Accessing the attic provides a good way to gain storage or create space for an additional room in your house. Consider several factors when building attic stairs. The room layout below the attic will determine how much space you can spare for the stairs, for example. The pitch of the roof will also determine where you can place the stairs to provide headroom. By planning carefully, you can construct attic stairs that will work well for your needs.
Measure the Space
Use a tape measure or yardstick to create the exact layout of the floor below the attic. Draw the floor space on graph paper. Include every closet and hallway, since you might need to carve a staircase from limited space. Allow one square of graph paper to represent 6 inches of floor space. Your first goal will center on targeting the exact area to open the ceiling for the stairs.
Check Out the Attic
Once you've determined where the stairs will ascend into the attic, remove some ceiling material to look into the attic. If you have a push-up door, go into the attic to examine wiring, plumbing and other issues. You may need to hire both a plumber and electrician to reroute pipes or wiring that cross over the designated new staircase area you need. Drive long nails from the attic side into the ceiling below to outline the staircase opening you plan to cut.
Make an Opening
Ask an expert carpenter to help you cut through floor joists using a circular saw. Never cut double beams, since they support your home's wooden structure. You will need to remove one or more floor joists and then frame a box to the depth of the floor joists to surround the opening. This frame will literally hold the floor intact where you've cut. Use a nail gun or electric screwdriver to secure the box's framing.
Build the Staircase
Consider installing pull-down steps if you have no floor space below to devote to permanent stairs. If possible, build a staircase strong enough to hold heavy storage items or furniture you wish to take into the attic. Build stringers (long boards with sawtooth cuts) to hold the actual steps out of 2-by-12-inch lumber. Secure them tightly to the overhead opening and the floor below with a nail gun. Buy pre-made treads---the actual steps---or build them out of plywood or boards.
Include a handrail for the staircase for safety. Install pre-made railing in wood or metal along a side wall, or build a rail on each side of the stairs with 2-by-6-inch finished boards and 4-by-4-inch post materials for the balusters. Alternately, buy pre-made balusters and handrail materials to build an upscale handrail. Install a light fixture at both the bottom and top of the attic stairs.
- Photo Credit Interior Stairs image by GonÃ§alo Carreira from Fotolia.com
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