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Where should attic access be placed by code?
Monday, April 20, 2020
The attic access opening must be located in a “hallway or other readily accessible location” according to the International Residential Code (IRC R807). Also, the “minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be 30” at some point above the access” and the minimum rough framed access opening cannot be less than 22” wide by 30” long. So, for example, it should not be above shelving in a closet or so close to the bearing point of roof rafters or trusses that there is not enough headroom to safely get in and out of the opening without being a contortionist.
But there are no rooms in a home that are off-limits by code. So a bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom is acceptable as long as the hatch is “readily accessible,” the framed rough opening is minimum 22” x 30”, and there is a minimum of 30” of headroom above the opening.
If there is an appliance in the attic—such as a furnace, a/c air handler, or water heater—the opening must be large enough to remove the appliance for replacement, and a passageway to it from the opening with continuous solid flooring must be installed. See our article What are the building code requirements for installing an appliance (furnace, air handler, water heater) in the attic? for more details.
Also, see our blog posts What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements? and What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?
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