Project Guide

Attic Ladder Installation

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Choose an Attic Ladder

Before you can learn how to install an attic ladder, you must first choose the one best suited for your home. For most homeowners, aluminum attic ladders are the easiest to install. They’re also durable and lightweight, which makes them easier to fit properly. Here are a few tips for choosing the right ladder:

  • Look for the right length. You’ll need to measure the distance from your floor to the ceiling to find the appropriate size. 
  • Choose a model that holds more weight. Ladders that hold a minimum of 250 pounds to 300 pounds are recommended. Remember that you may be holding a box or carrying an item up the ladder, so you could have extra weight other than your person. 
  • Consider an aluminum attic ladder with a handrail. These are especially helpful if you’re carrying boxes or items up and down alone.
Choose the Access Point

Before you can take on your attic ladder install, you may need to choose a location and cut a hole for your access point. If you’re installing pull-down attic stairs for the first time, you’ll likely need to cut the hole yourself. If your home already has an access hatch and you’re only adding a ladder, you can skip to the next step for instructions on how to install a ladder. 

Here are a few guidelines for choosing the right area and cutting an appropriate access hatch to your attic:

  • Attic ladder installation typically requires a space that is at least 25 inches by 55 inches. Smaller spaces may be hard to access, especially if you’re carrying items to or from the attic. You may also make your hatch a little larger if you have space. This will make in and out access even easier.
  • Consider where you’ll land once you climb up the ladder. You’ll need ample room to get off the ladder safely once you’re in the attic.
  • Look for an access point that offers enough headroom for you to stand comfortably. You don’t want to get off your ladder and immediately have to crouch to avoid bumping your head.
  • Make sure you add the appropriate framing to support the weight of you and your ladder. Wood framing works particularly well for attics and is easy to install before an attic pull ladder kit. Installing temporary support boards will also make the installation process easier.

Once you’ve finished the access hatch cut, you’re ready to get started.

Place the Ladder
  • Attach the pull cord on your attic ladder. This varies by manufacturer, so follow the simple instructions that should come with your model. 
  • Place the ladder into the opening of the access hatch. You’ll need somebody standing in the attic to help with this task. 
  • Get your ladder into place, securing it with temporary support boards if you’re using them. Avoid putting weight on the ladder at this point.
Secure the Ladder
  • Use your drill and two wood screws to hold the frame of the ladder to the header of your support structure. Now you can open the ladder to continue the installation.
  • Begin to secure the ladder by pre-drilling four 1/8-inch pilot holes at the top of the frame. 
  • Screw 1/4 x 2-inch hex-head lag screws into the header, securing the portion of the ladder that will remain at the top of the opening. You should use 1/4-inch washers under the screw heads before finishing. 
  • Repeat this process with hex-head lag screws and 1/4-inch washers to secure the mounting plates on the sides of the ladder.
  • Pre-drill four 1/8-inch holes into the wood supports beneath the mounting plates. Install hex-head lag screws with fitted washers into the pre-drilled holes. Remove any temporary support boards that you were using.
Trim the Excess
  • Measure the distance from the ladder opening to the floor. With your ladder folded, you can mark the area where you’ll need to cut any extra length off for proper fitting.
  • Use a saw to cut the excess ladder material away from your ladder. 
Install the Feet
  • Install the attic ladder feet as instructed by the manufacturer. Make sure the foot pads touch the floor and provide a stable, even surface for you to step on. 
  • In most cases, you’ll need to drill a pilot hole and install a hex-head cap screw and lock nut to keep the foot in place. Repeat the process for the other side of the ladder.
Add Insulation

The attic is a common point of entry for unwanted cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer. There are a few ways you can keep problem air from messing with the comfortable temperature in your home.

  • Use weatherstripping after your attic ladder installation. Weatherstripping along the edges of your hatch can keep drafts at bay.
  • Cover your attic door panel with foam insulation. Choose a type of insulation that can be cut to size at home and installed using adhesive or glue. 
  • Look for an attic ladder that comes with an insulation cover. Some ladder kits provide these to make installation a little bit easier and all-inclusive for DIY homeowners.

Attic stairs installation can make accessing previously unused storage space a breeze. While it might seem like a big job, an attic ladder installation is something you can handle if you just take it step by step. Pretty soon you’ll be wondering why you didn’t add an attic ladder to your home years ago!