How to Install Pull-Down Attic Stairs
Installing a sliding staircase for a solid route to storage
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.
Cut out attic access opening
Snap chalk lines onto the ceiling to represent the rough opening of the attic staircase. This step is necessary regardless of whether you're expanding an existing hatchway or creating new attic access. Peek into the attic to make sure there aren't any ducts, wires or pipes in the way. Then cut out the rough opening with a drywall saw.