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I have an attic ladder that is warped somewhere and is really hard to fold and unfold. Eventually that warp caused too much pressure on one side of the ladder and the bolt holding the elbow of the arm together snapped.

A handyman just went by and put a screw and nut there and added to the problem by putting too long of a screw. So now it's back to being hard to get out and catching on the screw, but at least the arm is "fixed."

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I actually want to get to the root of the problem and fix whatever is causing the warp and the cascading waterfall of problems that are caused by that, if I'm making sense.

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  • Is it meant to be hinged at the top? It's not sitting square. This looks like a clear case of 'a stitch in time'. If the root cause had been figured out earlier, you wouldn't now need to replace all the strutting - you'll never bend it straight enough to prevent it happening again unless you get to the root cause.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 12:27
  • Pics aren't the greatest (get some better ones, please), but it looks to me more like a hinge problem than a ladder problem (or perhaps the former caused the latter).
    – Huesmann
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 14:14
  • ooohh... good catch, @Tetsujin! I didn't look at that portion.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 16:35

3 Answers 3

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I'd guess that since the bolt broke, it had previously worked loose and the "fix" was to force it instead of finding the loose bolt & tightening it. Since it was loose, the entire assembly moved in ways it wasn't supposed to and that's what lead to metal bending and enough force in the wrong direction to break the bolt.

I would suggest that your best bet is to replace all the bent/broken bits with properly fitting parts and that with straight pieces of metal (where they're supposed to be straight, of course) and properly tightened nuts/bolts, you'll have solved all the difficulties.

The odds of bending those arms straight and having them stay straight are pretty small. You'd probably be better off simply replacing them.

You could call the manufacturer and purchase replacement parts, but it looks like simple, straight aluminum bar stock and you might be able to pick up proper sized pieces at your local big-box store or metal supplier. Aluminum is easy to work and you can cut to length, drill the proper holes, and round over the edges to make them match.

As you reassemble, you can reuse the bolt that the handyman installed, then cut it off after installation so that it doesn't rub on anything (also, make sure that it's not so tight that it's preventing the metal from pivoting freely). Or, you can purchase a shorter version of the same bolt (ensure that you've got the right diameter and thread pitch by bringing the nut & bolt with you to the store and get a new bolt that will easily thread into the nut, but is shorter than the current bolt).

I would suggest that proper maintenance (immediately look for loose bolts and tighten them if/when you notice it starting to be difficult to open/close) will prevent these issues in the future. To help prevent the bolts from loosening, you could use lock nuts (NyLock™ or similar) or lock washers, but do remember that you can't tighten them down so much that it won't allow for movement. Proper maintenance is probably the better way to go, especially if there weren't locking nuts/washers on there in the first place.

Final note: If your handyman tightened the bolt so much that it's preventing easy movement and/or left it so long that it's rubbing on the metal ladder and preventing easy movement, it's probably time to find a new handyman. I wouldn't want the same guy doing more shoddy work in my house if it were me...

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Given it's a metal ladder, "warp" is not something that should happen at all. At least one of the pictures suggests the hinge attachment may be failing.

Given it's a ladder, you should consider well the risks inherent in opting to repair rather than replace a damaged ladder. Sure, repair seems like it should be less hassle, right up until the thing fails while you're on it and you fall 4-8 feet into a jumble of defective ladder bits, which the maker's insurance won't have to pay a dime for since you modified the ladder yourself. A whole new non-defective attic ladder looks inexpensive from your hospital bed or casket.

So, as with other damaged ladders, replace the whole thing (and, as already suggested, find a new handyman, or do without a handyman. That one is doing you no favors.)

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  • Despite the fact that the OP specifically asked how to repair it (which I answered), this is a really good point and should be strongly considered. +1 If, however, the damage is just in the open/close mechanism (not the ladder itself), I'd think a repair would be OK. AIUI, these don't rely on the mechanism to hold themselves in position once open, the mechanism is just there to fold/unfold it.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 16:34
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From what I can see the left arm is twisted.

Straighten it by bending back in the position, and if you have to loosen it first to make it easier.

Watch out for the spring, it might escape and hit you.

The right arm looks good, so bend the left to mach it.

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    And cut the bolt, which might be easier to do then finding a shorter one. An inexpensive hacksaw can cut a soft steel bolt like butter. Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 4:03

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