An attic ladder helps you tap the potential of an area that’s often neglected- your home’s attic.
But your attic ladder will occasionally need to be replaced. It may malfunction, become flimsy, or you may notice a major weakness that you feel makes further use of the whole unit risky.
The good news is that you don’t have to improvise a lot to do this or even hire some expensive equipment to install a new retractable attic ladder.
Read on to learn how to replace attic ladder for continued easy loft access to your home’s attic.
How to Replace Attic Ladder
Follow these easy steps to remove your faulty attic ladder and fix your newly bought replacement or DIY attic ladder by yourself.
As you’ll see in the step-by-step guidelines below, it’s relatively easy and it could save you a lot of money.
Gather the right tools for the job
Your first task is to assemble every tool and accessory you’ll need to simplify the job.
Here are the essentials (you can substitute them with suitable alternatives).
- A replacement attic ladder (folding or telescoping)
- A circular saw- for cutting necessary angles
- A trim removal tool such as a trim pry bar
- A pencil
- A classic A-frame style folding ladder
- Reciprocating saw- its versatility means it will cut the nails quickly and effortlessly.
- Drill (and frill bits) or a driver
- 1-by-4 wood boards
- Construction screws, lag bolts,
- A finishing nail gun
- Tape measure
- Dress for protection
In addition, it’s important to wear safety gear such as work gloves, dust masks, and protective eyewear before you start the job.
Tip: Because of the weight of the attic ladders, it’s best to work with another person for this project.
How to replace attic ladder – step by step
a) Removing the old ladder
Take down the damaged unit as described in this section:
Step 1: Remove the trim
Start by removing the trim surrounding your attic ladder’s opening.
Carefully wedge in your pry bar and pry it loose, progressing meticulously along the trim until its entire length has been ‘freed’.
Now proceed to remove the finishing nails holding the trim and pull the trim off.
Step 2: Prepare the ladder for removal
Prior to moving on, it’s pivotal that you add some makeshift support to the ladder. It may slip or even fall upon removing or cutting the nails (up next) and the last thing you want is to get hurt.
There are a couple of easy ways to introduce interim support but most people opt to use 1 x 4’s. Simply extend the fold-away ladder to the ground and fasten one 1 x 4 strip to the front of the opening (with your screws).
Another 1 x 4 goes to the rear side (of the opening). Be sure that the two pieces are securely held in place before advancing.
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Step 3: Remove the nails/screws
Climb onto your A-frame style folding ladder and remove every nail/screw securing the frame to the joists. Devise a way of cutting the nails (your reciprocating saw will be handy for this) if you’re unable to reach their heads.
A great option would be slipping the blade cleverly in between the frame and the joists and cutting through them.
Step 4: Pull it down
A few things to do before pulling the attic ladder down:
- Fold it completely.
- Now push the old attic ladder back up until it returns into the attic.
That done, lower the ladder through the opening.
Lastly, remove the ladder to create enough working room. Your partner should help you all along.
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b) Installing the new ladder
Putting the new attic ladder in place is actually easier than the removal stage.
Step 1: Preparing the installation spot
With your hammer, drive in the nail stubs you had cut previously until they’re flush with the joists surface-you don’t want them to stand in the way of your new ladder.
Step 2: Place the new ladder into place
Place the new ladder into the opening- for natural reasons, have your helper by your side as you do this.
Gently place it on the scrap 1” X 4”s boards.
Step 3: Center the ladder
Next, center the replacement attic ladder in the hole perfectly- insert shims around the corners of your ladder’s frame to keep it center.
Step 4: Drill holes
Now it is safe to extend your ladder completely. Once extended, drill the installation holes at the exact spots indicated in your owner’s manual.
Step 5: Add Screws
Screw in the lag bolts to the holes to permanently secure the frame. They should penetrate all the way into your attic joists (refer to the owner’s manual again for specific instructions).
Tip: Check that the door closes smoothly and without any interference.
Step 6: Get rid of the supports
Remove your temporary support boards, now that the frame is safely screwed in.
Step 7: Trim it to the correct length
Unfold the top 2 parts of the ladder and measure the distance from the end (of this part) to the floor.
The measurement needs to be very accurate in order to avoid trimming the legs too short so you can just line a scrap 1-by-4 (all the way to the floor)
and mark the exact desired point with a pencil while holding it tight to the stringer.
Next, you’ll mark the angle to the floor. For this step, lay another 1x 4 flat on the surface next to the first 1-by-4 and flip it to the edge.
Mark the intersection point. Now cut the angle you’ve just marked on the latter piece of scrap wood using your circular saw.
Moving on, extend the bottom section and place the guiding 1×4 along the stinger on this part of the ladder. Finally, transfer your length and angle measurements to the ladder (both sides) and cut it to your determined length and angle.
Step 8: Finishing the job
Replace the trim.
Use the nail gun to nail it into position.
Well, that’s how to replace the attic ladder..
It is not that difficult especially if you have all the necessary tools with you. Of course, there are shortcuts such as using a cat’s paw tool to remove the nails and bring the frame down.
However, the method we have tackled here is the safest and quickest way of replacing old attic ladders.
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References and Citations:
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Reducing Falls during Residential Construction: Working in Attics- https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/working-in-attics-factsheet.pdf