Retractable Attic Stair Types

What to Look for when Buying Retractable Attic Stairs

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have a larger attic area installing retractable attic stairs is a great way to better ingress/egress and utilize your attic space. Installing retractable attic stairs however can be somewhat difficult and dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. If your home’s roof is built using trusses, for example, you do not want to cut the trusses without first speaking with your local building inspector or a building contractor.

Before installing retractable attic stairs, you first need to know what type of attic stairs to install.

Attic stairs can be purchased at most home improvement stores and come in a variety of types and sizes, thus your decision can become a little complicated.

Today, attic stairs are available in wood, steel and aluminum. Some are designed to require minimum landing space via use of telescopic like rails. Others fold open.

The standard opening requirement for most attic stairs is 22 1/2” x 54”, however you can find some that are slightly wider. It is also important to select an attic stair system that supports your ceiling height. Most retractable attic stair systems support a ceiling height range of 7’ 4” to 8’ 4’.

When selecting an attic stair, look for ones that have higher load capacities, as we inevitably overuse attic stairs once we have them installed. I would highly suggest selecting an attic stair system that has a load capacity of at least 250 lbs, and preferably higher, e.g. 350 lbs.

Also make sure that the attic stair system closes tightly so that warm or cool air stays in the living area of the home and does not go into the attic. Look for types that have a foam seal and/or weather stripping around the doorway of the retractable attic stair system.

For help on Attic Conversion and Attic Renovation Projects, see’s Attic Conversion Bid Sheet. The Attic Conversion Bid sheet will help to ensure that you hire the right contractor so that your attic conversion project is built correctly, on time and budget.

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