The reason why the demand of building a timber loft is increasing in Singapore is because, floor areas are decreasing and ceiling height is increasing to make up for it.
This is the trend that we have started to appreciate in the newer apartments and condominiums (Condo).
It makes sense from the developer’s perspective to maximize the number of units from smaller plots of land available at their disposal.
The selling point of these apartments is in the potential to increase the gross floor area via doubling the area via lofts or, “furniture lofts”, due to the extremely high floor to ceiling height.
The loft usually consists of 4 parts;
A typical timber loft structure, of uniform proportions; a uniform rectangular area with no protruding columns allowing a height of 2 metres underneath will cost $117 per square foot (psf) including GST.
Typical vertical access via timber stairs is calculated by the number of steps and will cost $360 per step.
Typical railings of 90cm to 1.1m in height will cost $220 per foot length.
If the loft area exceeds 5 square metres, the client has the responsibility to submit to BCA the construction drawings for the loft along with a Professional Engineer (PE) calculation to ensure that it will not compromise the existing building structure and pose a safety hazard.
The drawings need to be submitted to the MCST( condominium management) for renovation approval.
1.It doubles the floor area covered by its footprint, allowing full usage of the space underneath for other activities.
2.It creates a private, unique space in your home.
3.It can be really cosy
4.It brings to life the Manhattan dream of loft living
Before starting to source out loft designs and builds, first survey your home to determine if it is feasible for such a structure.
If the walls are hollow, not load bearing or strong enough, columns would have to be built alongside the wall to provide additional strength to the wall and prevent the concrete from being ripped out under load.
Typically the span of the loft should not exceed 4 metres; if the room is wider than 4m, either the loft would require additional support columns, or a thicker beam is used.
The timber beams will run across the shortest span of the required area to reduce cost and complexity.
Most importantly, there needs to be sufficient headroom.
A good figure is roughly 2 metres of usable height above and below, taking into account the thickness of the loft platform itself.
This will is dependent on the user height and other site compromises such as sloped ceilings or existing ceiling beams.
Lastly, the mode of access needs to be decided upon; be it ladder, staircase or staircase with storage.
This will influence the complexity and functionality of the loft space or furniture deck.
A ladder will have the smallest footprint and is good for smaller lofts or bunk bed arrangements.
However this comes with the compromise of a more inconvenient access and egress.
A stair case is chunky; comes with a cost premium and occupies a large footprint and is more suitable for larger areas.
In between these two options is the alternating tread ladder which is has left steps and right steps of larger width and rise.
It’s costing is similar to a full stairs due to design complexity but takes up a smaller footprint and retains most of the convenience.
After the design is finalised by the client, the required quantity of material is calculated and ordered to arrive within a minimum of 2 weeks.
Before Installation can proceed, the site has to be cleared and free of debris to facilitate the building process and reduce damages.
First and foremost, the site dimensions are rechecked to make sure that the walls are straight and that the floor is level.
After which, the materials are brought in and varnished as per client decision.
If the material span too long to fit into the cargo/typical lift, much more effort will be required to move all the materials in place.
Secondly, the positions of all primary support elements; columns, support beams and finished floor levels, are marked out.
Primary support elements are bolted down first, followed by secondary beams and joists.
After which, the ladder or stairs are measured, fabricated and attached.
Lastly, the railings and floors are attached with screws and air nails.
The potential problems of the loft installation are directly influenced by the degree of precision and site factors.
1.A wall might seem solid while actually hollow and made of cement bricks and will need additional reinforcement to support heavy loads.
2.The site is more than 3 stories high and the material cannot fit into the lift, requiring additional labour to be hired to manually lift them via stairwell.
3.A change in client decision in the design, requiring a large design and cost change.
4.Poorly divided steps in the fabrication of the ladder or stairs, resulting in a non-uniform rise from one step to the other. This is a common mistake as the thickness of the steps needs to be taken into account when dividing the full length of the ladder or stairs into equal stair heights.
5.Bowed wood is very common. Most timber is not 100% straight and slight deviations of 5mm should be expected especially when the timber is longer. It is after all an organic product and will expand and shrink due to the site humidity.
Deviations in timber colour tone should be expected as every tree is unique and plastic uniformity in grain and colour should not be expected.
A good example of a timber loft project would be a room with high floor to ceiling height exceeding 4m with high windows to allow ventilation and natural lighting on the loft itself. It starts with a good understanding of the site and what the loft is expected to accomplish; in this case, a bedroom with a study/private living area below.
The brief from the client requested:
1.A loft built from timber instead of steel to create a softer, forest cabin ambience,
2.An alternating treads stairs to save space and yet maintain functionality as he did not want the inconvenience of a ladder.
3.Minimize the restriction of views from the large 3m high windows by the loft itself.
4.10 sqf of temporary access panels to reduce the loft area to 53 sqf, 5 square metres.
5.It has to look aesthetically pleasing and still maintain the functionality, especially the headroom clearance on the loft top deck.