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From wood to aluminum to steel, an attic ladder is a must for safe access–whether you need to figure out the best insulation for your home or have another home renovation in mind. But finding the best attic ladder may be trickier than you’d imagine.
Part of that reason is also good news: industry trends continue to show a large array of choices, with attic ladders of many kinds, weights, materials, and styles.
For 2021, top brands include everything from Warner to American Stairways and even those with a more immediately regional name, like Louisville Ladder. And while changes have occurred due to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, anyone hoping to access their attic will not be short of ladders.
For 2021, home renovation trends vary widely, from open concept rooms to a focus on a more minimalistic design and even a growing investment in home offices.
But amidst all of these changes, and potentially shifting trends, one thing is clear: many are still interested in– or even more interested than ever–in making improvements to their homes.
An attic ladder is an invaluable tool, but just any attic ladder won’t do. The best attic ladder provides easy access, safety, and security and will be reliable for years to come.
But if you’re like me, too many options can also be overwhelming. Among a market flooded with options, consider this your guide to finding the best attic ladder for your home and your next attic renovation.
What is an attic ladder used for?
An attic ladder, which is also called a loft ladder, is, of course, used to easily access your attic. Typically affordable, attic ladders are an alternative to a typical stairwell and can often be easily folded up.
Why would you need to get into your attic?
Maybe the idea of getting up into your attic isn’t appealing, and you’d rather not–but there are several reasons why you may need to access your attic, which includes both keeping your home in good repair and lowering energy bills. In the long term, visiting your attic may very well be a smart financial decision.
Home improvement projects in the attic are some of the smartest projects that you can begin. These include adding or replenishing insulation or even adding in fans for better ventilation.
Proper insulation can dramatically impact your heating and cooling bills by keeping cool air and heat in. Without proper insulation, you can easily be paying far higher costs and less efficient with your energy use overall– leading to the temptation to crank up (or down) that thermostat.
Health and comfort are also something to keep in mind why you need to access your attic regularly. Poor insulation can lead the home to feel drafty and uncomfortable. You’ll feel more comfortable year-round if you make sure everything is in good repair. This is also true to making sure any fans or vents in your attic are clear to operate well.
But there are even some health consequences of making an effort to visit your attic on a routine basis. If any vents or fans are blocked, this can lead to a build-up in humidity.
Too much humidity can spell room for mold or mildew to develop, affecting air quality and potentially even your health. You’ll also want to check your attic for leaks.
Leaks or cracks, or signs of water damage can point to areas where pests can invade your home. Other potential safety concerns you should use an attic ladder to access include wires that could start a fire.
If you’re like me, you will save money as much as possible–while keeping your home safe. One of the best ways to do that is to access your attic.
Your attic, in fact, can point to the first signs of larger structural damage. This involves any cracks or sagging, leaks, and wiring issues. Even insulation is a telltale sign: if you get much snow, poor insulation can place greater pressure on even the best roof and lead to serious, even dangerous structural damage over time.
Are attic ladders safe?
One of the most frequently asked questions and concerns is whether or not attic ladders are safe. The safety of an attic ladder can be evaluated in a few ways.
For one, how the attic ladder is installed is a concern. If you install an attic ladder yourself, it may not meet the criteria for safety concerns. For this reason, even the best attic ladders must be installed correctly.
In order to ensure safety, make sure that none of the following are true, or seek a professional to help with installation if you’re unsure. Common mistakes to look out for include:
- Using the nails or screws not intended for ladders, such as drywall screws
- Not using enough nails or screws to properly secure the ladder
- Ignoring other issues, such as loose bolts, fasteners, or failing to clear away leftover debris, or, over time, defects (such as cracks, rot, wear) on attic ladders made out of wood
- Installing pull-down attic ladders that don’t reach the floor, or are long enough that they add weight on the hinge
How do I find the best attic ladder?
The best way to get access to your attic, year-round is an attic ladder. Not only are attic ladders affordable, but they’re the most practical solution. The challenge is finding an attic ladder that meets your needs and holds up over time.
Even with the best gear, like protective equipment in the form of hard hats, gloves, and masks, you’re only truly safe if you have a safe and effective way to access your attic.
Generally, you’ll be able to select from wood, aluminum, and steel for attic ladders. Of all the options, my least favorite is wood. While more budget-friendly, compared with aluminum and steel, wooden ladders are more susceptible to cracks, and other issues like rot.
For the home, many prefer aluminum in that it’s lightweight. Steel is, however, not as susceptible to bending as aluminum will be. The good news is that both of these materials are also rust and humidity resistant.
The framing of an attic ladder is also very important. The most common options include singular rafters or joists vs trusses. Trusses interlock, normally with metal connectors.
While these can provide strong support, the biggest downside is that they can’t be changed easily. This means they may not be able to be custom fit for your space. At best, you may need to hire a professional, and even that is not guaranteed to be a solution.
A better option is to use ladders that use either joists or rafters. These can easily be shaped or resized to your liking. For the best fit, keep in mind that the standard is around 22 1/2 inches between joists.
The ladder style impacts the installation as well as how you access your attic. You can select from an electric, folding, scissor, or telescoping attic ladder.
Electric options are the most expensive but easiest to use, and fold up and down with the push of an automated button–while helpful for someone with a physical handicap, most will find the cost not worthwhile.
If you’re tight on space, you can opt for a telescoping model, which tends to be a more mobile design, but it’s also less secure.
For most, I’d recommend a folding or scissor-style attic ladder. A folding attic ladder gives you excellent clearance and is easy for anyone to use, while a scissor-style attic ladder is probably the best option overall: it tends to be more secure and durable, and safe.
Attic ladders may be handy, but even with the best installation, there can be safety concerns. While many worry about the overall stability (much of which can be addressed by using proper installation techniques), fire hazards and everyday accidents are also of concern.
It’s ideal to look for attic ladders that not only fire-resistant but are marked as fire-rated, which indicates that they’ve undergone testing regulations.
Other features to ensure safety include steady handrails, grooved or rubber steps, and latches or systems to lock the ladder in place. All of these can go a long way in preventing everyday accidents.
Ladder dimensions, of course, are important, both in terms of overall length and weight. For a new attic opening, you’ll need to consider that the standard size is 22.5 inches (w) by 54 inches (length). Of course, if you already have an attic entrance, you’ll need to cut it to size.
For weight, I recommend an attic ladder that holds a minimum of 200 to 300 pounds. You may not require a heavy ladder–what you need to do is make sure there’s a healthy buffer between the weight of those using it and what it says it can handle – I’d give myself a 50-pound buffer.
One worry is how much it costs to put in an attic ladder. A fair estimate cost for the actual installation of an attic ladder is anywhere between two hundred and six hundred dollars, though most will spend around four hundred dollars (if you’re hiring help, budget around sixty dollars an hour for the project).
That said, the actual base cost of the attic ladder will cost around three hundred dollars for the cheapest varieties, up through over one thousand. I would never say cost should be first priority but aim to spend a minimum of three hundred dollars.
Other considerations for finding the best attic ladder include insulated steps or openings, and even extra features like Bluetooth or remote connectivity for electric ladders.
Best Attic Ladders: My Picks
Now that you know how to find the best attic ladder for your next home renovation or repair project, here are some of my top picks for the best attic ladders you can buy now. I’ve selected ladders that offer security and stability, are practical, and are well rated. All of these ladders are an overall good investment and a fair price for what you get.
Best Wooden: Fakro Fire Rated Insulated Wood Ladder
While wooden attic ladders aren’t my top preference, I wanted to include an option for a few reasons. Wooden ladders are not as heavy as steel, tend to be more affordable, and may simply be more appealing for aesthetic reasons for some homeowners. If you do opt for a wooden ladder, I recommend this model by Fakro.
Fire-rated by professional standards, it includes a blaze block and other fireproof materials, plus a rubber gasket and sealing on the boards for extra safety and energy efficiency.
You’re also less likely to slop– I love the addition of rubber treads and rails. It can handle up to 300 pounds and retails for six hundred dollars.
Best Insulated: Fakro Insulated Steel Scissor Ladder
For a sturdy ladder with the added feature of insulation, I love this attic ladder from Fakro. It can hold up to 350 pounds at a stand and fits a standard ceiling height.
The steel is coated for extra protection, and the scissor design makes it easy to save space while creating slow and safe movements. I also like the handrail for security, the ability to easily adjust and even add or remove steps, and even the wheels that help protect your flooring against being scratched.
Well rated, this Fakro attic ladder comes with a two-year warranty and retails for under seven hundred dollars.
Best Electric: Skylark Electric Attic Stairs
If you have a big budget and need an electric option, or even just want a heavy-duty option, I recommend these sleek attic stairs by Skylark.
The Skylark electric attic stairs may be a bit of an investment, at over two thousand dollars, but they come with undeniably appealing features, with an impressive load capacity of up to 500 pounds, an easy-to-use automated button, and even Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones and tablets alike.
It also comes with an auto stop system, reducing the risk for other accidents, plus an insulated frame. Hesitant to spend so much? It also comes with a generous 10-year warranty.
Best Overall: Louisville Aluminum Attic Ladder
Louisville ladders are a respected name and for a reason. That’s apparent in this aluminum attic ladder, which can accommodate up to 350 pounds.
If you’re worried about safety, this ladder has you covered. Not only does it include several handrails and well-supported hinges, but it’s also one of the rare attic ladders that are officially rated as fireproof.
I also love that it includes extra straps, an insulated door for better energy efficiency, and adjustable shoes. Overall, this is an excellent value, and maybe the best attic ladder you can buy for home use. The biggest downside is that availability may be slightly limited, depending on where you live.
Question: What are the standard attic opening?
Answer: The standard attic opening measures at 22 and a half inches by 54 inches, but it’s important to note that there are some variances where the openings are smaller or wider. The important thing is to measure before installing a ladder and to make sure you can adjust if you need to.
Question: How much weight can an attic ladder hold?
Answer: An attic ladder can hold anywhere from two hundred pounds to over 500. Most attic ladders average around 300 to 350 pounds. The important thing to remember is to give yourself enough wiggle room so you aren’t pushing your ladder to its weight limit, ensuring a safe home renovation process.
Question: How do you install a drop-down attic ladder?
Answer: A drop-down ladder takes several steps to install. First, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper safety equipment, which includes drywall saw, drill, safety goggles, and a dust mask.
The first step is to cut an attic opening if you don’t have one. From there, remove anything in the way, including existing joists. You’ll have to construct an opening frame, a door panel, and screw in spring drums to the door frame.
From there, you have to install a pulley system, attach the staircase to the door frame, mount cable holders, and make sure everything is secure. It’s a very intensive DIY project, and not recommended for anyone who’s never attempted something like it before. Seek professional guidance if you need it.
Finding the best attic ladder can ensure safety and security, whether you’re making your home more energy-efficient, inspecting a possible roof issue, or just wanting to protect your home.