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Loft Ladders for Dummies

Updated on September 4, 2013

Living spaces that are built in out of the ordinary places such as above other rooms or close to ceilings are lofts and require a ladder to access them. If you have built a loft or bought a structure that had a loft already installed, you know that a typical construction ladder is both impractical and ugly for this application. This article will give you an overview of the variety of loft ladders on the market today was well as some tips to make your own. First, we will cover some basics about these unique household fixtures.

A loft ladder is a special ladder usually made of some type of wood as they are mostly required indoors but still need to be sturdy. It is just like a regular ladder however, they are designed with décor in mind instead of just for construction or work applications. They are commonly used to access living space that is hidden or too impractical to build a staircase for. For example, many attic spaces have folding loft ladders that extend when the trap door to the attic is pulled down. Some homes have loft spaces that are built above rooms and a ladder is required to access them. They can also be used wherever access is needed in a home and a staircase is impractical or unnecessary such as in a pole barn or other outdoor structure.

What are loft ladders made of?

Generally, loft ladders are made of different types of wood, most commonly pine, oak or particleboard with a glossy finish. A wooden loft ladder is the most common form of the style and is very sturdy and easy to install. Some ladders can be made of metal however these are commonly used in areas where décor is not as important as functionality like in a garage, access to attic space or in a pole barn. A timber loft ladder is also a common wooden ladder mostly applied in a folding version to access attic space. Some models even come with trap doors ready for installation into a ceiling in your home.

How much do loft ladders cost?

Depending on the material the ladder is made of, retail prices can range from a little under 100 dollars for a shorter wooden model that can be used for bunk beds or other shorter climbs all the way up to around 300 dollars for larger applications.  In general, timber loft ladders for attic space access are priced around 200 dollars.  Larger or metal models for outdoor or utility applications can be 300 to 400 dollars.

How are loft ladders installed?

Loft ladder installation is no easy task sometimes.  If you are planning to install a ladder that will always be visible and is used to go straight up and down to a loft space, some brackets and screws attached to the studs in the wall will suffice, however if you are planning to install a timber loft ladder into attic space, much more preparation and knowledge is needed.  These types of ladders usually have a doorjamb shaped box attached to the trap door and the ladder along with a lot of hardware.  It will usually come as one assembly and can be very heavy and awkward to handle.  It is a very tedious task to cut the old trap door out of a top floor ceiling.  If you have no similar trap door installed and only a smaller trap door with no stairs, you will have to cut a larger hole in your ceiling depending on the proportions of the timber ladder.  This opens up a can of worms because you now have to take into account the placement of electrical wires, any plumbing or fixtures as well as measuring to make sure the ladder will be able to extend and be free of obstacles when retracted or extended.  If this sounds like your situation you will probably want to contact a professional if you don’t know what you are doing.

How do I make my own loft ladder?

For simple designs, some of the following tips will work well.  To build your own timber loft ladder that retracts with a trap door, unless you are a professional ladder maker, would be too time consuming, labor intensive and complicated to do on your own.

First, you will want to measure the distance that the ladder needs to go to gain access to the loft space.  Two pieces of 2 by 6 inch lumber will be sufficient for most distances 10 to 14 feet.  The ends of the boards will need to be cut at an angle depending on how steep or not steep you want the ladder to be.  Next you need to divide the length you need the ladder to be by ten inches.  This will allow you to know how many rungs you need in the ladder.  Whatever the number ends up being is how many rungs you will need.  Rounding the answer to your calculation down may also be necessary.  2x4’s work great as rungs and you should cut them in 18 inch segments.  Sand all the pieces down so that they are relatively smooth and will not cause splinters.  Use four inch lag screws through the side of the ladder into the side of the rung.  Two per side, per rung should be sufficient however, but more will not hurt.  Just be careful not to split the 2x4’s.  After your ladder is assembled, test it, then paint or stain it if desired.

I hope that this answers some of your most common loft ladder questions.  The Internet is full of pictures of different models and styles based on your application for the ladder.  They are reasonable priced and you can even find pre-assembled models for specific uses like accessing attic space.  Making your own loft ladder is easy, cheap and can be made to look very professional.

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