How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

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

What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?

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?

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house? 

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

• 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? 

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

 Is a house required to have an attic?

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

 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? 

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

Where is the attic?

• When does code require an attic pull-down ladder to be installed? 

• What are the code requirements for an attic catwalk/walkway? 

Does the code require a barrier/well around the attic access hatch for blown insulation? 

• What is best location for attic access hatch?

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