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I want to board out my loft - just for easy storage of things like tools, boxes, old clothes, suitcases, small unused furtniture etc (i.e. nothing too heavy). I am wondering what kind of boards to buy for this purpose. Most of the boards I see advertised for doing this are chipboard, but they also vary widely in price. What's the recommended approach considering I want it to last for 10 years or more?

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

For occassional storage chipboard or any plywood 1/2" or greater will be fine. Go to 5/8 minimum if your joists are on 2' centers.

I personally don't agree with the advice to use plywood. Chipboard is fine: it's strong, and it's made using waste materials so it's more ecologically sound to use it where it's appropriate. It's not appropriate for applications that are exposed to the elements in any way: in those cases plywood is more durable so justifies the 2x cost and the extra environmental impact.

Chipboard does have a strength axis, which you might as well take advantage of it: you want the joists running across the short side, i.e. 5 joists on every 4x8 sheet if the joists are on 2' centers.

Chipboard made for flooring has a tongue-and-groove along the long side. That's because while the short sides are supported by the joists, the long sides bridge the joists. Locking a tongue into a groove prevents sagging between the floor joists. Obviously not a big deal for you storage loft, but if it only costs a few more bucks for the tongue-and-groove I'd get that. I've only seen that in 3/4" and 1", BTW, so if you get that you'll have a proper floor up there that you could hold a neighborhood dance on.

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+1: tongue and groove chipboard definitely. –  Umber Ferrule Jul 29 '10 at 22:39
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As Scott mentioned, plywood will probably be fine. I just used 1/2 inch plywood in mine. I would probably recommend you use "real" plywood though rather than the chipboard stuff. It's a bit more expensive, but also much more durable if you're going to be walking on it.

One thing to think about (that I didn't) is that if you are in a cold climate you'll typically want the insulation in the loft to come up several inches over the tops of the floor joists (assuming blown in insulation here). If that's the case, you may not be able to attach the plywood directly to the joists without compressing the insulation (which is not good).

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I have just rolled out insulation that is joist height so it's not compressed, but I also don't have the entire attic boarded, just a strip down the middle, but you're right, definitely don't compress the insulation. –  Scott Vercuski Jul 27 '10 at 13:37
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My storage attic is just some plywood sheets over the rafters/insulation. Just nailed them right to the ceiling joists. My attic probably isn't as large as your loft but if you're not looking to make a living space out of it the plywood should probably be fine for you.

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