Home Tips: Attic Stairs

Attic access can be limited or quite often impossible to enter.  When we are trying to look in our attics at home, it is tempting to add attic stairs to allow easier access.  While these stairs offer a great ease of access, they also pose a risk of falls, failures and other dangers you should be aware of.  In the first picture you can see that the legs for the steps are not cut correctly.  This leads to the steps being under stress as you use them and could lead to the stairs warping while you are climbing them and could lead to injury.

In the second picture you will see a common mistake on installation of the stairs.  The sign clearly states that a nail should be driven into these holes, but most people have a drill and screws handy so screws it is.  The issue is that a nail has a higher strength resistance than a screw, and the screw head could snap of and leave you hanging-literally.  Easy repair, easy mistake but injury could result. 

The stairs are also a good place for heat loss.  Always make sure that you have an insulation blanket of some type the covered the stairs in the attic when not in use. Remember that you should also plan to install a floor in the attic directly in front of the stairs, this will give you a landing as you enter the attic and keep you from searching for the roof joists that you may find, or the drywall ceiling which you will probably find with your foot. This floor should be at least 24″ wide and made of 3/4″ plywood and run a length that allows ease of access and a clear path to the attic.

There are a great deal of these stairs on the market, some are better than others. Just be careful when using them.