How to Install Folding Attic Stairs


An attic can be used as additional storage space, but enabling easy access to it is vital for its proper use. One of the ways of achieving this is by installing folding attic stairs. These come as pre-assembled units and their installation does not require heavy construction work. They are designed from various materials in different sizes to suit different ceiling heights and load-bearing capacities. You can mount them on an existing attic opening or decide on a new location for them. The latter would require making a rough opening in the ceiling.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Sheet
  • Ladder
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Chalk
  • Drywall saw
  • Hand saw
  • Wooden boards
  • Drill
  • Shims
  • Bolts
  • Take a measuring tape and measure out the height of the ceiling. This is important in order to get the right length of the folding staircase.

  • Cover the floor under the working area with a sheet to protect it from falling debris.

  • Go up to the attic and determine the direction and the spacing between the attic joists. The folding staircase unit is positioned in between these joists. Make sure there are no pipes and wires that could get in your way.

  • Come down from the attic, grab a hammer and make a small hole in the ceiling where you wish the opening of the staircase to be.

  • Move up to the attic and mark out the four corners of the future opening. It should be large enough to fit the staircase unit. Pay attention to the location of the attic joists. Take a hammer and four nails. Drive the nails into the four corners on the ceiling along the joists. Take a chalk and connect the four nails. Make sure that the lines are straight. These represent guidelines for the rough cut.

  • Take a drywall saw and cut along these lines. Remove the piece of the ceiling to expose the rough opening.

  • Measure out the attic joists. These will act as the long sides of the opening. Place a wooden board in front of you. Take a hand saw and cut it into shorter header boards that are of the same width as the joists. The header boards need to fit between the attic floor joists. Take a hammer and nails and secure the header boards to the attic floor joists. Drive the nails from the outside of the joist into the edges of the header boards using a drill or a hammer.

  • Take a wooden board and saw it into 1- by 4-inch boards. Position the boards so that they protrude 1/4 inch. Take a hammer and nails and attach these boards along the short ends of the opening, from the ceiling side. These will support the staircase during its installation.

  • Get another person to help you. Position one person in the attic and one in the room below. Take the folding staircase assembly and hoist it to the person in the attic. This person should position the staircase on the supporting boards. Position the folding staircase in the center of the opening using shims. Check to see if the folded staircase is leveled with the frame.

  • Take a drill and insert nails through the shims into the frame of the opening. Make sure it is securely fastened. Trim the protruding shims. Remove the supporting boards.

  • Extend the ladder full length to the floor. Take out the adjustable bolts positioned on the feet of the ladder. Take new ones and drill them in so that the feet have firm contact with the floor.

Tips & Warnings

  • Attach a pull cord to the door for its easier use.
  • Choose a folding staircase of appropriate weight capacity. Take into account the weight of the persons using the folding stairs and the possible load they could be carrying.
  • Cutting roof trusses can seriously damage the stability of the roof.
  • Wear personal protective equipment when operating electrical drills and saws because these can cause serious injuries.

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  • Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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