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What is the building code for attic access stairs?
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
An attic access stair or pull-down attic stair is not required by code for a non-habitable attic. Only an access opening is mandated. See What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door? for the specs.
If you do build a permanent stairway to a non-habitable attic, it must meet the same standards as any residential stair. But a “pull-down attic stair” is actually a ladder, not a stair, and is not restricted by code, with one exception: the cover panel of an attic access ladder in a garage must have fire resistance equal to 1/2” drywall. See Why are most pull-down attic ladders not approved by building code for installation in a garage? for more on this.
It’s still important to follow manufacturer’s installation instructions, even without code compliance concerns, because a poorly installed attic ladder is “an accident waiting to happen.” Most manufacturers mark their ladder with specific installation instructions and warnings directly on the ladder at multiple locations. Making secure contact with the floor below the opening is also very important for safety. Examples of how not to install one can be found at What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?
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