What are Pull Down Attic Stairs?

Mary McMahon

Pull down attic stairs are stairs which are designed to provide access to an attic, loft, or crawlspace without taking up room when they are not in use. A number of manufacturers build pull down attic stairs which can be easily installed in less than a day by competent people with the right tools. It is also possible to order or build custom stairs for specific projects. These stairs can be an excellent access option for a home in which available space is limited, but people want to be able to reach crawl spaces without having to drag out a ladder.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

When pull down attic stairs are not in use, they are folded into the ceiling. When people want to utilize the stairs, they pull the stairs down, using a dangling tab or handle. As the stairs are pulled down, they unfold or telescope out so that they extend from the floor to the ceiling, providing access. Pull down attic stairs may include feet which are designed to grip the floor to make the stairway extremely safe and stable.

Some models are more like ladders, and they may have a very steep pitch, depending on the height of the space and the design of the manufacturer. Others feel more like stairways, and may even have folding handrails which pop out so that people have something to grip when they go upstairs. Pull down attic stairs are usually rated for reasonably high weights so that people can carry heavy objects up and down the stairs, and some include fire ratings; a one hour fire rating may be required by law in some regions, and people who are concerned about adhering to the building code may want to do some research before installing pull down attic stairs.

These disappearing stairs can be built from a number of materials, including aluminum, many types of woods, and plastics. When installing an attic staircase, people should definitely think about the desired load rating, the ease of use, and how heavy the stairs are. Extremely heavy and cumbersome stairs may be difficult for some members of a household to use, which could deter them from using the space above the stairs as intended. Safety features such as pinch protection can also be important, especially when pull down attic stairs are going to be used in a home with young children.

People should be aware that pull down stairs will not entirely disappear into the ceiling; a rectangular outline edged with trim will be seen where the stairs fold into the ceiling. The stairs may also require special clearance in the attic above.

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