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how to build a loft in a shed

How to Build a Loft in a Shed

Ever looked at that empty space at the top after building a wooden shed and thought, "I could use that!"? Well, you're not alone.

Many of our customers at Homestead Supplier have expressed the desire to maximize their shed's potential by adding a loft. And from our experience, it's a fantastic way to utilize unused space, whether for storage, a workspace, or even a cozy nook.

After putting it to the test, we've compiled a guide to teach you how to build a loft in a shed assembled using one of our Homestead Supplier's shed kits.

What this article covers:

Supplies You'll Need

Much like a wood ramp for shed, a loft can enhance your shed. But before diving into the process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Measuring tape
  • Saw
  • Plywood (for subflooring)
  • 2x4s or 2x6s (for joists)
  • Framing nails or screws
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Joist hangers (optional)
  • Ladder or pull-down stairs (for loft access)
  • Spirit level

How to Add a Loft to a Shed

Step 1: Determine The Type Of Loft

When embarking on the journey of adding a loft to your shed, the first pivotal decision you'll face is choosing the type of loft that best fits your needs. There are two primary options: full lofts and partial lofts.

A full loft is expansive, stretching from one end of the shed to the other, effectively covering the entire roof space. It mirrors the concept of an attic in a traditional home, providing a vast area that can be utilized for storage, workspace, or even a cozy relaxation spot. This type of loft is especially beneficial if you're looking to maximize the available overhead space in your shed.

In contrast, a partial loft is more selective about the space it occupies. It covers only a specific section of the roof space, leaving the rest open. This design is ideal for those who want to benefit from elevated storage or workspace without committing the entire roof area. It offers a balance, allowing you some open vertical space in your shed.

Now, if you're wondering which shed design is most conducive to adding a loft, our research points towards the gambrel roof. Our Little Cottage Company Classic 4' Gambrel Barn Shed is the perfect example of this.

Characterized by its distinctive two-sided, double-sloped design, the gambrel roof provides a spacious interior. The unique curvature of this roof style not only adds aesthetic appeal but also creates an ample height in the center, making it perfect for a loft.

Whether you're considering a full or partial loft, a shed with a gambrel roof will likely offer the most room to bring your vision to life.

If you're still in the roof construction phase of your shed, be sure to learn how to make roof rafters for a shed.

Step 2: Install Loft Floor Joists

When it comes to building a loft, the foundation is everything.

Here, that foundation is built on the strength of the floor joists. These horizontal supports play a pivotal role, bearing the weight of everything you place on the loft, from boxes of old memories to your own weight while you're up there.

Starting with the basics, joists are typically made from sturdy lumber. For smaller lofts, where the primary purpose might be light storage, 2x4s often suffice. They provide adequate support without being overly bulky, ensuring that the loft remains stable under limited weight.

build loft in shed

But, if you're envisioning a more expansive loft space, perhaps one where you can comfortably walk around, store heavier items, or even set up a workspace, then strength becomes paramount. In such cases, we advocate for the use of 2x6 joists. These thicker beams offer enhanced durability and can handle increased weight.

From our experience, this is the best way to install them:

  1. Measure And Mark: Begin by measuring the width of your shed where the joists will be installed. This will determine the length of the joists you'll need. Mark the positions where each joist will be placed on both opposing walls, making sure that they are evenly spaced. Typically, joists are spaced 16 to 24 inches apart, center to center.
  2. Choose The Right Material: For smaller lofts, 2x4s might suffice. However, for larger lofts or those that will bear more weight, 2x6s are recommended for added strength.
  3. Cut The Joists: Using a saw, cut the lumber to the required length based on the measurements taken earlier.
  4. Position The Joists: Place each joist horizontally across the width of the shed, resting each end on the marks you made on the opposing walls.
  5. Secure The Joists: There are a few methods to secure the joists:
  • Directly To The Wall Plate: Rest each joist on top of the wall plate (the horizontal member on top of the walls) and nail or screw them into place. This method evenly distributes the weight across the shed's walls.
  • Using Joist Hangers: These are metal brackets that support the joists. Attach the hangers to the shed's framework, then place the joists into the hangers and secure with appropriate fasteners.
  • Hanging From Rafters: In cases where the wall plate height isn't suitable, joists can be hung from the rafters using strong metal brackets or straps. Use load-bearing brackets that can handle the weight.
diy shed loft
  • Check For Level: Using a spirit level, check that each joist is perfectly horizontal. This creates an even loft floor and reduces the risk of structural issues later on.
  • Add Cross-Bracing (Optional): For added stability, especially in wider sheds, consider adding cross-bracing between the joists. These are shorter pieces of lumber that run perpendicular to the joists, providing additional support and preventing the joists from twisting.
  • Safety Check: Before proceeding, double-check all fastenings to ensure they're secure. Walk over the joists to test their sturdiness and check that there's no excessive movement.

Step 3: Lay Down The Subfloor

The subfloor is the unsung hero of any loft, providing a solid base that ties the entire structure together.

First and foremost, the material you choose for your subfloor is crucial. Plywood stands out as a top contender, known for its durability and ease of installation. It's a composite material made of multiple layers of wood veneer pressed together, resulting in a sturdy sheet that can handle the demands of a loft.

But, not all plywood sheets are created equal. The thickness you choose should be in sync with the spacing of your floor joists. For instance, if your joists are spaced closer together, you might get away with a thinner sheet. But if they're spaced further apart, a thicker plywood sheet will make sure that the subfloor remains stable and doesn't sag under pressure.

add loft to shed

Step 4: Ensure Safe Access

The method you choose for accessing your loft can significantly influence its usability and safety.

For those with smaller lofts, where the primary goal might be to retrieve a box or two occasionally, a step ladder can be the perfect solution. It's portable, easy to move around, and doesn't require any permanent alterations to your shed. Just ensure that the ladder is sturdy, has anti-slip feet, and is tall enough to allow for comfortable access.

On the other hand, if your loft is more expansive, perhaps a space where you'll be spending more time or storing heavier items, a more robust solution is in order.

Installing A Permanent Ladder

  1. Choose The Right Ladder: Start by selecting a ladder that's the right height for your loft. It should extend slightly above the loft's edge for safety.
  2. Positioning: Decide where you want the ladder to be. It should be in a location that allows easy access without obstructing the space below.
  3. Angle For Comfort: When fixing the ladder, fix it at a slight angle (typically between 70-75 degrees) to make climbing more ergonomic.
  4. Secure The Top: Attach the top of the ladder to the loft's edge using heavy-duty brackets and screws. Ensure it's firmly fixed and doesn't wobble.
  5. Anchor The Bottom: For added stability, anchor the bottom of the ladder to the shed floor using brackets or metal L-clips.
  6. Safety Check: Before regular use, test the ladder's stability. Climb up and down a few times to make sure that it's secure.

Installing Pull-Down Stairs

  1. Select The Right Kit: Purchase a pull-down stair kit that fits the dimensions of your loft opening and ceiling height.
  2. Mark And Cut The Opening: If you haven't already, mark the dimensions of the stair kit on your loft floor and cut out the opening using a saw.
  3. Assemble The Stairs: Follow the manufacturer's instructions to assemble the stairs. Most kits come pre-assembled, but some may require minor assembly.
  4. Install The Frame: Position the stair frame into the loft opening. Ensure it's square with the edges and then screw it into place.
  5. Attach The Stairs: Once the frame is secure, attach the stairs to the frame. This usually involves hooking them onto an included track or bracket system.
  6. Add The Springs: Most pull-down stairs have springs or hydraulic systems that assist in raising and lowering the stairs. Attach these as per the manufacturer's instructions.
  7. Safety Check: Lower and raise the stairs several times to check that they operate smoothly. Check all connections to ensure they're secure.

Conclusion

Adding a loft to your shed is not just about creating extra space; it's about maximizing the potential of what you already have. With a bit of effort and the right tools, you can transform your shed into a multi-functional space.

And remember, if you ever need assistance or a custom storage shed kit to start with, Homestead Supplier is here to help. We have you covered with everything from small storage sheds to large farmhouse sheds.

If you want to learn more, why not check out these articles below:

Previous article How to Build a Shed Ramp with Pavers
Next article How to Build Rafters for a Shed

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