I am trying to install a new access ladder to our attic, cutting a new hole etc. There's only one room in our 1038sq house (built in 1952) that will work, and after taking a closer look there is a water pipe that would interfere with the opening, were I to cut a new hole in that location, which would run parallel to the joists.

So it seems like my only other option is to cut a new hole and install the access ladder perpendicular to the joists, which means cutting probably 3 of the joists which are roughly 30-35ft long.

Based on most of the info I've found, you should ideally install the ladder parallel to the joists, only cutting one. But if I frame out the access correctly, is it a problem to install it perpendicular to the joists? The question is, how can I frame it correctly? I've only found this way of doing it:

enter image description here

Which would seem to entail adding two add new, in my case, 30-35ft joists to support the new cut. Is this correct, necessary and is there a better way to do it??

  • HI AlexMonterville, the difference between the parallel and perpendicular is quite obvious on your drawing ... parallel you only loose 1 joist across a particular width.. Whereas perpendicular you loose 3 .. so the load that has to be supported on the outer joists is much higher [even though none of those loads are massive - until you start filling the attic up !!]. What sized ceiling joists have you got?
    – Mr R
    May 24, 2021 at 1:18
  • Any possibility of relocating the water pipe?
    – Mark
    May 24, 2021 at 1:20
  • @MrR they span the width of the house, about 30-35ft
    – alxmntrvl
    May 24, 2021 at 1:36
  • @Mark maybe, it wouldn’t have to go far. There’s so much blow in insulation its mostly buried so I’ll have to dig it out more
    – alxmntrvl
    May 24, 2021 at 1:37
  • @AlexMonterville - just want to be careful because a 4x2 or whatever is currently there is quite likely not going to be suitable to then put some load up there - so you may end up needing to run a set of attic floor joists to then support the attic space upon.
    – Mr R
    May 24, 2021 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


Yeah, You do not want to do as shown in the picture. Install the attic ladder/stairs in a way that it is parallel to the joists.

These units are often made so that they just fit between joists that are 24" on center. If your joists are such then this is great. If not they you have cut out one joist and frame in headers at each end of the opening to support the cut off joist at each end.

If the attic is under a peaked roof structure you want to place the attic/stair assembly such that the upper end of the attic ladder/stair is under the highest part of the peak. This may very well mean that the end of the lowered ladder assembly extends out toward the outside wall of the house on the eve side of the roof.

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