how to make attic door

person opening an attic door showing the folding steps and revealing the upstairs attic
Tools Needed
1 Tarp
2 Level
3 Pencil
4 Measuring Tape
5 Stud Finder
6 Blue Tape
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Materials Needed
1 Drywall Saw
2 Insulation
3 2x4s planks
4 ½ Inch Wide Trim
5 Nail Gun
6 Caulk
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Total Cost
$50-$100
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Estimated Time
3-4 Hours
Skill Level: Advanced
The total cost and duration may vary when hiring a handyman!

Project Overview

person climbing up the stairs that fold out of the attic door carrying some things to store in the attic

If you don’t have much space inside of your home, which happens to just about everyone, it is time to do something about that. You need a storage solution that might just be easier than you thought. Just about every house has a little attic area. Generally, it isn’t cooled or heated and doesn’t have much space for you to move around but you can store some things in it such as luggage, decorations, out of season clothing and more.

However, you need an easy access to your attic area and by learning how to make an attic door, you will have your solution. If you already have an older staircase to your attic area, these may be a bit dangerous. By following the steps here, you can make your attic door bigger and easier to get through. You will only need to enlarge the doorway, put it an easier staircase and some steel cables. There will even be a handrail so it is safer as well.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1

Cut Out the Opening for Access to Attic

person opening the attic door panel to open the attic door hole

The first thing you will need to do is to cut out the opening for the access to your attic. If there is already one but it isn’t big enough, you can easily adjust the size to make it larger. You should start by putting lines of chalk along the ceiling to mark an estimated opening size for your attic door. This should be done if you are creating a new attic door or whether you are expanding your current one. Check the attic area to make sure there are no wires or pipes. You wouldn’t want to cut through any of those when you are building your door opening with the saw.

2

Build Frame for Opening

two people measuring the attic door opening

The chalk lines are going to be where you will be creating the opening of your attic door. In the previous step, you checked to see if there were any pipes or wires in the way of where you will be cutting. If there is any obstructions or joints in the way, you will want to move them out of the way before you start cutting through the ceiling to build your doorway opening.

Now it is time for you to build the frame for your opening. You will want to cut out the four sides evenly. This is like the trim for the door opening. Each side should be cut with an angle so that it will line up perfectly with the next. You can then place your first one and nail it in. Do the same with the second. Before you nail in the third one, temporarily place the fourth so you know everything will line up well. Then you can nail the third and fourth trim boards into place.

3

Mounting Door Panel

metal door frame hardware pieces

After you have built the frame for your opening, you can mount the door panel. You will attach this to one side of the frame you have just built. This will be done using a continuous hinge. It will help to hold the stair case into its place. You should check to make sure your door can swing open and be sure it is going to close without getting stuck too. It should fit well within the frame.

4

Installing the Spring Drums System

open attic door with a person standing on the fold out steps and showing the spring and pulley assembly

Once you have mounted the door panel, you can now install the spring drums. This step doesn’t take long. This is done to make sure that everything fits just right into the frame without being too tight. The springs bounce a bit so that the door will come back into place without much force.

Next, you are going to be installing a working pulley system. You want to make sure that the staircase will pull down properly without much work. You should drill a hole into the top of your staircase so you can place a chord through it. Make sure to double knot this so it stays tight. You can put a lighter to the end of the chord so it won’t unravel. Now you can put a little pulley at the front of your chord. Attach a bigger pulley onto the board you place in the attic. Now pull the chord through each pulley and pull it to the door opening. When you pull down the door, the staircase can come down as well.

5

Creating Your Folding Staircase

person pulling on string attached to the attic door slightly open showing the folding staircase that can fold out for accessing the attic

There are numerous ways that you can build your staircase. As long as you have your two side boards, steps and handrails you will be all set. Looking online at various staircase options is your best bet. This way you can make it as simple or as advanced as you would like it to be.

Now, you will need to attach the staircase you built to the door panel. Stand your staircase up in through the opening of the attic and get someone to hold the base as you go up the steps. Hold the top stringers and squeeze each until your sliding bars are lined up with the frame. Now, put the frame through the side of the staircase and attach it securely to the door panel using screws.

You should have some pilot holes along the tread and this is where you will put cable holders. You should grab a cable that is nearest your header and pull it easily out. This would be near the spring drums. Now, pulling the cable over the small pulley and then down your cable holder, you can mount it onto your door. Then, you will hook up the cable into each holder. Do this for connecting the cable on the drum to the opposite side of the staircase as well.

Conclusion

Finally, you should create the proper tension for the cables. You want your staircase to move smoothly up and down without it slamming. If your door won’t close fully, add some more tension by taking the cables off and wrapping them over the spring drums a couple of times and then put them back on. Now, nail your molding to the perimeter of your opening. You can then pain the trim or door to match your ceiling if you would like.

This is how you make an attic door. If you already have an attic door but you would like to enlarge it, you can do this as well. You don’t necessarily have to make the staircase if you want to put a ladder through the opening that is up to you. However, you will still need to follow along with the first few steps to make the opening and the frame around the opening too.

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