A very common feature in older homes is the limited-access attic space. Whether it’s a mid-century ranch house or a rambling three-story Victorian, many older homes have an attic space that is only accessible via a small opening in the ceiling. And in most cases, homeowners who want access to the unfinished attic space opt to install a set of the best pull down attic stairs. These stairs can be lowered when you want to enter the attic but can be stored in the attic out of the way when you don’t need it.
The typical attic opening is usually 22½ or 25 inches by 54 inches and there are dozens of choices available. You can find them made from wood, aluminum or steel with different levels of strength made to hold different weights of people. Many have a standard tread size, but some are available with wider treads that make it easier for some folks to get up and down.
There is also a wide variety of pull down attic stair designs available, ranging from simple ladder-like designs to ones with handrails that telescope and lock like an old-fashioned shaving mirror. Some are hidden behind a panel in the ceiling and some of the models include an insulated door that seals up tight to prevent heat and cooling loss. And for some people, the decision is complicated by the fact that their attic hatch is smaller than the standard size and is located in the ceiling of the closet.
So what should you look for when you’re shopping for a set of the best pull down attic stairs? We have some suggestions:
Best Pull Down Attic Stairs – Mini Buyers Guide
Get The Right Size For Your Home
Attic access openings can vary in size. So measure your opening in three spots and select a set of doors that will fit inside the smallest measurement. You also want to be aware of ceiling height, especially if you’re selecting stairs that telescope down. Make sure there’s enough room for them to deploy completely. Also, doublecheck to make sure you have adequate clearance height and space for the mechanism in the attic.
Select Something Sturdy
No matter what your size select a set of stairs that are weight-tested for at least 300 pounds. They’ll be made of the sturdiest materials and will hold up for a longer period of time. Also, you never know who might use the stairs in the future, so having some wiggle room for weight capacity is always a smart idea. Along these lines, check out the strength and durability of the hinges on your potential purchase because these tend to be the trouble spots with most ladders.
Rails Or No Rails
You can purchase stairs with side rails or without and both choices are equally fine. Stairs without rails tend to be cheaper, but if you think balance might be an issue or if you plan to haul bulkier objects up and down the stairs, you might want to opt for the rails. Some attic stairs come with rails that can be removed until you then, which is a nice extra.
Wood Or Metal
Both wood and metal ladders and pull down attic stairs are sturdy and which one you choose generally comes down to cost and personal preference. Although it’s important to remember that when the attic stairs are closed, they’ll be stored in that attic space, which oftentimes is not heated or cooled. One advantage of wood is that you don’t have to worry as much about pulling down a set of cold or hot steps when you are ready to get into the attic.
If you now find yourself intimidated by the wide range of choices, we can offer some help. We’ve selected ten models of pull-down stairs that we think are some of the best on the market. We’ve highlighted their pluses and minuses and we think once you’ve read this, you’ll have everything you need to pick the best set of pull down attic stairs for your home.
Best Pull Down Attic Stairs Reviews
Louisville Ladder AA259GS Elite Aluminum Attic Ladder 350 Pound Capacity 25.5-Inch by 54-Inch Opening Ceiling Height 7-Foot-9-Inches to 10-Foot
This pull-down aluminum ladder includes an insulated access door, an EZ-hang strap and all of the materials needed to install it in your home. The ladder uses gas cylinders to extend the ladder instead of the typical traditional spring mechanism. That makes it easier to extend and retract the ladder and prevents it from slamming shut. It also offers more clearance space, which allows you to carry larger objects safely up the ladder. The ladder is delivered assembled and will only need to be adjusted to fit your space.
If you’re looking for something different, this attic ladder certainly fits the bill. Instead of regular star treads, this ladder uses S-shaped steel scissor treads that offer a modern look that is very distinctive. It has a weight capacity of 300 pounds and an insulated wooden frame to help cut down on energy loss. And once fully open, the mechanism holds the ladder and hatch in place so it won’t inadvertently close without warning. One caveat is that because of its construction and weight, it’s a bit more difficult to install than traditional attic stairs. But it’s not a huge issue and you end up with a distinctive and sturdy entryway to the attic.
This telescoping aluminum ladder is rated for 300 lbs weight. It has a spring release that allows for a one-touch open and shut of the ladder. It comes with non-stick feet and it does not come with the attic door. Which makes it a great choice for someone who is happy with their current attic door and is simply looking for a simple and easy-to-use pull-down attic ladder.
This aluminum ladder is a great choice for houses where space and/or clearance is an issue. This low-profile attic ladder fits into small openings and has a pulldown pole which helps with extending the unit. It has non-marring feet and the telescoping design is rated for up to 250 pounds. The ladder stores horizontally in the attic and because of the design you’ll need at least 26 inches of clearance in the attic. This does not come with the attic door.
Louisville Ladder S254P 250-Pound Duty Rating Wooden Attic Ladder Fits 7-Foot to 8-Foot 9-Inch Ceiling Height, 25.5-to-54-Inch Rough Opening
This adjustable spring tension is another good choice for homes with a small attic opening or tight clearance. It’s rated up to 250-lb user weight and it has 3-1/2inch deep reinforced steps. an ergonomic T-strap and pull-down straps. There is a wire rod running under each wooden step for extra strength and the heavy-duty hinges along with a “full grip” handrail for added safety. The package comes with the ladder, the door frame, and the door itself.
This is a great choice if you’re looking for a beefier, more substantial set of pull down attic stairs. Weight tested to 350 lbs., this set has a counter-balance mechanism that eliminates sag and a pull string that makes it easy to operate. It comes with an insulated attic door that will lessen the chance of heat or cooling loss when the ladder is not in use. The enclosed full-pine attic door which can be painted has a full width 90-degree wrap-around hinge that minimizes heat loss.
This ladder is an ideal for attic openings that are larger than the norm or have been cut in an unusual size. The adjustable wooden door frame is insulated and can be used in openings up to 54 inches. It is weight tested to 300 lbs and the weight balanced door opens and closes with one hand. The ladder and the box frame are constructed of pine and optional red handrails can be installed to increase safety. The three-piece ladder does require two people for its installation and in order to properly adjust the ladder height. It is larger and manufactured of more substantial materials than many of its competitors. But that makes it the best in class choice for situations that require heavier objects up and down the attic stairs.
In some homes, the opening to the attic is small and located in a closet or other tight space. In those cases, the best option isn’t an attic ladder or attic step system complete with door and other extras. The most useful option is a strong and simple extendable ladder you can use to climb in and out of the attic. This multi-section aluminum ladder stands about five feet tall before it is extended. It has non-slip feet and it includes an aluminum assist pole. If you do want to permanently install the ladder, the brackets and other screws are included. But you would have to purchase an attic door separately.
With a maximum weight use of 350 lbs, this insulated steel attic ladder is a good choice for someone looking to balance strength with ease of use. It comes with a pine insulated door frame that has an R factor of 5.2. This will help your energy costs in winter and summer. Constructed of powder-coated metal, the ladder can be raised and lowered with one hand. The door hatch is made of high-quality Pinewood. Also, the ladder is designed so that it will lock in place for additional safety when it is fully extended. There are optional handrails that can be purchased and installed on one or both sides.
While this is a pricier choice than many of the other systems listed here, it has a really impressive upscale look. The steel “scissor-type” steps are powder-coated in grey and have an appropriately expensive look. The hatch box is made of melamine-finished MDF. Also, the 1-inch styrofoam-insulated hatch door is made of the same material. The 12-inch steel treads are sturdy and are weight-tested to 350 lbs. The self-rising stairs can be operated with one hand.
Reading this guide should give you a good feel for the type of pull-down attic stair system that works best for you. These stairs are very handy to have they can offer easy access to your attic for many years to come.