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

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house? 

• Are soffit/eave vents required by code for attic ventilation?

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

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

• How often should I check my 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? 

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

• Why are there leaves in my attic? 

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

 Is a house required to have an attic? 

 Is cellulose insulation flammable?

• What are the building code requirements for installing a heat pump air handler (indoor unit) in the attic?

Should I buy a house with no attic access hatch? 

Should I move my air conditioner into the attic?

• When is a house not required to have an attic access hatch? 

Why is there diagonal bracing at the roof rafters in the attic?

Does a mobile home have an attic? 

What is the minimum size for attic access opening?

• Is it okay to put plywood flooring in an attic? 

     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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