My attic only has plywood around our HVAC. The rest is just covered with cellulose insulation. How do people get around their unfinished attics?

I've been up with a flashlight trying to judge where the beams are, but I know it's just one missed step before my legs are hanging through the ceiling (it happened to a friend).


Since my attic requires maintenance on solar vents and a power vent in the end gable, I took 5/8" plywood, divided it into three lengthwise strips and put a catwalk down the center of the attic. As a prior answer notes, use a small rake to fluff the insulation back over to the proper depth when you're through.

This was after a few years of playing Tarzan, catching the truss uprights and gauging where the feet went. Then you get off by two inches in a partial slip (did I mention hanging onto the truss members?) and find yourself staring ceiling repairs in the face. The plywood's cheaper than figuring out how to replace a ceiling with heating cables embedded in its lower surface.

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    I use 2 precut pieces of 2'X 4'X 5/8" plywood myself. Stand on one, move the other in the direction I want to travel, stand on it, and repeat. Oct 23 '12 at 14:03
  • Yes, that will work pretty well and is what I started with. I have a 2'x2' piece, with two 2x2 cleats screwed and glued lengthwise on the underside so they engage between the joists. It gives you have a stable work platform with a lot less flex and no chance of walking due to flexing and possibly slipping off the joists. Extremely useful tools if you ever have to do a reinsulation job, ceiling repairs, electrical box changeouts, etc. Oct 23 '12 at 14:22

One clue is that the construction of most buildings has the ceiling joists lined up directly with the rafters. This will be especially true when the roof structure is built up using engineered trusses.


Get a shrub rake with plastic tines and just rake the insulation out of the way until you can see the tops of the beams where you need to walk. Do it slowly as there may be wiring strung across in any direction. Then get yourself a scrap piece of plywood you can set down in areas where you need a work surface or somewhere to kneel.

I just got this rake for attic work: enter image description here

I might cut the handle down a little shorter but otherwise it works well.

When you're done you can use the rake to replace and fluff up the insulation. (Even when you don't fall through the ceiling, stepping on the insulation compresses it which reduces its effectiveness.)

I also found it helpful to install a few eye hooks so I'd have somewhere to hang my work light without having to worry about it falling down.

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