Attic Access »


If your home is short on storage space—and whose isn't?— don't despair. A practical solution might literally be hovering right overhead. Nearly every home has some sort of attic space. The area usually isn't heated or cooled, and often has limited headroom, but it's still an excellent place for storing seasonal clothing, books, luggage, holiday decorations and other closet-clogging stuff. The challenge, however, is finding a simple and safe way to gain access to the overhead space.

Many older homes have a small hatchway in the ceiling. There's no ladder or staircase, just a square hole with a plywood cover. To get into the attic, you must climb a stepladder, then hoist yourself up through the hole—a simple task if you happen to be Tarzan or a champion gymnast. Coming down is even more adventurous, especially with an armful of boxes.

We'll show you how to enlarge an existing hatchway to create a bigger entrance to the space, or create new access. We'll then install a rigid one-piece staircase that smoothly glides up and down from the ceiling, assisted by two pairs of steel cables attached to spring-loaded drums. In the up position, the staircase is hidden by a large, flush-panel door. When it's pulled down, it meets the floor at a comfortable 57-degree angle. It also has a full-length handrail for added safety. Make sure there's enough headroom above the attic floor so the staircase can close properly.
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    Tools List

    • drywall saw
      Drywall saw
    • drill
    • eye goggles
    • dust mask
      Dust mask

    Shopping List

    1. Sliding attic staircase

    2. Lumber to match existing ceiling joists
    used to reframe staircase opening

    3. 1x8s
    for building finished frame around staircase opening

    4. 1x3s
    used as temporary cleats for positioning the 1x8 frame

    5. 3 1/2-inch (16d) common nails

    6. 1 1/4-inch drywall screws or nails
    used to fasten drywall ceiling to framing

    7. Casing molding
    for trimming around staircase opening

    8. 1 1/2-inch finishing nails
    for attaching casing molding