A home’s attic is often an area of untapped potential. You know it’s up there, but it’s a hassle to access for storage, much less use it as living space. Installing a new attic ladder or replacing an old one can change all that, opening up a whole floor to be used for whatever you like—home office, yoga studio, sleeping loft for guests, you name it!
The best attic ladder is easy to use, durable, and sturdy enough to support your heftiest family member, and the heaviest object that person might carry. But attic ladders are not one size fits all, so to choose the right model for your home, consider these seven, each regarded as some of the best in their respective category.
- TOP PICK: FAKRO LMS 66866 Insulated Steel Attic Ladder
- RUNNER UP: Louisville Ladder 22.5-by-54-Inch Wooden Attic Ladder
- TELESCOPING PICK: Werner Sliding Aluminum Attic Ladder
- FOLDING PICK: FAKRO LWP 66802 Insulated Attic Ladder
- SCISSOR-STYLE PICK: FAKRO LST 66823 Insulated Steel Scissor Attic Ladder
- HONORABLE MENTION: WolfWise Telescopic Extension Multi-Purpose Ladder
Types of Attic Ladders
There are four main categories of attic stairs: telescoping, folding, scissor style, and electric.
Telescoping attic ladders come in mobile or semi-permanent designs allowing them to be installed in your attic or stored nearby. These ladders take up less space than folding ladders, thanks to fitted mechanisms on the side supports and steps allowing them to collapse into themselves. When needed, just pull on the bottom step and the ladder extends out.
Folding attic ladders can fold up into two, three, or four sections, depending on the length of the ladder, the height of the ceiling, and available clearance space for folding. These attic ladders are stronger than telescoping ladders and are easy to use, but they take up a significant amount of attic space because they lie on the floor when closed.
These ladders, which have scissor-style collapsible rungs for easy storage, have two main benefits over their counterparts. The scissor-style steps don’t slide too quickly during unfolding (the way telescoping ladders do), and they don’t require a large clearance space to unfold (like folding ladders do).
Powered by direct wiring to raise and lower with the push of a button, pricey electric attic ladders are new to the market. Some high-end models can be operated with a smart device. These are a good option if you have a physical disability that would prevent you from pulling down a manual attic ladder or if you are looking to add another automated smart home feature to your house.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Attic Ladder
Keep these factors and features in mind when shopping for an attic ladder.
One of the first things to ascertain before purchasing an attic ladder is the height of the ceiling below. Because manufacturers have already measured the angle of their product, you only need to be concerned with the distance between the attic opening and the floor of the room below. Most attic stairs will fit a ceiling height between 7 to 10 feet, but you should double-check your ceiling height: Purchase a ladder that’s too long or too short and you won’t be able to use it. To measure, have a helper in the attic hold one end of a tape measure at the attic opening while you extend the tape until it touches the floor directly underneath. The reading on your tape at this extension is the height of your ceiling.
Dimensions and Weight
Attic ladder descriptions include dimensions for the length and width of the attic opening that they fit. If your attic already has an opening, measure its width and length before buying an attic ladder. If, however, you’re cutting a new opening, cut the hole to a length of 54 inches by a width of 22.5 inches, because most attic ladders are designed for an opening of this size.
Attic ladders also have weight restrictions that can range from just 200 pounds to over 400 pounds. If your family members are on the slight side and you won’t be bringing particularly heavy items up to the attic, you may not need a heavy-duty ladder capable of supporting 300 pounds. lf your family members are within 10 pounds of the weight limit, don’t take the risk of a ladder breaking while in use; buy a stronger attic ladder so you can use it with confidence and safety.
Attic ladders are generally made of aluminum, steel, or wood.
- Aluminum attic ladders, typically the top choice, are strong yet lightweight, making them easy to access. A rust- and rot-resistant metal, aluminum is the ideal option in high-moisture climates. Aluminum ladders are fire resistant and generally more affordable than their steel or wood counterparts.
- Steel attic ladders are stronger—and pricier—than wood and aluminum; they are also moisture- and fire-resistant. Invest in one if the attic will be used on a regular basis, particularly as a living space.
- Wood attic ladders are strong and resilient, and some may be treated to be fire-resistant, but due to the porous nature of wood, they’re more susceptible to the effects of moisture and temperature changes. Wood can also have natural defects that could result in premature wear.
Ease of Installation
Though ease of installation depends largely on the ladder type, any model you purchase should include clear, easy-to-understand installation and operation instructions.
- Telescoping and scissor-style attic ladders are relatively easy to install compared to folding ladders. They’re fastened either to the ceiling joist above or floor stud below the attic floor, easily collapsing up into the attic when not in use.
- Folding attic ladders need to be attached to a hatch or opening so that they can swing down and unfold. So you will also need to install a hatch capable of supporting the weight of the ladder and some weight of the climbers, though most of the weight is supported by the feet of the ladder when it is unfolded and resting on the floor. This can make installation more involved than telescoping or scissor-style attic ladders.
- Electric attic ladders have similar installation challenges to the other types, but also require wiring the ladder directly into your electrical system. These ladders may also require additional setup on your smartphone if they are WiFi or Bluetooth enabled.
Fire resistance is an important factor for attic ladders—in case of a home fire, anyone in the attic will need a safe route down and out. Most ladders offer some fire resistance, with both aluminum and steel having a natural resistance to heat, yet not all aluminum and steel ladders go through the required testing to be designated as fire-rated. The term “fire-rated” certifies the product has passed official fire resistance tests. It can be awarded to aluminum, steel, and even some wooden attic ladders.
Check local building codes on your local government website or town hall to find out what restrictions may be in place, as some locations only permit fire-resistant attic ladders. Even if that’s not the case for your home, the added safety factor of a fire-resistant ladder is of inestimable value, especially if the attic is being used as a living space.
Attic ladders can come with various safety features, including handrails, slip-resistant steps, and locking latches.
- Handrails can be included on one or both sides of the attic stairs, giving an area to grip when ascending and descending the steep ladder rungs.
- Slip-resistant steps are grooved or coated with rubber to provide more friction and grip-surface for your feet. This simple addition helps prevent slipping when climbing up and down.
- Locking latches are found on folding ladders to lock the ladder in place once the sections have folded down. This prevents the ladder from bouncing at the hinges, giving you a more rigid climb.
Our Top Picks
The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best attic ladder for your home.
This steel attic ladder from FAKRO is capable of supporting up to 350 pounds and comes with an insulated pinewood frame and door. The ladder can be folded up into three sections and fits several common rough-opening dimensions—22-inch-by-47-inch, 22-inch-by-54-inch, 25-inch-by-47-inch, and 30-inch-by-54-inch attic openings.
The ladder—suitable for use with ceiling heights between 7 feet and 2 inches and 8 feet by 10 inches—uses a unique opening mechanism to ensure that the ladder opens slowly, while the tread pattern on the surface of the rungs prevents slipping. When the hatch is fully open, a safety mechanism keeps it from accidentally slamming shut.
From Louisville Ladder, this folding wood attic ladder is a budget-friendly option that folds up into three different sections and uses an exclusive EZ hang system for simple installation. It’s suitable for use with ceiling heights from 7 feet to 10 feet tall and for 22.5-inch-by-54-inch and 25.5-inch-by-54-inch attic openings.
This model can support up to 250 pounds and comes with reinforced, grooved steps for increased traction. The ladder also includes a helpful handrail and an easy-to-use pull-down cord.
This telescoping aluminum ladder from Werner uses wide, non-marking feet to grip the floor below when it is fully extended. The strong yet lightweight aluminum attic ladder can support up to 250 pounds and is easy to open and close using the included assist pole.
Suitable for use with ceiling heights from 7 feet to 9 feet and 10 inches, the Werner can fit attic openings as small as 22 inches by 22 inches. It also includes a helpful handrail for safer climbing and collapses into itself to take up very little space.
FAKRO’s insulated folding attic ladder is made of high-quality pine and folds up into three sections. Also included is the box frame and attic hatch (door), which are both made of premium pine as well.
The ladder can fit many different attic opening sizes including 22 inches by 47 inches, 22 inches by 54 inches, 25 inches by 47 inches, 25 inches by 54 inches, and 30 inches by 54 inches. It works with ceiling heights between 7 feet and 5 inches to 8 feet and 11 inches.
FAKRO’s ladder has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds. When completely open, the hatch locks into place, preventing it from slamming shut. The steps are also grooved to prevent accidental slippage and an optional handrail can be installed for added security.
This scissor-style attic ladder from FAKRO collapses into itself for simple storage. It doesn’t require a lot of clearance space like a folding ladder when it opens, and the stairs descend smoothly and slowly instead of quickly dropping like some telescoping ladders.
The FAKRO can be used with small to average attic openings including 22 inches by 31 inches, 22 inches by 47 inches, 22 inches by 54 inches, 25 inches by 47 inches, 25 inches by 54 inches, and 27 inches by 31 inches. It has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds and can be used on ceiling heights between 7 feet and 2 inches and 9 feet and 6 inches.
This ladder comes with a frame and hatch—both made of high-quality pine—and uses an embossed pattern on the steel steps for better traction. Collapsible, S-shaped brackets at the side of the ladder act as a handrail and are made of rugged steel that suits modern decor.
Intended for portable use, this WolfWise extension ladder is ideal for folks who don’t want to bother installing a semi-permanent attic ladder or lack the space to store a folded or collapsed ladder. It fits attic openings as small as 20 inches by 20 inches and collapses into itself with the push of a button.
The WolfWise ladder features a hydraulic system that forms air pockets in the posts, helping it to slow down while being retracted. It can be adjusted from just 3 feet and 3 inches in height to 12 feet and 6 inches.
Because it is portable, the WolfWise doesn’t fasten to the attic opening. Instead, it is set up for use and stored when not needed. Featured grooved steps for increased traction and safety, this durable aluminum ladder is capable of supporting up to 330 pounds.
FAQs About Your New Attic Ladder
The following is some additional must-know info before shopping for the latest attic ladders.
Q. How do you measure attic ladder height?
To determine the right height of an attic ladder, use a tape measure to measure the distance from the ceiling, where the attic door panel is, down to the floor. Buy an attic ladder of the same measurement.
Q. What is the standard sized attic opening?
The standard size opening for most attics is 22.5 inches by 54 inches, but some homes have a smaller or larger opening. Make sure to measure your attic opening before buying a new attic ladder.
Q. Which is better, a wood or aluminum attic ladder?
Aluminum and wooden ladders are comparably strong but aluminum versions are more affordable, lightweight, and not at risk of damage by moisture or fire.