How to install an attic ladder by yourself

How To Install An Attic Ladder By Yourself – Details But Simple Guidelines

Is it possible to install an attic ladder alone? But how?

Good questions!

If you're confident in your squaring, sawing, and aligning skills, you can do it yourself.

Believe me, it doesn't take a lot of muscle. In fact, it's relatively easy, especially if you know what to do. Moreover, potentially this DIY installation save you a lot of money.

This post on how to install an attic ladder by yourself will answer all of your queries. Additionally, the step by step guidelines will explain the attic access ladder installation process simply.

How To Install An Attic Ladder By Yourself- Step-By-Step Guidelines

What You Will Need

Enlist and gather the following supplies:


  • Power drills
  • Handsaw
  • Speed square
  • Hacksaw or reciprocating saw


  • Attic stairs/ ladder
  • Ladder accessories
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Deck screws
  • Heavy-weight screws


  • Hand gloves
  • Protective eyewear

Step 1: Consider the following before you get started

When it comes to setting up an attic stair, it's not like that you just grab a new one and start the installing process. Instead, there are some "TO DO" for choosing the right ladder before you get started.

First, choose a location to cut the access point and measure the rough opening. Double-check your measurements. It’ll help you to ensure you've purchased the correct sized ladder.

Attic Ladder Sizing

In general, a standard attic access ladder requires a rough opening of 22.5 by 54 inches. However, some aluminum attic ladders fit 25 by 66 inches opening and wooden attic ladders fit 30 by 54 inches opening.

Don't have space for a full-size attic access ladder or don't want to install a larger ladder? Don't despair!

If your ceiling space is tighter, some brands offer you compact attic ladders that fit in an area as small as 18 by 24 inches.

Second, measure the distance from the ceiling to the landing space to find the appropriate size.

*** It's unsafe to install any attic stair in any ceiling outside the recommended range.

Third, consider your weight ( or anybody who'll frequently use the ladder) plus the weight of boxes or items carrying up and down the ladder. It's safe to choose a model that will carry extra weight other than your person.

Fourth, take into consideration the space where you'll land once you get up the ladder.

Finally, look for the maximum headroom to stand safely and comfortably when entering the attic. You don't want to bump your head, right?

Step 2: Choose the right attic access ladder

Now you know your attic opening size and floor spaces. So, the next step is to choose the ladder that best suited for your requirements. Choose the one that fits right in the opening and can hold the weight safely.

Moreover, decide on the attic ladder materials. You have options to choose from aluminum, wooden, and steel attic ladders.

Once received the new ladder package, check to make sure it's fully assembled and doesn't have any defect. Don't remove the tie holding the sections together until the ladder has been completely installed and secured.

You must read the manual carefully before you start installing it.

*** If you're not confident in your skills or don't feel comfortable tackling the installation, you should hire a professional.

Step 3: Prepare the attic area

Check for any cables, pipes or other obstructions out of the way of the attic to prevent accidents and give you room to work. Ensure that you can install the ladder without removing any weight supporting beams or joists. For cutting joists for attic ladder it’s recommended to hire a professional.

Don't forget to wear gloves and protective eyewear where appropriate.

Step 4: Cut a hole for the attic access point

( skip this step if you already have an access hatch)

If you already have a pull-down attic ladder installed and you need to replace it, you're in luck! The hard part is prepping the opening that is all done. You can easily find a new ladder and replace it in the opening.

However, if you're going to install a new one for the first time, you'll need to create a new opening for an attic access point.

So, how to measure for attic ladder?

For this, you'll need to mark the position of attic access ladder. Measure out the mounting frame and then mark the outline of the frame in position on the ceiling. You may use a pencil to mark out the outline.

Then, carefully cut along the marked line as accurately as possible. You'll need to use a hand saw for this.

Safety Tips:

Be careful of falling the dust and debris. Make sure you wear safety eyewear or goggles.

Step 5: Assemble and secure the attic door surround

Next, you have to assemble the surround of the ladder that will hold the mounting frame. Make sure there is a 1 centimeter gap between the ladder frame and the surrounding frame. To solidly secure the frame, drill screws into the surround frame.

Make sure you add the right framing to support the ladder and your weight. Wooden frame works well for attics—moreover, its also easy to install.

Step 6: Attach temporary support board

By using the deck screws, attach the temporary support made out of scrap 1" by 4" materials to each header- end of the opening. Be sure that the hinge-end protrudes only 3/8 inches into the opening.

Step 7: Insert the attic ladder into place

At this step, you'll need a helping hand to lift the ladder through the opening. There is a pulling cord to open the attic door from below the ladder. Attach it to the door of the attic access ladder. As it may varies by manufacturer and model, follow the instruction that come with the product.

Then, lift the ladder into the attic and place it into the opening of the attic hatch. Carefully rest the attic stairs on the supporting board. You shouldn't put any weight on the ladder at this stage.

Step 8: Fix the ladder frame and secure it in place

Tightly fit the hinge side against the back header board. You may need to slide it slightly. Now pack the gap around the door frame with timbers to stabilize the frame.

With heavy-weight screws, secure the packing timbers and the frame into the surround. Note that these screws will only go through the frame (not through the metal hinge).

Make sure the attic door opens and closes without interference. You may also need to add shims to the corners of the frame to keep it straight and square. Secure the shims in place by driving screws through them.

According to the manufacturer's instructions, drill the necessary holes and screws them to the hinge and preassembled mounting plates. In this way, your ladder will be permanently installed in the attic.

After screwed in and securely placed the frame, remove the temporary support boards.

Step 9: Adjust the perfect length of the ladder

Once your ladder is fully secured in place, most installation needs a trim job to get the right length. Remove the tie holding the stairs together and unfold the middle part of the ladder.

Then measure from the end of this section to the floor. Ensure you measure accurately. In this case, straight piece of timber or a long level may help you to support the measuring tape.  

Mark the cut point on both sides of the ladder. Then square it up by using a speed square.

Based on your measurement, cut the excess off with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw.

Step 10: Attach the ladder feet (if applicable)

Unfold the ladder entirely. Put some pressure downward to make sure it's in the fully-open position.

by following the manufacturer’s instructions attach the ladder feet. To do this, first mark the holes on each side of the ladder rail, drill them out and with the provided lock nuts and bolts secure the feet.

Step 11: Attach the Architrave to decorate 

First, cut the timber to length according to the dimensions of the opening. Then nail the architrave into place to cover the unsightly gaps. Moreover, it'll give a professional and clean finish.

To finish your attic access ladder installation project, you can paint the attic door.

This is the end of your money-saving DIY attic ladder installation by yourself!

Some pull-down attic access ladder includes insulation cover. It's a great way to install an attic stair that comes with insulation. You may also use weatherstripping to insulate it.

How Much Does It Cost To Install An Attic Ladder?

The cost of installing an attic access ladder may vary depending on the materials and finishing touches. Moreover, the type of ladder you choose also significantly impacts the overall cost.

In general, the pull-down attic ladder prices range from $80 to $1500. Spiral attic staircases are expensive than other types. The metal-wood or wooden attic ladder kits cost from $2000 to $6000.

If you hire a professional, the installation cost also adds the labor cost. The labor rates or costs also vary. It ranges from $240 to $425 for the entire installation process or with an hourly rate of $60. If you need to remove the existing ladder, modify the structure and move the wiring, piping or air ducts, the cost will increase.

In summary, you may need somewhere between $600 to $1200 to install an attic stair. Of course, if you do it yourself, the installation cost will decrease about $220 to $600.

How Long Does It Take To Install An Attic Ladder?

So, how much time do you need for a DIY attic access ladder installation project?

Well, you may require 2 to 6 hours, depending on the steps you need to follow. For example, if your home already has one and you plan to replace this existing attic stairs, you won't need to cut the opening. As a result, you'll need less time to complete the jobs. On the other hand, if you plan to install a new one, you have to cut the opening that will take more time based on your skills.


So, does it seem like a BIG job?

Now that you know how to install an attic ladder by yourself, give it a try.

Certainly, you'll be wondering why you didn't do that years ago.

Thanks for reading!

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