How to Install Attic Pulldown Stairs

Using the space in your loft for storing can be a pain when you have to get out a ladder each time you want to go up there. Ladders are also unstable sometimes and, if you’re not really careful, you can get hurt. Installing a pull-down attic staircase can make life a little easier. It will also open up a world of storage space that is easy to access whenever you want. This is not a project that you will want to take on alone and if you are not handy you should call in the loft experts from However, with a friend, you can complete this installation in a day.

Things You’ll Need:

Attic stairs, step ladder, flashlight hammer, saw drill tape measure, 3″ screws nails, wood shims, 1 x 4 boards, framing square, level, joist-size boards.

Step 1

Choose the location for your stairs. Check to be sure you have enough room for the stairs to open all the way and room around them to maneuver the things you will want to store. Check in the attic to make sure there is no duct work or wiring in the way. Run the unit between the joists, and do not cut any supporting joists to install the stairs. Install in a place where you can stand, or almost can stand, when entering the attic.

Step 2

Mark and cut your opening. From the attic, hammer two nails through the ceiling right next to a joist. This joist will be part of your framing for the stairs. Then from the ceiling side, use a framing square to draw your opening. Cut the ceiling away.

Step 3

Frame the opening. Cut two pieces of joist-sized board to fit in the front and back of the opening. Screw them in flush with the rough opening with 3″ wood screws to create your headers. Pound three nails through the joists into each of the headers.

Step 4

Create a temporary support for the unit. Cut two 1 x 4 boards two inches larger than the rough opening. Nail them to the ceiling so that they are 3/4″ over the opening. Use four nails on each support to make sure that each is strong enough to hold the unit.

Step 5

Put the unit in place. Have a friend pass the unit to you while you are in the attic. Place it in the opening, making sure you have the hinged end on the correct side of the opening. Fasten to the frame according to the manufacturer’s directions. Each unit will have its own set of directions which, if not followed, will void your warranty.

Step 6

Attach the unit to the frame. Remove the temporary supports, and open the unit. Do not extend the stairs. Shim the unit from the attic and check to make sure it is level. Finish attaching to the frame as the manufacturer’s directions require.

Step 7

Finish the installation. Trim the shims so they are even with the framing. Trim the bottom of the ladder if it does not sit level on the floor. Install trim around the door, and then paint or stain the attic door.


If you need to cut a joist to fit the stairs in place, have a certified builder or engineer make sure you are not cutting a support for the roofing system. Place plywood across the joists in the attic before you step on the ceiling and fall through.