It was meant to be a quick day’s job, mainly to get a measurement for the stairs we will need to build for getting up to the loft. Sam read the plans that had baffled us.

The new access hole, next to the end wall and above what will be our new bathroom, needs a new joist spanning the width of the house and bolted to the original explained Sam. That would mean opening up the rear roof and feeding in a 12ft length from our neighbour’s garden, to sit on the front and rear walls.

Walking around the loft thinking it through we were aware of some movement. IMG_0175From below, alarmingly, the ceiling undulated up and down as Sam walked above. “I’m 17-stone,” he said smiling (it doesn’t look it and he holds it well). Also the underpurlin, a huge beam running under the front of the roof taking its weight, was supported by just two thick blue posts, underpurlin struts… resting on the floor boards.

If we’re bringing in one new joist, why not bring in five! And do the job properly. Why not indeed.

Back in the day the technology was different, so were the sizes of joists made from old slow-growth wood. Today, to get the same strength, the industrially-grown wood is planed to be deeper.

Also, back in the day — a couple of hundred plus years ago — there were no power tools. And no room between the joists to swing a hammer. The old joists were just resting on the front and back walls, held in place by the nailed floor boards. And no way to put in nogins (we’re really getting the technical terms), the supports between the joists to lock them from moving and give added strength.

Sam and John put in steel acrow props to hold up the roof, going down to the bathroom and sitting on the mammoth first-floor joists. They then brought in the new joists, planed to snuggle bolted to their original neighbours, through the bathroom window and up through where there used to be a ceiling, out through the rear roof before being manoevred alongside their elders.

Today the double-joists of old and new are tightly bolted. And they’re also bolted to the rafters making rigid triangles to support the roof. Thick nogins hold the joists firmly from moving. The underpurlin struts are no longer supported by little more than floorboards.

And not a sign of movement when Sam jumps up and down.   Once we’re in residence we will be inviting the neighbours in for a disco dance in our loft.

It took Sam and John four days.