An attic is the space between the top floor of a home and the roof. Attics are sometimes used just for insulating a home against temperature extremes or maintaining the home’s heating and air conditioning equipment. Many attics are also used for storage. Accessing the attic can be done different ways: via an actual stairway that leads to the space or a ladder that drops down from the ceiling. Some homes have just a panel in the ceiling that the homeowner must climb through to get into the attic. If you need a faster and easier way to get into your attic, but don’t have the space to install a separate stairway, a new or improved attic ladder can make the task easier.
An attic ladder is a retractable stairway you pull down from the ceiling in order to gain access to your attic. Afterwards, the ladder gets pushed back into the opening in the ceiling where it is stored out of sight. Whether installing a new attic ladder or enlarging an existing one, keep in mind the spacing in the framing of your ceiling/attic floor, as the ladder opens and closes between the joists. Standard ladder kits are built to fit centered between joists with 24-inch spacing between them. A full-size ladder requires a minimal ceiling opening of 22 ½ X 54 inches. Compact ladders exist for homes with the attic access panel in a closet or other tight space.
Enough space both in the attic and on the floor below is important. You will want to step onto the attic floor and stand safely and also move around easily at the bottom of the ladder when it is fully open (extended). Other important measurements are the length of the ladder, which is based on the distance between the floor and the ceiling, and the weight capacity of the ladder, which should be enough to hold both the person who’ll be climbing up and down and whatever boxes are being carried.
Attic Ladder Features
• Material – Most come in wood or metal (aluminum or steel). Temperature and humidity might affect a wood ladder, though these often last the life of the home. An aluminum ladder is lighter weight than wood, but equally strong.
• Folding versus telescoping – Some attic ladders operate like an extension ladder that slides up and down. Others open and close by folding and unfolding in sections.
• Rungs versus steps – An attic ladder can have actual rungs like a regular ladder or open, shallow steps.
• Handrail – A handrail may give you an added sense of security when ascending and descending, but you climb up and down an attic ladder the same way you would any ladder, that is, by holding onto the rung/step above the one you’re on.
• Insulation and/or weather-stripping – To avoid energy loss through the attic access panel, in addition to ensuring the door/panel fits tightly, you can add weather stripping around the opening or use an insulated cover that eliminates air flow between the attic and your living space.
• Fire-rated ladder – If your attic access is in the garage, local code requires the ladder to be fire rated. Some attic stairs are available that meet those requirements.
The bottom line is this: Even if you haven’t given much thought to your current attic ladder, and there won’t be any TV shows dedicated to building and improving them anytime soon, if you need to install a new ladder or replace an existing one, keep these points in mind. And, while you might feel confident about purchasing an attic ladder kit and installing the ladder yourself, consider hiring a professional home contractor who has experience in this type of work.
Want to learn more about attic ladders and the best option for your home? DC Complete can help. DC Complete is a full-service construction and remodeling company that can handle all your home renovating needs. We are well experienced in home building and design, and available for a complimentary consultation to answer all your questions. Call us today at (810) 407-1771.