Attic Ladder Safety- Encinitas Home Inspector
I see all kinds of attic ladders during home inspections in any given week. Some are safe to use, most are not. Attic ladders are collapsible ladders permanently attached to the attic floor. If installed properly, they are great features to have in your home. It sure is easier than retrieving a step ladder every time you need something from the attic! Since ceiling heights are usually eight to twelve feet, improper installation can present a serious safety hazard. Most of the problems I see with attic ladders are due to homeowner installation. Here are some common defects I see:
Roof trusses are cut when installing an attic ladder: Roof trusses are engineered structural members of a home. They should not be cut or modified in any way without engineering approval. This may compromise the structural integrity of the home.
Drywall screws used as fasteners: Most homeowners are not aware that screws do not have nearly the shear strength of a nail the same size. 16-penny nails should be driven in the holes at the base plates for the springs and hinges. (I'm amazed every time I see an empty bracket hole with a label next to it stating, "Drive nail through hole in metal bracket"!) Nails or lag screws should also be used to fasten the attic ladder frame.
Loose or missing nuts and bolts: This condition is most often caused by age rather than the installation.
The attic ladder is cut too long or short: If the ladder is cut too long, it places undue pressure on the folding hinges, which can cause breakage. If it is cut short, it doesn't reach the floor or is too vertical, which may cause falling.
An attic ladder is installed in the garage ceiling causing a breach in the fire barrier between the garage and house: If there is not an attic firewall in place, an attic ladder should not be installed in a garage. I do not know of any attic ladders approved for installation in a fire barrier.
The attic ladder stringers or steps are cracked: This safety hazard is a very common problem with wooden ladders. This issue makes the lightweight aluminum attic ladders very attractive.
Here are a few more safety tips: Always face the ladder when climbing, make sure you do not exceed the ladder's weight limit, and avoid carrying large loads. I hope these tips on attic ladder safety from your Encinitas home inspector help you and your loved ones stay safe! Steve Stenros, an Encinitas home inspector, is the owner of First Choice Inspections and is a CREIA MCI inspector. Clients receive a FREE lifetime appliance RecallChek with every standard home inspection. Appointments can be obtained by calling 888-335-3040.
Steve Stenros, MCI
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