Installing an attic ladder is not hard or complicated, but if you don’t know how to do it, it can be a bit tricky.
When you buy an attic ladder, it is going to come with an instructional manual on how to go about installing the ladder and what tools you need.
So before you begin the installation, you need to make sure that you read and understand the instructions. Failure to that and you may end up installing the ladder improperly which may become a hazard.
If you are not confident about installing the ladder yourself, you should hire a professional.
And this is important because installing an attic ladder in some cases requires you to modify your ceiling to fit it properly. And of course, this does need some skill.
But this is not to say that you cannot do it yourself as the modifications you may need to make are not extensive.
How to Go About Installing an Attic Ladder
So first things first, you need to inspect your ceiling to see if it’s even possible to install an attic ladder. If your ceiling has air ducts, electrical installations, or metal constructions, you cannot install the ladder.
Also, if it is a drop ceiling or cement ceiling, it’s not ideal for installing an attic ladder.
Once you inspect your ceiling and you are confident that there are no obstacles and that it’s suitable for the installation of an attic ladder. The next thing is to check if there is enough space to install the ladder properly.
Also, ensure that the ladder you want to install is the appropriate length to your ceiling height. If you are installing the ladder in your garage, consider where you park your car or cars.
Check the swing clearance and the landing space. When the ladder is pulled down, it should not be an obstruction and its legs should rest on the floor.
Examine the ceiling joists to see if the ladder can fit properly. If not, you may need to cut the joist for the ladder to fit properly. And to do that, you need to cut a hole into your ceiling where you want to install the ladder until you see the joist.
Before you do this, make sure that you have goggles and a dust mask to protect your eyes and lungs. Also, wear gloves to protect your hands from injury.
Once you determine what joist to cut, brace it to avoid the joist from sagging as you cut it. Then cut the joist carefully and make sure you don’t cut the ceiling board. Also, make sure that when you cut the joist, you cut it evenly.
Get the measurements of the header between the joists that are not cut. This should be done perpendicular to the joists. Then cut 4 headers. Use timber that is the same size as the joists.
Place one header at the end of the cut joist. Ensure that it fights tightly between the joists that are not cut. If you need to, use a hammer to ensure that the header fits in the appropriate place.
Once the header is in place, drive in nails on both ends and on the cut joist. Then take a second header and place it in front of the first one and nail it. And then install headers on the other side of the opening.
Measure the stringer between the cross beams. This measurement should be perpendicular to the headers. Cut the stringer. Use wood that is the same size as the ceiling joists.
Then place the stringer along the side that is not framed of the ceiling opening. So this the place that is perpendicular to the headers.
Then check to see if the measurements inside the frame are equal to those of the ceiling opening.
Place two temporary support boards where the hinged end of the attic ladder is going to be installed. Use nails to keep the boards in place.
Take out the pull cord rod and then carefully place the ladder on the temporary support. There should be a second person below to help you position the ladder.
Make sure that the attic ladder is resting on the support boards. Then open the ladder using the pull cord. Open the lid carefully and make sure it’s fully open and the locking mechanism is engaged. Do not unfold the legs of the ladder.
Use some shims to square the frame. Place the shims between the frame and the casement of the ladder until they are square in the frame. Check that the frame is square by measuring the diagonals.
Then drill holes in the ladder casing where the shims are but don’t drill any holes in the headers or joists. And then nail the ladder.
Remove the temporary support boards and trim any shims that are sticking out and once you are done installing the ladder, remove the shims.
Before you open the lid and unfold the legs of the ladder to trim them, make sure the ladder is properly shimmed and secured firmly with nails onto the frame.
Then measure the distance from the floor to the bottom edge of the ladder. Before, you trim the legs refer to your manual to check just how much of the legs you need to cut off.
Then open the ladder and trim the legs. Don’t trim the legs too short as that is going to damage the ladder and even cause serious injuries. So make sure you have the correct measurements before trimming the legs.
Once you are done with that, take the adjustable feet, slide them under the legs in place, put some pressure down so that they sit squarely on the floor.
Then using a pencil or marker, mark the holes, remove the feet, drill the holes and then place the feet back and put bolts through to secure the feet in place. And that is it. You are done.
Safety Measures When Installing an Attic Ladder
The following are some safety measures you should take to avoid injury.
- Wear protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a dust mask
- Use the right tools
- Don’t sit on the ceiling while cutting the ceiling joists since it was not made to carry loads
- Do not use anything or nail anything into the ceiling that conducts electricity if there are electrical installations in the ceiling
- If there are obstacles in the ceiling, like air ducts or electrical wires, get a professional to remove them first before you install the ladder
- Do not attempt to install the ladder alone to avoid serious injury
- Make sure there is no one other than you and the other installer in the work area
- Do not attempt to use the ladder before it is properly installed and the legs trimmed
- Make sure the work area is clean
- Do not leave the ladder unattended until it is completely installed
The Cost of Installing an Attic Ladder
You may be wondering how much does it cost to install an attic ladder.
Well, that depends on the type of ladder, finishing touches, and the tools needed for the installation. A standard attic ladder made of steel or aluminum costs anywhere between $80 to $2000. A wooden attic ladder costs a lot more.
Also, if you don’t have the tools for the installation, which means you have to buy them, which adds to the cost.
If you choose to get a professional to install the ladder for you, the installation cost is significantly higher than if you are to do it yourself. So make sure that before you install an attic ladder, you have a budget.
Your budget is going to determine what type of ladder to buy and if you need to hire professional help for any additional work that needs to be done including the installation of the ladder.
Installing an attic ladder gives you access to a new space that you can turn into an office or an extra bedroom. And choosing whether to do it yourself or to hire a professional depends on your budget.
Just remember to take the appropriate safety measures when installing an attic ladder. And do not attempt to install the ladder alone as this may lead to serious injury.