Fitting a wooden loft ladder isn’t too tricky a job. There are several options for which style of ladder to purchase but for anything other than very occasional use a sliding or folding ladder which complies to the BS 7553 – H standard would probably be the most suitable.
Before choosing your ladder first measure the height from floor to loft floor.
Remember to add on the thickness of the joists in the loft, to ensure the ladder will fit – allow enough space in the loft for the ladder to be stored when the hatch is closed.
Some ladders can be purchased in packages which include a new loft hatch but the existing hatch can easily be used if just buying the ladder on its own (the ladder will include the required fittings), although the hatch will probably need to be enlarged.
It is important to get the correct hatch but a new one should only be cut after purchasing the ladder to ensure the correct dimensions are used.
But, in most modern houses the existing loft hatch should be large enough for a loft ladder but if not, enlarge the opening by following the advice on the loft hatch page.
You should not buy a new ladder unless it comes supplied with all necessary fittings including the locking catch for the new loft hatch door.
Good quality wooden loft ladders will be fitted with locks which will hold the ladder either in a closed or locked position and are ‘sprung’ so that it is easy to lower or raise.
Using a ladder, were possible, is a great space saver and of course takes up none of the second floor area when the ladder is retracted and the loft hatch closed.
The biggest benefit of using a wooden ladder rather than an aluminium type, apart from the fact that timber looks so much better than metal, is that a wooden ladder is so quiet to use in comparison to the noisy, squeaky metal ladders.
With wooden loft ladders there are two common types available – concertina and sliding / extending.
A concertina style ladder takes up less space than a sliding ladder but does require an insulated cover which must be hinged to allow access to the loft when the ladder is in use.
A sliding or extending ladder takes up more space than a concertina type but is the more commonly used for two very good reasons – they are very much easier to use and are almost always fitted with handrails – something which only the very expensive concertina ladders have.
Actually fitting the ladder to the top of the trimmers in the roof space is quite straight forward and all ladders come with full fitting instructions and is simply a matter of attaching the ladder to the trimmers above the loft hatch.
A good tip is to always drill pilot holes for the trimmer screws as they will be large and can easily split the timber or become damaged if trying to force them home without a pilot hole.
Once the ladder has been fixed to the loft hatch, the hatch itself should be insulated (unless using a pre-manufactured unit which is supplied fully thermally insulated) with a draft preventing seal fitted around the hatch.
Again, a pre-manufactured loft hatch will be supplied with its own seals and all other necessary fittings.
For more info see the related pages below
Structural calculations for loft conversions are of course hugely important to ensure safety and that the proposed plans meet building regulations
What is the difference between planning permission and building regulations approval for loft conversions ?
Using And Fitting Loose Fill Insulation In Your Loft