Hidden Attic Ladder

About: Technical Editor for two magazines. Software tester for the computer controlled electronic brakes of Locomotives.

See the Ladder? It's there. The only give away is the hook on the ceiling.

Step 1: The Before

After putting up the new shop wall and ceiling, having a ladder attached to the wall just didn't seem right.

Step 2: Prepping the Ceiling for Ladder Installation

My shop ceiling was recycled plywood, 2" Super TUFF-R polyisocyanurate insulation and floating plastic Palruf sheeting. The plastic floats on 3/4 x 3/4" pine strips. The strips, plastic and the polyiso insulation was removed between two rafters. A narrow 22.5" Louisville wooden ladder was purchased at HD. It had to be narrow enough to fit between the existing rafters.

Step 3: Unusual Installation

Normal installation for this type of ladder is to align the ladder flush with the ceiling, located below the rafters. Obviously that can't happen with this room because we early on, made a decision to place the finished ceiling flush with the top of the rafters to raise the ceiling height.

The ladder frame was built outward with 2x4's to allow the frame to set on top of the ceiling floor. Then the 2x4's were screwed into the floor to secure the frame in position.

Step 4: Flush With the Underside of the Floor.

The 2x4's were screwed to the ladder frame with the frame setting on scrap pieces of the floor so when the frame was dropped into the hole, it would be flush with the underside of the floor.

Step 5: What We Had Now

Open and closed.

Next the pull down rope was removed.

Step 6: Start Hiding the Ladder

The polyiso insulation was end capped with aluminum foil tape and screwed to the underside of the ladder's plywood cover with 2-1/2" drywall screws and Bostitch SBCAPS. This attachment method for the polyiso insulation was used extensively in the workshop.

Next the plastic roof material previously removed was glued to the polyiso insulation with Loctite PowerGrab. And finally the 3/4 x 3/4" strips were glued to the plastic roofing.

Step 7: With No Rope, How Do You Pull the Ladder Down?

Using 1" hardwood dowels, a small "T" handle was constructed to grab the iron hook and pull the ladder down. It normally hangs unobtrusively on the wall,

To give the iron hook something to screw into, I added a small piece of 1/2" plywood on the topside of the ladder to supplement the factory 1/4" plywood.

Step 8: With the Ladder Closed, It Is Nearly Invisible.

This is what you see when the ladder is closed.

At the hinge point of the ladder, the plastic roofing pivots downward because it is not attached to the ceiling when the ladder is opened. The 3/4" x 3/4" strips end at the pivot point, so that part stays with the ladder as it pivots down. The remaining plastic roofing near the wall is glued to the polyiso insulation with Loctite PowerGrab.

Step 9: Railing and Automatic Light Switch Added

Special 3/4" side outlet pipe elbows were ordered from Amazon to create a safety railing, using common 3/4" black iron pipe, around the ladder hole in the floor. Stock 3/4" floor flanges were used to attach the railings to the floor.

And the final touch was a push button switch, activated by lowering the ladder, to turn on the attic light. A Servalite refrigerator door switch was ordered from Lowes. Open the refrigerator door, light comes on or in this case, lower the ladder, light comes on. A small "L" bracket needed to be fabricated to hold the switch as shown. Then it was just a matter of running power and tuning the switch position in the bracket to activate the overhead light when the ladder dropped.

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