Introduction: DIY Attic Storage Assistance

Picture of DIY Attic Storage Assistance

So, it's cleaning season. You want to get rid of old boxes or heavy items and put them in your attic. Instead of breaking your back to store them, why not use a pulley system to lug them up at a fraction of the weight?

Inspiration for this Instructable first came about when my boyfriend and I had an extremely difficult time storing our fake Christmas tree in our attic after Christmas. This is our first home, and we certainly didn't like the idea of towing heavy things up a steep ladder. We are by no means lazy, it's more of the safety concern. I mentioned how difficult something like this must be for the elderly. Or, how could someone living alone ever accomplish such a feat!?

Could a roll system help assist with lugging materials and boxes up the attic with ease? With that being said we brainstormed this idea.

After we finished our Instructable, our work load was cut by 75%. Pulling up my heavy box of art supplies was substantially easier! Let me show you!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

The best benefit of 3D printing the wheels was to have the ability to modify them so the wheels would fit perfectly on the ladder and attach to the barrings. In our example, our wheels have a lip on them to better guide across the ladder.

Please let me stress, this is our specific measurements to our own attic ladder. Everyone's may vary. To successfully do this at your home, measurements must be made on your end and any variations need to be applied. Here is a list of materials you will need.

  • 3D printer for the wheels


  • skateboard bearings (average set size)
  • 5/16 inch washers
  • 5/16-24 nut. 4 count
  • 5/16-24 X 1-1/2 bolt
  • 2+ pulleys (your choice) The more you have the easier the load will be
  • 50ft of para chord or rope


  • Nail gun
  • saw or jigsaw
  • clamps (optional)
  • socket wrench
  • drill with bits
  • speed square
  • tape measure


  • 3/4in. x 2ft. x 2ft. plywood
  • 1in. x 2in. x 4ft. hardwood

Step 2: Visualize and Make Your Design

Picture of Visualize and Make Your Design

These designs were made in Solid Works. They are a basic design. I have attached the STL in case you wish to print out the exact work for the wheel yourself.

Step 3: Measure and Cut Plywood

Picture of Measure and Cut Plywood

This will be the bodywork of our Instructable. Measure the length of your attic ladder. This will determine the length of wood to be cut. Cut the plywood to 14" wide, unless your ladder varies. By using a jig saw, in order to cut straight, we clamped a long piece of wood and used it as a fence to cut a nice straight line. First world problems!

In the end though, we produced the same result.

Step 4: Making the Wheels!

Picture of Making the Wheels!

The most tedious part! Drill 4 holes in the 1"x2''x 2' wood pieces. This is where your wheels will go. Then use your socket wrench to screw in your bolt. To successfully attach the wheel, it will go as follows.

  1. Screw in bolt
  2. place washer on top of bolt
  3. place wheel on top of washer
  4. screw skateboard bearing to the wheel
  5. finally, attach the nut to the barring to hold it all in!

Step 5: Attach the Wheels to the Body

Picture of Attach the Wheels to the Body

Yay, now you should have four working wheels! Now it's time to attach the wheels to the body work of your Instructable. In order to prevent them from moving, it is highly recommended you clamp it down because the work is going to get flipped over.

To attach the wheels to the body, flip over the plywood board and use the nail gun to attach the components. We marked where the underside wood is with a pencil to keep a more straightened nail line. Be sure to leave 1 inch on the sides so the wheels will fit onto the ladder.

Step 6: TESTING 1,2,3...

Picture of TESTING 1,2,3...

With all wheels successfully attached. Be sure to try out how well it will all fit on your ladder. If it glides nice and smooth, you are right where you need to be.


Step 7: Making the Backboard and Adding Stability

Picture of Making the Backboard and Adding Stability

The backboard is very essential. It will need to be strong enough to carry heavy loads without buckling or breaking. Because of this, we added a small wood barrier to the back of the board just to give it more stability.

To also give more stability, we cut 1"x2''x 2' wood piece so it will fit in the bottom and complete the underside. This not only gives a place to attach the para chord later, but it also gives strength and stability.

Then, cut the plywood into 8" tall 14" wide so it will fit snugly on the body. This is the backboard. Place aside for later.

Use a leftover piece of plywood to attach to the bottom. This is simply to have the nails grip onto something and make the bond more durable.

To make the wood barrier, cut the 1"x2''x 2' wood piece to fit the back of the backboard. Use your handy dandy clamps to hold the wood steady and attach with a nail gun. Then , place your backboard in front of the wood piece and attach with a nail gun, with help from the clamps. Nail any spots you missed or feel needs more grip.

Step 8: Attach Pulleys and Para Chord

Picture of Attach Pulleys and Para Chord

Drill a hole for the para chord to fit in. Double knot and use a lighter to melt the para chord to prevent it from un-raveling (optional).

Attach your small pulley to the para chord in the front.

Attach your larger pulleys well to a stable board built inside your attic. You don't want them to fall out!

Thread your para chord through the pulleys in accordance to the diagram I have provided. I used #3. This is the 3 pulley system. The mechanical advantage in the diagram suggests the work load to be cut 75%.

Notice the MAGIC!

Step 9: Wow!

Picture of Wow!

Notice as your work load is cut 75%!

You can either pull your load from below, or one could do it from the attic. If you are working alone, you can pull the load from the attic without assistance! Game changer to someone living alone with no help at all.

Now I no longer fear going up the creaky stairs to the attic or falling off and breaking my back!

Hope you enjoyed my Instructable, take care!


CazT (author)2015-03-31

Super idea, what if I haven't got access to a 3D printer? Is there a ready made alternative? Sure hope so, because I've had back surgery and now find it even more difficult to put stuff up. Thanks for a brilliant instructable!!

NaamanW (author)CazT2016-12-25

They have lots of industrial hardwa

mwarren_us (author)CazT2016-01-16

Three ideas for DIY flanged wheels without a 3D printer:

1) Add a flange disk to a regular wheel. For example, cut disks from a thin nylon cutting board (e.g. an IKEA Legitim, US$1.50) using a hole saw (e.g. IKEA Fixa, US$5) and then mount the disk & wheel on the same axle; if necessary drill three matching holes through the disk & wheel to attach them together.

2) Use regular wheels and add guide posts that extend from the sled to just inside of the ladder rails.

3) Use flanged bearings as the wheels (e.g.

patsheldon (author)CazT2015-03-31

without access to a 3D printer, you can just take skateboard wheels and either cut them or find small enough wheels to fit the ladder. For an already made alternative, look for single sided plastic flanged wheels. Most of those come with bearings already installed.

kearney1 (author)patsheldon2015-11-19

Where would you buy the flanged wheels?

tinaciousz (author)CazT2015-04-02

Hi there! You can get this piece printed for a great price via 3D Hubs! We just launched the "Print this" button which means that every .STL file uploaded on Instructables now has a direct link to connect you with someone in your area who will print it for you. Check it out!

CazT (author)tinaciousz2015-04-03

Hi Tina,
Does this apply to the UK as well? I'm really happy and surprised with the contact I've received on here. This is the first time I've come on and asked a question.
Thanks very much

thormj (author)CazT2015-04-01

Look around on 3dHubs or MakeXYZ... I'm there, as are a ton of us with 3d printers that have idle time...

CazT (author)thormj2015-04-02

Hi and thanks everyone for your replies. I live in the UK and might find it difficult to shop, however, will look on Amazon. I've got a pretty good idea what I'm looking for thanks to your messages.

tovey (author)CazT2015-04-01

Look at wheels that are made for sliding doors. You may find something similar to these wheels. I've seen bearings at ACE Hardware that have a lip on one side which resemble these wheels. You may have to mod the design a bit to insure they work, but that should not be difficult since you would be building to your specific attic stairs any how.

patsheldon (author)2015-03-31

cbaerwaldt and makerdan, When you get to the top you can (the cheaper alternative) simply tie the para chord to a stable location in the attic. Or you can use a hand winch to pull the para chord in. The hand winch locks the para chord in place once you are finished so there'll be no slipping. This is probably the safer alternative for someone alone.

mikevb53 (author)2017-12-21

I have knife hinges on my ladder. Where do I get the flat hinges that I see in the pictures?

mikevb53 (author)2017-12-21

I have knife hinges on my ladder. Where do I find the flat hinges that I see in the photo?

copnomo (author)2017-11-24

Works IF your ladder hinge is level with the ladder.

TomasF1 (author)2015-04-01

Great solution, but are the wheels really necessary? Why not simplify the design to work as a sled.

patsheldon (author)TomasF12015-04-01

You could If you wanted. But keep in mind if you have heavy boxes there would be a lot of friction and make it harder to lift.

TomasF1 (author)patsheldon2015-04-02

I agree that wheels is the more elegant solution, but I think friction will be a small issue on such a steep ladder. Especially with the pulley system.

patsheldon (author)TomasF12015-04-02

Well I'm sure it can be done. If you do make it please take pictures! :)

averyhabbott (author)patsheldon2015-04-03

The best way to minimize friction, if you were to do a sled rather than wheels, would be to use a couple of runners to minimize the contact area and then to use some paste wax on the runners. A couple of coats of paste wax will last a long long time.

Also, if you were able to secure the load to something higher than the top rung (say, the rafters), then you could pull the load all the way into the attic, rather than leave it at the top of the ladder. I'm sure this isn't possible in all situations.

CarlFrostyS (author)averyhabbott2017-01-05

Did you use the sled idea? If so, do you have pictures?

averyhabbott (author)CarlFrostyS2017-02-11

I moved into a house that doesn't have easy attic access, so I never had a chance.

CJinTX (author)averyhabbott2017-10-20

We had only the small square attic access hole as well. But we put a drop down ladder in ourselves- the have a large attic and the entire area over the garage already had a floor .
Some friends who are not so handy had one installed. It is not that expensive either way when weighed against the extra storage space you gain.

I'm sorry, I should have led with:
This is a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing it.

patsheldon (author)averyhabbott2015-04-07

You're very welcome! And yes, that's a very good idea!! I think it will work. If you make it, please take pictures! :) sorry for late reply, I didn't see the comment! >.<

ElaineB52 (author)2017-02-20

Could you cut and sand edges of a PVC pipe length wise. Cut to length of ladder attach to ladder arms, leaving enough left over to attach to the undersides of the shuttle box (reverse direction) so that both pieces of pvc couple together and can slide against each other? To look like this?

patsheldon (author)ElaineB522017-04-30

Hi sorry for the late reply! I'm pretty sure you can! Very good idea :)

seppkolumbien (author)2017-04-25

agradezco esta idea, por que en diciembre tengo que bajar los adornos de navidad de la bodega y quedo extenuado, esta sera una forma mas fácil. Gracias!!

CarlFrostyS (author)2017-01-05

Are there any updates to this idea?

gollor (author)2016-06-27

Nice idea, but it seem like it has two problems: doesn't the paracord get in the way of any load you get all the way to the top? doesn't the position of the pulleys make anyone already at the top have to lean over to grab the load and pull it up the rest of the way?

You should move the pulleys up further, and put them on either side of the board, run the paracord lines to the far side of the attic opening thru a large eyelet. Then the lines should move out of the way of the load, and the load should be in a more convenient location for anyone at the top trying to get it off the board.

kearney1 (author)2015-11-19

My steps are flush with the side rails. So a flanged wheel won't work. Any suggestions on different wheels or a way to proceed in order to keep the wheels "on track" and not let the loaded cart fall off?

kimseymd (author)kearney12016-01-11

Possibly add two boards to the sides of ladder temporarily. That way you would be

able to roll the lift smoothly up or down and simply remove and store them to the side somewhere!!!

mefromliny (author)2015-10-17

Great! I made a simple one for work!

Andrew Burgess (author)2015-03-31

very cool. i have trouble getting up the ladder without carrying anything. i wonder if there is a way to stretch the attic part (connect top pulley to far attic wall?) such that you could send several boxes up before you had to climb up and unjam things. even two boxes would cut the people trips in half. you'd need to be able pull the cart across the attic and back down between trips and a remote way to tip/push the boxes off once in the attic. hmmm... thinking a little smaller, maybe you could stack two or three boxes at once on it now?

That's an awesome idea!

patsheldon (author)tinaciousz2015-04-06

Many thanks!

2hess (author)Andrew Burgess2015-04-06

I was also looking for a way to get the box into the attic, not only on the attic level... I'm kind of scared falling down the ladder while bowing down to lift the load from the cart.

Another addition I would add is some sort of luggage strap with a tarp in order to be able to lift open boxes close to vertically without something falling out (I'm especially thinking of all the boxes filled with Legos that are on the attic.

But, all in all, great and well-documented project!

You can probably extend it into the attic if you wish to take it further. Just extend the ladder rails to turn inside the attic. It would require more work though, but it can be done.

Gregarious (author)2015-04-05

A good project. Well described and presented.

I will be looking into making something similar using off-the-shelf components.

Thinking a reversible ratchet type addition could prevent back slippage.


patsheldon (author)Gregarious2015-04-06

Thank You!

rspeer (author)2015-04-04

As a general contractor I do a lot of structural upgrades on roofs and the engineer always makes the homeowner remove everything from the attic. The ceiling joists are NOT designed for this extra weight.

deborah.stevenson.98 (author)2015-04-04

great idea

MoTinkerGNome (author)2015-04-02

Protip - add a prusik to your haul rig to prevent the load from falling if the rope slips from your grasp.

tovey (author)2015-04-01

Add an electric winch from Harbor Freight and you have the makings of a good assistant for those with severe back issues.

Add to that a beefed cart that it can hold 300 pounds, and you have a mini elevator that will take most anyone up into the attic.

JessieS (author)2015-03-31

Is that skateboard bearings or is it barrings. I am not being a smart alec, I just don't know what skateboard parts are called.

TammyM2 (author)JessieS2015-04-01

I ususally look it up online if I'm not sure because, sometimes, a question may get several conflicting answers. Here's what I found

patsheldon (author)JessieS2015-03-31

bearings. Alas, I'm a teacher too, wouldn't you know it? Zoinks!

tinaciousz (author)2015-03-31

You get all the votes :)

patsheldon (author)tinaciousz2015-03-31

hey thanks :)

cbaerwaldt (author)2015-03-31

I have the same question as makerdan. What happens at the top? Looks like you cut a little wood out of the stairs to catch the front wheels when you pull your load up. It looks like there will be issues getting the cart over the pulley system, especially when you are alone.

makerdan (author)2015-03-31

I noticed that the photos only show the cart being on the first part of the attic ladder. The second part has that small rise to get over...does one push/pull to get past it or what exactly?

About This Instructable




Bio: I am currently an 8th grade science teacher. (tough work but I love it). I have also taught 2nd grade and Kindergarten. I love art ... More »
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