How To Install An Attic Ladder

Attics refer to an area in between the ceiling of the topmost floor of a house and the roof.  Such spaces are often ignored since we think about them as just an open and dark areas.  Not an appealing part of the house for most of us, but it actually has an important role in giving us efficient energy and comfort.  

An attic, frequently used as storage,  provides a huge mass of slow-moving air, which helps a lot in controlling the temperature of a house.  The warm air coming from the floors below usually gets stuck in the attic, which initially always gives us the impression that it’s a hostile place.  But with proper ventilation, you might want to take a second look.  

Good ventilation must be maintained in the attic so that moisture and heat can easily make a grand exit.  When the attic accumulates moisture and heat, problems may arise like they can cause damage to your ceiling, beams, and insulation.

Such a scenario also creates a damp environment and subsequently generates molds.  To prevent this from happening to your attic, you need to increase the circulation of air.  You may likewise find the importance of dehumidifiers and desiccants to help promote a drier atmosphere.  

Ways to Fight Moisture in Your Attic

  • Find out where the water is coming from.  In case you find a leak from your roof, temporarily place a pail underneath it until you’re done fixing the problem.  
  • Open all air access or vents to allow better air circulation.
  • Always wipe accumulated water caused by moisture. 
  • To make the drying process quicker, use a dehumidifier.  But if you don’t have any, a fan will already do.   
  • Silica gels can also help in absorbing extra moisture.  Place a good amount in all corners of your attic.  

A regular trip to your attic can help improve your home’s ventilation.  Being able to maintain it properly might also make you think of transforming it into a functional area.  So, why don’t you start installing a pleasant attic ladder and commence a project?  What do you think?

What Type of Attic Ladder is Right for You?

Attic ladders come in various styles.  There’s the foldable type, the slide up, and the scissor type.  Others even are run by electricity.  More often than not, attic ladders are built using woods, while there are those that use steel or aluminum.  

You also have the option to put a handrail, especially if you’ll be bringing stuff to and from the attic regularly.  As for the rungs, you can have the narrow steps or still go for the traditional ones.  

To construct an attic ladder can cost you about $150 or as high as $1,500.  The price all depends on the materials that you’ll be using, the style, and the size.  

Your price quotation may even double if you choose to hire an installer. So, if you want to save on cost, you just simply have to do it yourself.  Why not join the growing number of do-it-yourself fanatics?  I bet, it will be fun and fulfilling.    

Whether you choose to hire an installer or not, it’s crucial to make a thorough inspection of the newly installed attic ladder before using it.  Check missing or loose bolts, cracks, or rifts.  Fix whatever problem you’ll find to avoid possible mishaps.  

Choosing An Attic Ladder

Generally, attic ladders have a retractable feature, which means that they can be pulled down from the ceiling and folded up when not in use.  

Having an attic ladder can really make a difference in your home.  You can easily and quickly access it whenever you want, and most importantly, you can make your attic more useful and receptive.

Similar to other house projects, attic ladder installation can also be done without the help of an expert.  Well, I know, some of you are a bit cynical about this because it seems to be a very complicated project, but it’s not.  Just gather all the needed tools with the right instructions, and you’re all set to install your very own attic ladder.  

Did you know there are already pre-manufactured retractable attic ladders? Oh yes, there is!  This is minus one job for you!  Just head to your local hardware store or simply order over the internet.  However, there are a number of factors to be considered when choosing an attic ladder.   


Pre-manufactured attic ladders are meant to be installed in a prevailing frame on the ceiling, which pertains to the attic’s floor.  As much as possible, find a location where it can be perfectly stationed like, for example, in between ceiling trusses or beams.  

Others are just so lucky not to worry about location because there is already an available trapdoor in their attics. But, there are also cases where the prevailing entrances need to be widened so the pre-manufactured attic ladder would fit.  

When choosing a location for your attic ladder, you should also consider both the landing and entry points.  Make sure you allow enough space for movement.    


The standard size of a pre-manufactured attic ladder usually fits in between floor rafters, trusses, or joists that are about 24 inches parallel to each other.  This, therefore, means that there is an accessible space of 22.5 inches, where the extra 1.5 inches is the combined measurement of the floor joists on each side.  

Trusses serve as a mesh to all the frames that are fastened together using metal connectors or gussets, which cannot either be changed or cut.  Otherwise, you’ll be risking the foundation of the structure.  So, the technique in installing an attic ladder is to really spot a part where there’s enough gap between 2 trusses.  

If ever you encounter a problem where the joists are installed in an opposite direction, you simply just have to cut out the sections and then systematically put doubled-up joists and header to the coarse openings. For trusses, this kind of troubleshooting is not at all possible.  

Weight and Length

Pre-manufactured attic ladders come in various lengths.  Hence, you need to have an accurate measurement of the distance between your floor and ceiling or attic floor.

In general, the weight capacity of a ladder determines its sturdiness.  The heavier the load it can hold, the tougher the ladder is.  So, if this is the case, go for an attic ladder that can bear the weight of the heftiest person who’ll be regularly utilizing it.  

4. Material Component

The widely used materials used in building attic ladders are wood, aluminum, and steel, and the best among these 3 is aluminum.  Aluminum because it is sturdy and light.  It is likewise non-corrosive, which tells us that they cannot be affected, in any way, by temperature and moisture.  

Well, an attic wood ladder can also last longer but may suffer the effects of temperature and moisture.  It may even be prone to breaking or cracking.    

5. Serviceability 

Attic ladders vary in design and in style.  They have features that cater to different needs in terms of safety, convenience and serviceability.  When talking about serviceability, here are a few features that need to be taken into account:

  • Rungs: You may choose between narrow-step rungs and the traditional ladder rungs.  If you have an ample space to land on when coming down from the attic, it would be a wise decision to choose the latter as it would be much safer and easier.  
  • Angle: Attic ladders are customarily steeper than ordinary stairs.  Their steepness can be compared to the angle of a ladder when you’re painting a wall or cleaning glass windows.  
  • Handrail: There are attic ladders that don’t have a handrail.  But if you want to impose safety on yourself, think of placing a handrail.  Remember, attic ladders are stepper.  

Ways to Install Attic Ladders

STEP 1: Put a mark on the location where you want to install the attic ladder.  Preferably in between ceiling joists.  

STEP 2: If any, cut ceiling joists that may become an obstruction in the creation of an attic opening.  

STEP 3: By using a reciprocating saw, remove the framing around the prevailing attic opening.  

STEP 4: By using again a reciprocating saw, take out all longstanding joists that appeared within the location of your preferred attic opening.

STEP 5: Prepare a new header and joists that will fit into the rough opening of the attic’s staircase.  

STEP 6: Fasten together the header and the side joists.  

STEP 7: Position the assembled frame into the opening, then fasten through the prevailing ceiling joists.  

STEP 8: Make sure the side joists’ edges are also fastened using metal hangers.  

STEP 9: Once you’re done installing the frame, it’s time to cut and extract the ceiling within the boundaries of the newly created rough attic opening

STEP 10: Attach temporary cleats at every end of the attic opening.  Make sure to screw them properly into an unyielding frame.  

STEP 11: Attach the folded attic ladder to the cleats.  The ladder now rests solely on the installed cleats. 

STEP 12: Align the attic ladder to the center of the opening. 

STEP 13: Release the ladder and begin drilling holes into the joists and side frames, then fasten using the appropriate log screws.

STEP 14: After which, you may now remove the cleats.

STEP 15: Pull the ladder down further for you to be able to establish an angle and also the length, which is from the attic opening down to the lowermost part of the ladder stringers.   

STEP 16: Once you’ve established the length and angle, begin trimming the bottom of the ladder stringers.

STEP 17: Mount the casing around the opening of the attic staircase.  

STEP 18: Apply some paint on your newly installed attic ladder.

Some Helpful Ladder Tips

  • Attaching cleats to temporarily hold the attic ladder will make the job easier and faster.  You will not have much problem in holding it in place while you’re working on the other steps.  This will likewise save you time and energy.   
  • Measure the angle and length multiple times just to make sure you have the right measurements.  Making a mistake with the measurements will cause a rippling effect.  If you don’t have the exact numbers, you will not have the right angle and length, which will then force you to start from 0.  If this happens, you just wasted your time, energy and money.  


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