Roof Space Pull-Down Ladders

Roof space pull-down ladders, also called pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the roof space ceiling frame. Occupants can use these ladders to access their roof space without being required to carry a portable ladder.

Common Defects

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install roof space pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

  • cut the bottom cord of the structural truss. Often, property owners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Property owners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16 nails or screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason.
  • lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated roof space hatch allows air from the roof space to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run over time. A man-hole cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • roof space pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor; 
  • roof space pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure on the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;
  • roof space ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  • closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work.
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders. 
  • In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously. 

Tips when using Roof Space ladders

  • Do not allow children to enter the roof space through a roof space access. The lanyard attached to the roof void stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the roof space ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the roof space. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag or tub full of heavy items.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminium models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

In summary, roof space pull-down ladders are prone to several defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

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