So, you’re ready to take that shed in the backyard to another level… literally. It’s time to add a second floor in the form of a loft. Whether you need it for additional storage space, or you want to add a second level workspace, a loft can add tremendous functionality to your shed.
A loft can add storage or even a workspace to a shed by giving you access to valuable unused space. And although a loft addition may seem like a complicated project, it isn’t. In fact, this is a job that most DIY’ers can knock out in a day. This guide will provide you with detailed instructions explaining how to build loft in a shed.
What is a loft?
A loft is an additional level in your shed that encompasses the interior roof space between the top of the wallplates and the peak of your roof. Lofts are created by adding ceiling joists between the wallplates then installing plywood over these joists to create a floor.
Lofts can either be full or partial. Partial lofts will take up only a portion of the roof space in your shed and are more easily accessible than full lofts. Partial lofts are ideal for smaller sheds with limited space in the interior roof area.
A full loft will enclose the entire roof space of your shed. This is similar to the attic space you would find in many full-sized homes. A full loft maximizes the storage volume of your shed and is ideal for larger sheds with taller roofs.
Partial or full lofts can be large, allowing for enough space for a work area or even a living space, or small, providing for some additional space for storage. Again, what you can do with a shed’s loft space depends on the volume of the roof interior.
Some shed styles offer more loft space than others. Sheds with gambrel roofs are best suited for lofts. This is because gambrel roofs, with their distinctive barn style, offer the most volume in the roof interior.
Gambrel sheds that are tall with walls that are at least 6’ high are especially good as they allow you to make full use of a gambrel shed’s cavernous ceiling space. Larger gambrel sheds might even have enough height and volume in the roof area to facilitate a workspace.
Ideally, you want the floor of the loft to be installed where the pitch of the roof begins. However, some sheds with gambrel roofs are designed with 4’ high knee walls, which would make this impossible as the ceiling height would be too low.
That’s not to say that this type of shed cannot have a loft. In this case, the ceiling would need to be placed at a midpoint on the pitch of the roof to allow enough clearance below the loft.
While not as ideal as gambrel roof styles, gabled roofs also work well for loft additions thanks to the pitch of the roof. With a gable roof, the higher the pitch, the more loft space you’ll get. While typically not big enough for a workspace, Lofts on gable-style sheds can offer a significant amount of storage space.
Because of the pitch of their roofs, saltbox and lean-to sheds also offer potential loft storage space, though typically not as much as a gable or gambrel shed. As with a gable shed, the higher the pitch of the roof, the greater the roof space volume and hence the larger the loft.
A lean-to shed with high walls can offer a considerable amount of loft space. This is why the lean-to roof style is often used for tiny homes, which often make use of the low-ceiling lofts offered by this roof type for sleeping areas.
How to Build a Loft in a Shed
Building a loft in a shed is one of the easier projects you can complete. Depending on the size of the loft, this is a job that can be completed in an afternoon of work. This is because most of the structural needs a loft requires already exist in the structure of your shed.
You simply need to add floor joists and subflooring.
Install Loft Floor Joists
The first step in the construction of your loft addition is to cut and install floor joists. The joists will run parallel to the roof framing and serve as the framing for your loft.
The biggest consideration to make when planning the framing for your loft floor is safety. You’re creating a second floor in your shed that will support the weight of the materials you’re storing as well as your weight. It also is a space that will have an area beneath it. If this second floor fails, the results could be catastrophic.
With that in mind, consider floor load when deciding what size joists to use. Joists constructed with 2x4s are adequate for small lofts with limited storage space. However, if you’re creating a loft space that has enough access for you to walk around in it, then go with beefier 2×6 joists.
Unless you’re creating a very small loft space, I suggest going with 2×6 joists to be safe. You’re more than likely going to have to get into a loft space from time to time to get items in and out.
You certainly don’t want the loft to come crashing down when you do. Your floor joist spacing should match the wall studs, which means one every 16” to 24” for adequate support.
You have a couple of options when deciding how to fasten your joists. The simplest way is to use the shed’s existing framework. Rest each joist on top of the wall plate and attach each to a rafter using framing nails. This allows the weight of the loft to rest squarely on the shed’s sturdy walls.
If the height of the wall plate doesn’t work for your loft, as in the case of a gambrel shed with 4’ knee walls, then you can attach the floor joists to the rafters or truss above the walls to reach the desired height for the loft floor. Your loft ceiling should be a minimum of 6’ above the shed floor to provide for adequate clearance.
If you plan on attaching the joists without the support of the wallplate, then you’ll need to use fasteners with higher tensile strength, such as bolts or lag screws, as the hardware, as opposed to the wall framing, will be carrying the load of the floor.
You might also consider adding additional support beams. To add support beams, attach two 2x6s to the wall or roof framing that span the length of the shed on either side. You can then rest your floor joists on this support as you would the wall plate.
When cutting joists, you may need to make miter cuts that match the pitch of the roof for each board to fit properly.
Just keep in mind you will need to use fasteners rated for load-bearing when attaching these beams as they will be responsible for supporting the weight of the loft and its contents. Inadequate fasteners could sheer off under extreme weight, resulting in structural failure.
A third option for attaching the joists is joist hangers. With this method, attach standard joist hangers to a thick section of the shed’s framing, such as a window or door header or the stacked 2x4s that make up the wall plate.
Joist hangers are available for a wide range of dimensional lumber sizes. Make sure to buy the hangers that fit the size of your joists. After the hangers are installed, rest your joist into the hanger just as you would when constructing a deck and secure the board with approved fasteners using the preformed holes as a guide.
Install Shed Loft Subfloor
Whether or not you decide to install a shed loft subfloor depends on what your needs are. For some, the loft framing might be adequate, especially if you’re using a small loft space to store, say, lengths of lumber.
For larger or more functional lofts, you may want to lay down a complete subfloor, especially if you are planning on walking around in it. You’ll want to use plywood for your floor material. The thickness of your plywood depends on the spacing of your floor joists.
The National Wood Flooring Association recommends a minimum thickness of 7/8-inch plywood for joists that are 19-24 inches apart. A minimum thickness of 5/8” is suggested for spans of 16” or less.
Install your subfloor by laying down sheets over the joists and attaching with screws. If you are planning on doing a full loft, you’ll want to figure out where your access point is going to be before installing the floor. The access point is the hole you’ll leave in your flooring to allow you to get in and out of the loft.
Where your access should depend on what you plan on using the space for. If you plan on using your shed loft for storage, make your access centrally located. This allows you to access all of the items stored in your space without having to climb over things.
Using the area as a workspace or living area? Consider placing the access at one end of the loft. This allows you to maximize the space.
Now that you’ve figured out where the access point will be let’s determine how you will access the loft. You have a few options here. The simplest way of doing this is by using a small step ladder. This makes the most sense if you have a small partial loft that you plan to use for storage.
Just make sure that you keep the step ladder handy. No one wants to go hunting for that darned step ladder when it’s time to get something down from the loft.
For full lofts or larger partial lofts, consider building a permanent ladder for access to your space. You also might consider installing pull-down stairs for a full-sized loft.
A loft addition can be a wonderful addition to your shed, allowing you to take full advantage of your shed’s storage capacity or to add additional workspace. And, best of all, this is a relatively simple project that can be completed quickly and inexpensively.
I hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to design and build a safe and useful loft for your shed. If you have any comments or suggestions, please reach out in the box below.