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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Attic Stair Installation

Attic Stair Installation

Learn how to install a ceiling door and stairs for easy access to the attic.
After: The pull-down stairs come in a kit and are a relatively easy install.

Steve Watson and the Don't Sweat It crew help a family create a new attic door in a hallway and install stairs. Below is a summary of steps, as well as a list of tools and materials used, as seen in this project.

Materials and Tools:

attic stair kit
8' 2x4s (4)
casing (10 linear ft.)
3" lag bolts (10)
caulking gun
circular saw
electric miter saw
reciprocating saw
safety glasses


1. Cut a hole in the drywall between the studs and climb up into the attic. Determine the final rough opening size you will need for the stair kit. This should be about 1/2" longer and 1/2" wider than the stair frame so that you will have 1/4" all the way around the stair frame. Add the thickness of four ceiling joists to your length dimension. (We reference 2"x6" ceiling joists in this project, but some joists may be 2"x8".) "Two-by" boards are usually 1-1/2" thick, so you'll probably be adding 6" to your length dimension since four times 1-1/2" equals 6". Using this dimension, mark the joist you need to cut in the position you want the stairway opening. Use a square to mark the height of the joist for cutting. Using a reciprocating saw, cut through the joist in both places. Pull out the joist piece you've cut free.

Safety Alert: Do not stand on the cut joists.

2. Measure the distance between the two joists on either side of the joist you cut. Cut four 2"x6"s (or 2"x8" s depending on your joists) to this length. These will be your headers. Position the first headers so that they are perpendicular to the joists and up against the ends of the joist you cut. Use a square to make sure all corners are 90 degrees. Use a screw gun and put three 3-1/2"x8 screws into all joists that touch the headers. Place the second header set flat against the first headers. Screw these to the perpendicular joists. Also install a few screws through the second headers into the first headers.

3. Using one of the existing joists as one side of your rough-in opening, measure the width required for your final rough opening. Cut a 2"x 6" (or 2" x 8") to form the other side of the opening. Again use a square to make sure all corners are 90 degrees. Use lag bolts to screw this short joist in place. Using the rough-in frame as a guide, cut the drywall out of the rough opening with a reciprocating saw. From the room underneath your drop-in stairs, use drywall screws to fasten all edges of the drywall to the rough opening frame.
Before: For better access to the attic, an entrance from the hallway needed to be added.
4. Using strips of 1"x4" wood, screw in ledgers on both ends of the opening on the face of the ceiling. These will support the stair kit while you screw it in place. Get a helper and lift the stair kit through the opening and rest it on the supports. Using shims, position the stair kit in the middle of the opening and screw it to your rough-in frame. Once the stair kit is securely fastened, remove the support strips from the ceiling.

5. The ladder portion of the new stairway is probably longer than required. Determine the correct length of the ladder to reach from the ceiling to the floor. Trim the ladder stringers. Angle the cut so the ladder sits squarely on the floor. You are now ready to add a molding around the perimeter of the stair kit and give it a few coats of paint to make it blend into your ceiling.

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