Installing an attic access ladder is a fairly advanced project, so if you are a construction novice it is probably a good idea to leave the job to an expert. If the project is not urgent, you may be able to tackle some smaller projects and strengthen your skills, working your way up to installing your own attic access ladder.
Do It Yourself Or Hire A Pro
The tasks that you will have to master before successfully installing an attic ladder include accurate alignment and flawless squaring, along with expert sawing. The fact that it will be supporting your full body weight means that you need to be sure your ladder is perfectly secured and placed, so only attempt the job if you have a sizeable number of home improvement projects under your belt.
Ladder Placement On The Ceiling
Where you put your ladder will depend on several factors. The first consideration should be structural support. Identify the ceiling joists in the room where you are planning to install your attic access ladder. Plan to install the stairway parallel with these joists, so that when you make the opening for your ladder you will only have to cut the length of a single joist.
This will allow you maximum structural strength. Going parallel to the joists will allow you to use the nearest joist as a reference point, which will help you to take clean, easy measurements, and create the most accurate alignment for your rough opening.
Ladder Placement In The Room
Once you have selected the spot on the ceiling that is ideal for your purposes, it is time to think about how your ladder will impact the room when it is unfolded. Be sure that there is not anything like furniture, lighting instruments, or architectural features that will block access to the ladder, and take some time to think about the impact the ladder will have on the room when open.
If the open ladder will block members of the household from areas of the room they often access, you may need to re-think your placement. Last but not least, make sure that you are keeping safety in mind. Never place your ladder where it would interfere with your ability to leave the room it is in. Be sure that you have allowed yourself a clear exit path from the attic out of the house in case an emergency occurs.
Choosing A Ladder
When you install an attic access ladder, you want to make sure that the hardware you are putting in will last, so shop for your ladder with durability in mind. The treads on your ladder should be thick and strong. The thicker the treads are, the more durable they will be against wear and tear.
The treads on your ladder steps should be at least three quarters of an inch thick. With these kinds of treads and only moderate use, your ladder can perform well for up to fifteen years.
Prepping Your Attic
Before you put your ladder in, you may need to do a little bit of preparation in the attic itself to create a receptive entrance. Building your whole rough-in frame from inside your attic before you cut through the ceiling to make your opening will help you control your saw and keep your placement on target. If your attic has an unfinished floor with exposed insulation, you will need to lay down some boards before you install your attic access ladder.
A simple platform constructed out of half-inch thick plywood sheeting will do the job, as long as it is fully secured. Attach your plywood to the chords that support your attic structure with a combination of sturdy deck screws and adhesive glue.