Home & Leisure



Do It Yourself or Not: Install attic stairs

By Gene and Katie Hamilton, Tribune Content Agency on

Foldaway attic stairs untap storage space and make it easy to access an otherwise difficult-to-reach upper area of a home. The unit is a complete framed assembly with a folding, sectional ladder designed to be installed in a ceiling opening. That's the scary part: You have to cut a rather large hole in the ceiling of the second floor, not a job to be taken lightly.

The unit is bolted into the rough opening, then trimmed with molding and painted for a finished look on the ceiling. Stair units are sold at home centers and lumberyards in a range of ceiling heights from 8 to 10 feet. For higher ceilings there's a 12-foot model.

While you'll save 56% by doing the job yourself, we suggest you hire a carpenter or contractor, who will charge $534 to install a good quality, three-section, 25-inch-wide unit for an 8- to 9-foot ceiling. That includes the labor and material. You can buy the unit for $235 and install it, assuming you have the tools and are confident in your carpentry skills. The job involves cutting through ceiling joists and reinforcing them with headers without destroying the integrity and strength of the joists -- clearly a job for an experienced professional.

Consider your options for placing the stairs with a carpenter who will inspect the ceiling joists and suggest the best location for the foldaway unit. Ideally, it should unfold into a room or hallway and be easily accessible. Schedule the inspection with the carpenter during the day so you'll have light in the attic. Have a ladder, flashlight and measuring tape handy.


Pro Cost: $534 -- DIY Cost: $235
Pro time: 6.4 -- DIY Time: 11.0
DIY Savings: $299 -- Percent Saved: 56%


To find more DIY project costs and to post comments and questions, visit www.diyornot.com.



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