Just installed an attic ladder. I've read this: What is the proper 'per code' method for running nonmetallic sheathed cable above a ceiling in the attic?

So my attic is now "accessible" and thus:

(A) Where Run Across the Top of Floor Joists. Where run across the top of floor joists, or within 2.1 m (7 ft) of floor or floor joists across the face of rafters or studding, in attics and roof spaces that are accessible, the cable shall be protected by substantial guard strips that are at least as high as the cable.

I find this rather strange. Most of my attic would require a small child in order to access and even then he/she would be on their hands and knees; and some places are downright inaccessible due to supporting 2x4's .etc. Does this essentially mean that any cable run across the joists needs a guard strip? I find that rather crazy - I can understand in the heavily trafficked areas where storage will be.

  • 1
    Any space that small isn't accessible, then, is it? It's only an issue anyway if you're having an inspection done. Otherwise, use common sense so you're safe.
    – isherwood
    Jul 18, 2018 at 2:20
  • "Accessible" seems sort of generalized to me when I read the rule.
    – Alex
    Jul 18, 2018 at 2:26

2 Answers 2


I would say no.

The rule is likely for attics that can be readily accessed. For instance, some houses have an access door (think closet door) in the top level of the house that leads into the attic. If someone can just open a door and go in, it's accessible (but it's probably also decked, lest someone open it and fall downstairs).

I bought a brand new house not long ago and there was an attic access panel in the ceiling of the garage (the HVAC unit was up there so it would be silly to have it sealed). None of the wires in the attic were protected because it was still difficult to get up there. Even after adding attic stairs, it wasn't something that you could "just go into". I doubt they could have passed inspections if code had meant "cannot be accessed by anyone", which would probably be a code violation in most areas.

  • I guess the distinction would be: does an attached foldable attic ladder constitute as a permanent means of accessibility? I would say so. I mean I'm not going to install guard strips. But I've made sure that any wires underneath the plywood floors I put in the accessible areas were protected. Was just curious really.
    – Alex
    Jul 18, 2018 at 2:46
  • I've not seen any houses built like that, however. That's why I say it's not. That having been said, I would expect any areas you deck for use to protect wires as a matter of sanity, NEC or not.
    – Machavity
    Jul 18, 2018 at 2:47
  • Yea tbh I haven't seen any guard strip ever in any attic. I think the distinction should be: if the insulation/back of drywall will no longer be visible i.e. covered with a deck, then the across wires should be sufficiently protected by either a guard strip or making a small notch enough to not effect structural integrity to fit the wires + guard plate.
    – Alex
    Jul 18, 2018 at 2:53

The 7ft rule only applies to cables within the zone of the entrance of the stairs/door. I find it hard to believe that every cable is within that zone. And even if it were, it would easily be code compliant by adding a 2x4 runner. Forget nail guards.

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