What I'm Seeing Now


Really, Is It So Important To Follow The Manufacturer's Instruction?

I wonder how often this is said by "contractors" - "Really, is it so important to follow the manufacturer's instruction?"

Or, "I have been doing it this way for 20 years..."

The answer to the former is yes, and the answer to the latter is - SO WHAT!

On this new construction the manufacturers' stickers were present on most everything.

This is the sticker on the pull-down attic staircase.

This sticker is approximately 12"x12".

It is right in your face when the stairs are pulled down and hard to miss.

It has various installation instructions.  Even diagrams!

Most notably, for the purposes of this post, it says this:

"Stair frame must be secured directly to ceiling joists on all four sides with 16D nails or 1/4" by 3" lag screws.  Use of other fasteners such as finish nails, brads, staples, sheet rock or deck-type screws, can cause sudden, catastrophic failure and should not be used."

That is #3 on the list above.  The manufacturer ranks it as pretty important!  Properly installed this staircase is rated for 300 pounds, so the manufacturer thinks it is a good product.

A 16D nail is 3 1/2" in length.  That is long enough to go through the stair frame, joist and even into a second joist beside, which is recommended at least at each end.  The same strength would be achieved by lag screws.

There are even holes in metal brackets at each corner and the front to accept these nails and screws!

Imagine what I was thinking climbing up to see that this staircase had been installed with brads!

At least they used the very strong triple array!  (I cough as I say that)  

There was a gap all around of 1/2", except at the front where the stairs hinge.  Even without the gap, brads are not strong enough to hold this ladder.  In fact, they are SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED from installation use.

The other thing in the right photo is the tip of a screw coming from the other side of the joist, and not touching the stair frame.

By anybody's definition, and certainly the manufacturer would agree, this is not a securely-installed ladder staircase. 


My recommendation:  new construction needs an inspection just as does old!  Maybe even more so because the house has never been lived in and nothing in the house has been tested.  My biggest beef with modern construction can be described in one word:


The installation above is amateur, dangerous, unthinking, uncaring and decidedly UNPROFESSIONAL.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 23 commentsJay Markanich • August 19 2012 04:33AM


So, did you S L O W L Y back down the ladder and go to the truck and use your own ladder to get to the attic?

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 8 years ago

I like to bounce really hard Fred, to give it a good test and make sure I am high enough for all the photos!

Actually I OFTEN go get my own ladder!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago


Maybe it was late Friday afternoon or there might have been an English barrier as the staircase was assembled???   I've heard both of those weak excuses.

Posted by Vince Chinell, CPI (VICO Home Inspection) almost 8 years ago

Jay, what were they thinking? You know... I would laugh if it weren't so.... tiring... exhausting...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 8 years ago

Yes, unfortunately, some contractors don't read the instructions...it's a costly mistake...and they should be then be responsible for full replacement value - removal, replacement + materials.  I had a contractor who installed a hardwood floor wrong in a large and expensive kitchen.  Even if he didn't know the right way to install wide plank boards, the instructions were right there on the box.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 8 years ago

Vince - the "English barrier," as you call it, would make it a hair difficult to know if this wonderful construction meets code.  How can someone who cannot read or speak a language be expected to meet standards demanded in that language?

My sarcastic word for "unprofessionalism," the word used in the post, is 7-11 CONSTRUCTION.

If the shoe fits...

These things go on and on Andrea.  Will the carousel ever stop?  Nope.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Debbie - see my answer to Vince above.  I find instructions to be written carefully, without the use of uncommon words.  They do that intentionally and hire writers to so do!  I would not want the jokers who installed this ladder to remove it and install another.  Get a pro...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Good morning Jay. I would think if not adhering to the instruction there is all sorts of liability issues for the builder. I always get a kick out of guys who use drywall screws for framing. Yikes!!!

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 8 years ago

I can remember when I first started making my own clothes, I never read the pattern instructions.  Fortunately, I worked in a fabric store part-time so I could get extra material to fix my mistakes...not so today!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 8 years ago

Great post Jay

pull down stairs are often accidents waiting to happen. I always enjoy not having to pull out a ladder to access an attic, but I always check the stairs first before climbing. Nuts and bolts are often loose or missing on these stairs. I always like the ones that have the ladder feet improperly aligned with the flooring.

Stay safe out there


Posted by John M. Wickline (JW Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Randy - I agree!  You would think the builder would be grateful somebody is pointing this out!

Wallace - been there.  Believe it or not!

That's right John, and also a part of the instructions.  Often the stair treads come loose or the spring is not resting properly on its perch.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Geting back to knowing what you don't know...in the case of directions...certainly should know for liability, reliability and the legal hassle that may accompany it !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 8 years ago

Your post reminded me of when I was younger, naive and didn't know I was ignorant...I would see stickers attached to products that peel off that I bought and think...Wow, they shouldn't litter on new products like that...It never occurred to me read it....Too much

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 8 years ago

This is pretty scary and I'm I get the feeling that this kind of thing happens more often than we think.  I enjoy your posts.  Thanks!

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) almost 8 years ago

It must be a man thing because many men do not feel they need to read instructions. Read the instructions

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) almost 8 years ago

I've opened those up before and realized I had to use my own ladder. I just love when you see the holes in the brackets that have the arrow pointing to where the nails need to go and there are none.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 8 years ago

Jay, My builders welcome a home inspection on their homes. They realize they are not perfect builders and things can be overlooked.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) almost 8 years ago

Hi Jay,

I see this all the time. I found a furnace installed the wrong way in the attic one day. It clearly stated on the furnace to mount or install vertically only. They had installed the furnace horizontally.

The mechanical guy was not a happy camper.

Have a good day in Bistow.

Best, Clint Mckie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 8 years ago

S&D - so one would think!  Apparently not though, in new construction.

Richie - were those stickers on attic ladder staircases?

Charlie - this stuff is as common as s'mores at a Boy Scout camp!

Harry - we know everything!  Well, it really is best to read this stuff!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Rob - I love the ones where they cut through a truss to install them perpendicular to the roof supports!  And there is nothing to nail to.  Then they use staples!

Debbie - it would seem to me to be wise.  But, I guess it's not!

Clint - I guess not!  He had to buy a different unit!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I have written about this same issue. I think about half the pulldown stairs I see are not installed correctly. Finish nails or sheet rock screws seem to be the fastener of choice. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 8 years ago

I see the same thang all the time.  In most houses that have an attic stair installed, I put my laddfer up through the opening and climb it instead.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) almost 8 years ago

I remember your post Jim.  Excellent as always.  Thought I'd add to the library!

Robert - I got up a little ways and bounce to see.  Then I look for nails or lags.  If none, I follow the Sole practice and get my ladder!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

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