don't step back and admire your work. If
you've got this far without putting a foot through the ceiling, it'd
be a shame.
This has got to be one of the most unpleasant jobs I have done.
David
Reply to
David
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Wrong way round. Sweep all the crap onto the insulation then roll and bag it with *most* of the crap inside. Otherwise all fairly standard! Plus watch out for clusters of dopey queen wasps if it's spring time. If you are going to have the roof relaid, do it before cleaning the loft.
Reply to
Bob Mannix
and, if you are going to treat for woodworm, do it immediately after the clean
Reply to
Bob Mannix
Uh-oh...time to get the big plastic sheets out. We have them coming in to re-lay the bottom metre of tiles and felt and do some general maintenance. Ho hum...
Reply to
David
That should be the case anyway in the standard contract. You would be within your rights to send the clearance bill to the vendors!
A fine water spray can help damp the dust a bit and make it easier to sweep.
A cyclone pre-filter can work wonders here:
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- boards to allow you to work on the rafters - eg six loft flooring > panels
I expect you mean joists here - rafters are the sloping timbers that hold the tiles up...
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2. Go to loo, bid farewell to family, stroke cat, put on suit/mask/
A proper respirator mask will make the job far less unpleasant as well - old glass fibre insulation is nasty stuff to breathe.
I can well believe that!
(although wait until you take down an old lath and plaster ceiling with all the crap in the loft sat on top of it!)
Reply to
John Rumm
But it's done now and you have space to put your own stuff in the loft :-)
Ours was awful too, they all are, probably, but there is a great satisfaction in the task. Especially when you've got your spouse to do it while you give orders.
The only alteration I'd make to your instructions is to kill the cat, not pet it.
Mary
Reply to
Mary Fisher
Doesn't that happen when one of the kids goes up there and treads between the beams?
Mary
Reply to
Mary Fisher
I found toast in my loft.
I didn't taste it.
Reply to
Paul Matthews
In message , John Rumm writes >A cyclone pre-filter can work wonders here: > >
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Bookmarked for when I do mine, thanks.
Reply to
Clint Sharp
It is therefore about 60 feet long and 20 wide. When we had an extension added, walk in access was part of the architect's brief. The bonus - if as such it is a bonus - is that apart from water tanks, we have a 60 feet long walk-in floored cupboard.
Every so often there is a minor purge and some small number of items get the heave-ho, but someone, sometime is going to have to clear the best of 30 years' worth all out. And at approaching 70 it's not going to be me !!
Rob
Reply to
robgraham
Yep, it's the heat more than anything else. And some people say solar panels don't work... B-)
Bear in mind if your roof doesn't have any sarking it'll be filthy again in 5 years.
Reply to
Dave Liquorice
Most of the muck came from airborne ash from stubble burning and fireplaces, neither of which really exists anymore.
Reply to
Andrew Gabriel
If you think you may have bats, ring up English Nature and make sure you're not breaking the law - they send volunteers to sort it out if you do have bats. Might seem like an arseache but it's infinitely preferable to £500 per bat - and that's disturbed or killed, unintentionally or not.
Reply to
Doki
Just as well dead/displaced bats can't phone then...
Reply to
John Rumm
I speak from experience of cleaning the parents loft about 20 years ago. No great amount of open fires or stubble burning in the area. Within 5 years it was filthy again, OK not the 1/2 inch or so accumulation of the previous 30 years but enough for anything up there needing to be covered, you went up there in old clothes and anything coming down had to be cleaned first.
Reply to
Dave Liquorice
i found it worthwhile to set up lights in the attic from a switch and RCD in nan upstairs room.
and to have a torch in my pocket for when the lights failed.
[g]
Reply to
George (dicegeorge)
It may have been best to, take away the large items in the loft. Leave the dust where it is. Get vapour barrier plastic sheets and cover the loft right over the joists. Use tape to join the sheets and a staple gun to get around the joists and keep the plastic tight to the joists. This barrier then prevents water vapour entering the loft from beneath, which can cause damage to the timbers. If no sarking then this is not a problem as the loft is ultra cooled and ventilated, but a a much cleaner to do job.
Fit a sealed insulated loft hatch. Seal up cables holes entering the loft. Seal up pipe holes entering the loft.
Lay insulation between the joists. Over the insulation lay rigid foam insulation as thick as you can get. Lay boards over with screws going through the insulation and into the wood joists. Thermal bridging is eliminated via the joists and the loft will be very well lagged with no air gaps.
And a far cleaner job to do. Many great benefits doing as I suggested.
Reply to
Doctor Drivel
Agreed to a certain extent, but we were planning on taking half the ceiling down, so gettting rid of the dust would have been better than bringing it down upon us. We didn't in the end, but I feel there's something "wrong" with leaving the dirt up there.
Agreed about the rigid insulation, which I've laid over the between- the-joist insulation in the low part of the loft beyond the newly fitted purlin-to-joist steel restraint straps, where the roof is too low for storage anyway. Also, the weight of a full loft of chipboard worried me and the bit with the chipboard is big enough. I didn't lay rigid insulation under the chipboard as I worried about it getting crushed between the joists and the chipboard. Have insulated the hatch, but thanks for the tip about the pipe holes.
I'd be worried about trapping water vapour on the joists though, and with a well-ventilated loft, I think it'd be better up there than on the joists.
Thanks to all for your comments - noted.
D
Reply to
David
Agreed to a certain extent, but we were planning on taking half the ceiling down, so gettting rid of the dust would have been better than bringing it down upon us. We didn't in the end, but I feel there's something "wrong" with leaving the dirt up there.
I'd be worried about trapping water vapour on the joists though, and with a well-ventilated loft, I think it'd be better up there than on the joists.
Reply to
Doctor Drivel
ceiling down, so gettting rid of the dust would have been better than bringing it down upon us. We didn't in the end, but I feel there's something "wrong" with leaving the dirt up there.
I agree.
with a well-ventilated loft, I think it'd be better up there than on the joists.
Quite right.
About killing the cat?
:-)
Mary
Reply to
Mary Fisher

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