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