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An Attic Access Ladder Simply MUST Be Properly Installed

An attic access ladder simply MUST be properly installed.  That's why there are such specific manufacturer instructions that comes with every one.

The ceiling to enter the attic can range from 8' in some houses, to 10' feet in others.  In a garage the attic can be 12' or 15' high.

Even 8' is a long way to fall if the ladder assembly comes loose from its mounting.

I see a dangerous attic access ladder nearly every week.  And the installation instructions are right there, with a sticker placed on the door, with bold, large lettering!  Some lettering is in red! 

A separate sheet of instructions comes in the box!  And much of it is a cartoon diagram in case you can't read!

The manufacturer doesn't want you to miss it!  But even in new construction the ladders are often poorly installed.  I guess you need to peek at the instructions to know what you're doing?

This is verbiage from my inspection report when I see poorly-installed ladders:

Access to attic:  an attic access ladder should not be installed with small nails or drywall screws as they are too weak.  The ends should have doubled-up 2x4’s for strength and stability.  At least 10, and probably more, 16D nails or screws should be used, and screws should be stainless steel, Dacronized or square head brass. Most access ladder manufacturers have their own installation recommendations.  Here is a link for installation instructions:          http://www.ehow.com/how_2203642_install-drop-down-attic-ladder.html

That's pretty clear!  It's as clear as the instructions on the ladder!

So why do I see this so often:

Looking closely, do you see a nail in the hole where the instructions state one should be?

There are no nails in the ends because there would be nothing to nail into!

Do you see double 2x4s on the sides or the ends of the assembly framing?

Neither do I!

In addition, I counted 6 finish nails in the sides.  Who knows how long they are, but they are NOT made for such installations and CANNOT hold much weight.

I went to get my own ladder to go up into the attic.  I'm not dealing with that.

The seller also put lots of OSB panels in the attic to have a nice place to store things!  That's another big NO NO because insulation is not effective when crushed to 2x4 size.  But that's a subject for another post!

My recommendation:  before you go into an attic space, have a look to see that the access ladder has been installed properly and strongly.  If not, your next trip could be a bad one.  And only last a couple of seconds.

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 36 commentsJay Markanich • September 11 2013 04:00AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

Thank you for the information; now I have to make sure mine is done correctly.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 7 years ago

Thanks Raymond.  Pay attention to the ladder!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing  Jay, I almost broke my neck recently on one of  these - not a good thing!!

Posted by Jennifer Mackay, Your Bay County Florida Realtor 850.774.6582 (Counts Real Estate Group, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Jennifer - I met a seller once at the door who greeted me in a wheel chair and he asked me if he could stay during the home inspection.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago
Good post Jay. An inspector in my area was going up a ladder when it collapsed. He broke some ribs and punctured a rib.
Posted by Juan Jimenez, The Richmond Home Inspector (A House on a Rock Home Inspections LLC) almost 7 years ago

I DON'T DO LADDERS!!!

I don't do step ladders.

I don't stand on chairs.

I have a lot of ceiling fixtures with no light. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Finish nails? That's worse than drywall screws! I don't blame you, I would have used my own ladder for that too... incredible! You're right, I see it all the time as well.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 7 years ago
Clearly there are a lot of construction workers and builders that either cannot read or cannot follow instructions.
Posted by Bill and MaryAnn Wagner, Jersey Shore and South Jersey Real Estate (Wagner Real Estate Group) almost 7 years ago

I found it funny that you needed a ladder to get past the attic access ladder; that alone must have been a challenge Jay.  :)

 

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 7 years ago

Jay, eight feet isn't very high until you fall with a ladder underneath you. You would think safety would come first when building a home.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 7 years ago

I often wonder what people are thinking when they smash their insulation down just to store the christmas tree.

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) almost 7 years ago

Can be potentially dangerous when not installed correctly.  Thanks for sharing

 

Posted by Kathryn Gorham, Emerald Isle NC Crystal Coast (Green Key Realty) almost 7 years ago

That would definitely be a big surprise if it collapsed.  I'm always amazed when a contractor skimps on things that have true injury potential.  

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

You know how many times I find this. It's an ongoing issue with the builders. They seem to not be able to read installation instructions. and don't even get me started on the plain plywood finsh and fire ratings.

Have a great day in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 7 years ago

In all home purchase I have been involved in with a latter it has been an issue.

Posted by Jack O'Neal (HomeSmart Elite Group) almost 7 years ago

You say you want a pull down ladder? Are you sure?  Are you sure?  Are you sure?  I can think of WAY more reasons why you should not install one.  Are you sure?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

I'm going to be completely honest I have evntured to my attic several times and not once have I checked at the installation accuracy. I kind of just figured it was sucure. I will be checking the next go around though.

Posted by Marilyn Wier, Your League City & Surrounding Areas REALTOR! (RE/MAX Space Center) almost 7 years ago

Jay - You have to wonder "What were they thinking"... finish to hold and no nails where they were supposed to be.  Thank goodness they have you on the prowl.

Posted by AJ Heidmann ~ CRS, YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert (McEnearney Associates, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

That can be a big deal Juan.  A punctured lung is how my great-grandfather died!

Lenn - when Mighty Mo comes over maybe he can replace those burned-out bulbs.

Fred - they are worse!  One side had a 1/4" gap with no shims...

Bill - true, and/or are lazy.

Tom - I have done it many times.  Sidways and 8' high the A of the ladder fits around the pull down.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Michael - it's a big deal because you cannot control how you land or what you land on!

Marc - crushed insulation is very common in attics!

You're welcome Kathryn.  Stop by anytime!

Mike - we inspectors have to be very circumspect when looking at houses - booby traps can be everywhere.

Clint - you're right, I see them improperly installed in new construction all the time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

All is a pretty inclusive word Jack!

Charlie - I have one in my house because we have a unit in the attic and may have to get it down one day.  I am sure.  I am sure.  It is rated for 350 pounds too...

Marilyn - well, be careful!

AJ - that is a good term, on the prowl!  That's me in a nutshell...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

That's a scary thought, Jay.  I think it's something people just take for granted.  They assume if something is there, it's installed properly.  Go figure...

Posted by Matt Kombrink, Your #1 Source For Real Estate (RE/MAX All Pro) almost 7 years ago

Matt - I would not use the ladder!  It was scary all around.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Hi Jay, great post!  The ladder did look scary and I would not have used it either.  We actually need a new attic drop down ladder.  Thanks for the reminder!

Posted by Karen Johnson, Realtor, ABR, "Bucks County PA Homes" (Addison Wolfe Real Estate ) almost 7 years ago

Jay, more I read your posts, more I get scared of those sellers (and pity buyers)! (And this time, I looked at the ladder of my own attic - they look fine:-)).

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) almost 7 years ago

Jay, Reading the installation instructions are a tough thing to do for many guys ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- as Donald (#26) noted readin instructions can be a chore for some of these guys, but that is probably why they do them in cartoon format -- another case of the dumbing down of American education coming back to create other problems.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Karen - done properly they are alright so long as too much weight does not go up or down.  Installation is everything.

Good to hear Praful.  Mine is okay too, and I've been using it for 15 years.

It is Don, and I think there should be a law to simplify it all.  And put stickers in 55 different languages.

Steven - it's in cartoon format because the construction industry is flooded with people having a fourth-grade education without caring to learn English.  Even then the cartoons are too tough.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Sometimes I just don't understand and then there are those times when no explanation is necessary :)

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 7 years ago

Danger doesn't often need an explanation James!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

It sounds as though people heed the red letters like the punishment for removing tags on pillows !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 7 years ago

You can remove the tags on the pillows after YOU buy it S&D!  But others will be using the access ladder later, if the installation hasn't killed you in the meantime!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I reckon I did miss this one. I was going to post the one I did today yesterday. I see you beat me to the punch and got the star. <sigh>

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Thinking that probably true, and knowing we think the same, I thought I'd tweak you for not getting my mental memo Michael.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

What you can not see that is overhead, in the walls, under neath it all, all important.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) almost 7 years ago

Would that I still had the X-ray vision of my youth, Andrew!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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