If you have an attic that you’re not using, you’re wasting valuable storage space. Most homes have a small hatch that goes into the ceiling, but without stairway access. You can enlarge this hatch and create an entrance to your attic by installing a one-piece staircase that glides up and down. Before you start, open the hatch to your attic and crawl up a step ladder to look inside. Check for wires or ventilation systems that may obstruct your work. Always refer to the attic staircase manufacturer instructions for its dimensions and other installation specifics.
1.Draw chalk lines on the ceiling to mark the dimensions you need for your attic staircase. Use the level and chalk to make sure the lines are straight. Cut through the drywall with a drywall saw, following the chalk lines.
2. Cut away any joists blocking the opening with the circular saw. Keep the header for the existing hatch in place, and use it for one end of the new opening.
3. Hammer nails into the lumber you cut for the opening to make a new header between the joists on the opposite end of your new opening. This will make the frame for your opening. Attach your new frame to the drywall ceiling with drywall screws and a power drill. Drill up from below, into the frame.
4. Screw 1×3-inch boards with the power drill and drywall screws into the ceiling across your opening. This is a temporary structure. Construct a frame that will fit into the opening using the 1×8-inch boards using a circular saw, hammer and nails. Position the frame on the 1×3-inch boards. Do this from above, and attach it to the framing with 16d nails. Remove the 1×3 boards by reversing the screws with the power drill.
5. Mount the door panel and hinge that came with your staircase to one end of the frame that you made according to the manufacturer’s directions. You can use your power drill to attach the hinge with screws to the frame.
6. Screw the left-side spring drums to the frame above the door hinge next to the header. Use the power drill and accompanying hardware that came with the stairway. Do the same with the right-side spring. Attach the header-guide frame for the staircase between the two spring drums using your drill and staircase hardware.
7. Install the pulley for the stair case by using the drill to screw a small pulley to each side of the frame. Each pulley should be 20 inches from the header opposite the door-panel hinge. Use three 1-inch wood screws.
8. Insert the stair treads that came with the staircase into the slots provided, and secure them by drilling two wood screws on each side with the power drill. Tighten the ladder rods under each tread using the wrench. Do not insert the top three treads. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
9. Stand the staircase in the opening with a friend holding it. Climb up to the top, and squeeze the stringers together so the slide bars on the guide frame slip into the channel grooves on the outside of the stringers. Now you can install the top stair treads. Slide the guide frame onto the staircase, and attach it to the door panel with the drill and six 1-inch wood screws.
10. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mounting and adjusting the cables. Mount cable holders to the side of each stringer by taking the cable closest to the header and carefully pulling it out. Pull it across the small pulley and into the cable holder on the door. Do the same on the other side of the stairway.
11. Nail the finish nails into the molding around the perimeter of the opening with the hammer to give your opening a finished look.
Tips & Warnings
Wear a dust mask and safety goggles while using power tools and installing the attic staircase.