What I'm Seeing Now


Improper Attic Access Ladder Installation

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.


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


Comment balloon 6 commentsJay Markanich • June 15 2016 03:09AM


Jay Markanich - interesting post - I had one of these almost fall on top of me a few years back - wan't pretty

Posted by Jennifer Mackay, Your Bay County Florida Realtor 850.774.6582 (Counts Real Estate Group, Inc.) about 4 years ago

That would have been a scary sight to see that loose attachment. 

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) about 4 years ago

Good morning Jay. A poor installation is a poor installation, period! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 4 years ago

Oh man, we have seen many of these not installed properly! Probably one of the easier tasks to complete during the process too! Temporary day labor is right, and this is horrible.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 4 years ago

Can you imagine the HVAC service tech pushing the new unit up into the attic and the entire stair assembly falling to the floor?  Or worse, me and a box full of stuff my wife has to keep crashing down!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 4 years ago

Jennifer - once a rickety ladder broke when I was going into the attic.

Kat - at that point I was over 6' above the floor!

Keep it simple, Wayne!

Gotta be, day laborers at their best, Fred.  The other thing is improperly cut feet, so they don't rest on the floor well and the hinges do not close.

That's the idea, Stephen.  Those things need to hold weight.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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