Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Here’s our list of five possible reasons why you cannot find an attic access in the house:

1) Attics that are small (less than 30 square feet of area) or under a low-slope roof that does not have a minimum of 30 inches of clear opening height between the top and bottom structural members are not required to have an attic hatch by the building code.

2) The attic access opening may have been removed during a remodeling. This is not a good sign. If you find this situation in a house you are considering buying, do not proceed until the seller provides an attic access for examination by you and your home inspector.

3) If the residence is a condominium in a building with multiple units under one large attic, the access hatch may be in an adjacent unit. This is common in older buildings that have been converted from rental apartments to condominium ownership and do not have firewalls between units. Be aware that if you decide to add an attic access hatch or fold-down ladder it should be lockable. Otherwise, you have provided easy access for theft through the attic access openings of any adjacent units.

4) If the house is mid-century modern style with a flat or shed roof, there may be no attic. The ceiling is attached to the bottom of the roof rafters in most of these homes.

5) The access opening may be there, but not in a place that you would expect to find it. Older houses sometimes have a ridiculously small (18”x18”) attic hatch in the corner of a bedroom closet. Stored items on the top shelf of the closet may be concealing it. Also, the access may a small door the wall of an upper-story room or high in the wall between the garage and house. Some very old homes have attic access only through a removable vent panel at a gable end wall of the roof.

    Although a minimum of one attic access opening is required by the building code for homes that meet that minimum requirement mentioned earlier, one access may not be enough for large homes, especially ones with a center cathedral ceiling that becomes an obstacle separating the two sides of the attic. So you might consider having a second access hatch installed to make it easier to keep tabs on the condition of your attic if you have this situation.

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Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about ATTICS:

What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements? 

What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic? 

What is the most common type of roof-to-wall attachment?

Is an attic required to have a light by the building code?  

What are the building code requirements for installing an appliance (furnace, air handler, water heater) in the attic?

How do I safely remove a dead rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) from the attic?

What are the common problems with attic insulation? 

How do I safely clean up rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) urine or droppings the attic?

What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?

Why is vermiculite attic insulation a problem for both buyers and sellers of a home? 

What are the code requirements for NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable or Romex®) in an attic? 

What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic? 

• When was a fire separation in the attic first required between sides of a duplex? 

    Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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