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Even when the attic serves only as storage space, easy access is a necessity. If space is lacking to install a classic staircase, the retractable version is the ideal alternative.

Stairs to go in the attic

Necessary material

  • Manual opening retractable ladder
  • Chipboard panels and chevron sections 60 x 40 mm (hopper trim)
  • TF agglo screw Ø 5 x 60 mm
  • Wood glue

Difficulty : 3/4
Cost: from 70 €
Time: a day
Equipment : meter, spirit level, square, false square, aluminum ruler, drill, keys, handsaw, circular saw, stepladder...

The retractable ladder is the most practical solution when there is not enough space to install a conventional staircase or when the floor of the attic does not allow to install a hopper. There are two types of models: manual opening (the model presented here) or remotely controlled (more expensive).

An interesting compromise

The retractable staircase consists of two, three or four planes that fold over the back of a hatch, hinged in a rectangular frame (here a formwork waterproof panels CTBH 22 mm thick). Trap and staircase unfold with the help of a cane that actuates a latch. In addition to its reduced footprint, the retractable staircase has the advantage of releasing the surface of the starting landing. Folded to the ceiling, it disappears in the thickness of the floor of the attic, hidden by the trap which it is secured.

A reflective location for the retractable staircase

The hatch closes the passage to a space that is not necessarily heated and isolated. It is therefore relevant to choose a hatch model with a good coefficient "U" (thermal transmission of the material). This coefficient is expressed in W / m².K. It is between 0.5 and 2. The lower the value, the better the performance. The orientation of the staircase is determined primarily by that of the joists of the upper floor. Its width, it is defined by the spacing of the joists between which the frame of the hatch will take place. It must also be checked that it does not interfere with the opening of any door and that it has sufficient clearance.

Adapt the height of the stairs

The retractable models can be adapted to the ceiling height to the millimeter. Just cut the lower end of their silt. This operation, however, requires to identify these cuts accurately, so to false square. The staircase being fully extended, the angle to be taken up and postponed is that which separates the two planes; or the first and the second (starting from the bottom) if there are three.

Dressing of the hopper

Provide a hopper

  • Reserve a hopper next to the stairs when laying the 22mm thick CTBH waterproof panel floor covering the attic joists.

Cutting of side panels

  • Cut out the side panels of the hopper.
  • From the dimensions of the frame of the staircase (+ 10 mm of play), glue and screw two sections of rafters.

Screw the side panel

  • In order to adjust the internal dimensions of the hopper to those of the staircase, add spacers against the joists of the floor.
  • Then screw the first side panel.

Install the second side panel

  • Screw in the same way, the second side panel.
  • The gap between the panels must correspond to the exact width of the staircase to which is added 10 mm of play.

Screwing end panels

  • Cut out the end panels and screw them into the rafters.

Fix the dressing of the hopper

  • Check one last time the dimensions of the four sides forming the boot of the hopper, then add a few screws at the ends to strengthen the attachment of the assembly.

Draw landmarks to adapt the floor opening

  • To adapt the opening of the floor to the exact dimensions of the hopper, draw the corresponding marks to the ruler and to the square: the perpendicularity of the plots is essential.

Install the circular saw on a rail

  • Position a rail or ruler along one edge to guide the circular saw.
  • Rail or ruler must not shift: ask for help from another person if necessary.

Opening for the hopper

  • When the cut is complete, the edges of the opening coincide perfectly with the sides of the hopper.
  • A hole drilled with a hole saw corresponds here to a future switch.

Setting up the building

Mount blank of the hatch in the hopper

  • Present the frame of the hatch in the hopper.
  • Align the adjustment bracket with the area of ​​the ceiling (or false ceiling) closest to you.

Hold the frame to screw it

  • Bridle with clamps or ask for help to hold the frame for easier screwing into the hopper.

Screw the adjustment bracket

  • Position the adjustment bracket in the opposite angle (diagonally), then tighten.
  • Repeat the operation opposite and at the last angle.

Mounting the hatch

Fill gaps with holds

  • The hopper being larger than the staircase, the game reserved for departure now appears...
  • Fill it with wedges to avoid deforming the frame during screwing.

Adjust the frame

  • Measure and mark the marks, then screw the compass support plates into the frame and into the joists.
  • Check the horizontality of the frame and adjust it as needed.

Fixing the stairs

  • Present the first plan of the staircase fixed on the hatch.
  • Use the screws provided and screw the fixing plates in the foreground into the joists.

Screwing retaining bolts

  • Screw the retaining spring retaining bolts.

Hang the spring on the peak

  • Then rotate one of the compass to hang its spring on the corresponding peak.
  • Proceed in the same way for the other spring.

Fixing the retractable staircase

  • Unhook the springs to unfold the compass down.
  • Raise the hatch until it comes into contact with the compass.
  • Screw the second plates into the hatch.

Installation of the stairs leading to the attic

  • Hang up the springs and test...
  • The whole being incomplete, it tends to go up faster.
  • Brake the movement to prevent the trapdoor from closing itself.

Settings and finishes for the stairs and its hatch

Set the stairs

  • The test determines whether the hatch is horizontal.
  • Adjustment is possible thanks to the two M8 H-head screws that serve as stops on the compass support plates.

Assemble the plan

  • If the hatch and the staircase are maneuvered without problem, then assemble the second plane to the first to determine its final length.

Adjust the height of the stairs

  • The adjustment of the stairs to the ceiling height is to be done with precision.
  • Deploy the two planes of the staircase and if it does not open completely, it is necessary to rectify the length of the strings of the second plane (use a false square and a hand saw).

Screwing skates

  • Then screw the pads provided.

Screwing round peg

  • Re-assemble the second staircase.
  • Screw the round stud which controls the latch for locking the hatch.

Check the correct operation of the retractable staircase and the opening of the hatch

  • Then proceed to opening and closing tests using the hook perch sold with the staircase.


Video Instruction: How To Install An Attic Ladder - DIY At Bunnings