I see it all the time, on new construction and old - improper attic access ladder installation.
Attic access ladders span the distance between ceiling and floor. That distance can vary - 8, 9, 10, and even more feet.
Attic access ladders have to hold weight! Individuals climbing and descending and things they are carrying up and down can weigh a lot! The ladder itself needs to be able to support that, and attic access ladders are rated for weight loads.
BUT JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE WEIGHT LOAD A LADDER
IS DESIGNED TO HOLD IS THE ATTACHMENT OF THE ASSEMBLY
TO THE CEILING STRUCTURE!
And that is that!
I have seen everything holding attic access ladders from finishing nails, to drywall screws, to small wood screws, and sometimes only a couple of each!
When I opened the ladder on the subject house and unfolded it to go into the attic space I noticed it was a good quality.
The ladder materials were aluminum and rated for 300 pounds.
The framing looked to be well installed with lag bolts. Often lag bolts are provided by the ladder manufacturer.
There were many lag bolts and that's what you want to see!
But ascending the ladder and looking to the sides, this is what presented itself.
There were gaps on both sides and on both ends between the ladder assembly and the support trusses. There were no shims, or no solid space fillers, and that translates into very poor support.
What do the ladder manufacturer instructions say?
They recommend doubling up on the wood framing in the attic, on each side and at the ends of the opening.
They recommend shimming (or filling) any spaces on each side where nails or lag bolts are to be driven for support. Filling the gaps provides the strongest support.
They recommend lag bolts that they sometimes include, or 16D nails, and usually recommend 10 nails minimum. A 16D nail, shown above, is 3 1/4" long, and according to engineering charts can each hold a shear weight of 154 pounds. A similar lag bolt can hold a shear load of 230 pounds, so enough of either would hold a lot of weight.
But the installation above is dangerous. It lacks basic carpentry understanding. It ignores the manufacturer instructions. It is uncaring.
My recommendation: all new construction should have professionals involved from top to bottom and from the beginning to the end. Temporary day labor is unlicensed, usually ignorant of the trade they claim to be able to do, and demonstrates itself day after day as less than desirable. Subcontractors need to hire people who know what they are doing. If they do not, what will happen in the long run?
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560