In my attic, the truss upright in the picture below is really the only hand-hold available when pulling oneself up the last few steps on the attic access stairs. It has always bothered me that I have to wrap my hand around the exposed romex in order to fully enter my attic... but now that I've replaced my old broken (wooden) attic ladder with a new aluminum one, it bothers me even more. If that romex ever gets damaged, and goes unnoticed, this could make for a rather unsafe situation.

I would like to do something to make this feel a little safer. The light switch is where the builder put it, and that is really the only location that makes sense if you want someone to be able to turn on the light without having to fully enter the attic first. (Might that be a code requirement?) Would it be OK to build a wooden race around the romex? Or can you recommend some alternate solution?

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  • 2
    Could you install an alternative handhold, possibly on the other side of the opening?
    – Tester101
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 9:51
  • 2
    In other news, the ladder being aluminium vs. wood isn't cause for concern. Unless the base of the ladder is in contact with a conductive surface (concrete slab, etc.), the ladder is likely very well isolated from ground.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 9:54
  • The ladder does have plastic feet which would normally contact the concrete slab below. But these can fall off, wear down over time, etc. Basically I am recognizing a potentially unsafe situation here, and wanting to make it less potentially so. Commented May 7, 2014 at 16:46
  • IMO you are creating an issue where none exists. Unless that cable is severely damaged it is not a problem or a safety hazard. At the same time, to each his own. If you'll feel that much better about it then go with Tester's advice. Commented May 9, 2014 at 0:41
  • You are right, Speedy. But I have my reasons. That Romex is yellow because about a year ago I accidentally damaged the builder's original (white) Romex, and then I replaced it. That's what got me thinking along these lines. (I guess sometime in the past 13 years they started color-coding the Romex.) Commented May 9, 2014 at 1:27

2 Answers 2


If you don't have the option to install an alternative handhold, you could protect the cable using conduit.

WARNING: If you're not comfortable with electrical work, please contact a local licensed Electrician.


  • Single gang electrical box, suitable for use with rigid PVC conduit.
  • A length of PVC conduit (10' of 1/2" should be fine).
  • A bag of PVC conduit clamps.
  • Conduit offsets if required
  • Cable staples


  1. Start by turning off the power to this circuit at the breaker, and verifying the power is off using a non-contact voltage tester.
  2. Remove the cover from the electrical box, and remove the screws holding the switch in place.
  3. Gently pull the switch from the box, leaving the wires attached .
  4. Make a detailed sketch (or take a photo) of the existing wiring.
  5. Remove each wire from the switch, labeling each as you go.
  6. Remove any twist-on wire connectors (or other connectors), labeling all separated wires as you go.
  7. Carefully remove any cable staples securing the cables to the 2x4.
  8. Carefully pull the cables from the existing box.
  9. Remove the existing box.
  10. Measure and cut the PVC conduit.
  11. Feed each cable through a length of conduit.
  12. Feed the cables into the electrical box.
  13. Connect the conduit to the box (NOTE: depending on the box, and how it's oriented, you may need offsets).
  14. Install conduit clamps within 18" of the electrical box, and every 3' after that.
  15. Install a cable staple within 12" of where the cable enters the conduit.
  16. Install the switch using your notes, sketches, photos, and labels as a guide.
  17. Install the box cover, and turn the power back on.
  • NEC 314.23(F) Raceway-Supported Enclosures, with Devices, Luminaires, or Lampholders.
    – Tester101
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 13:05
  • Oh yes, PVC conduit... Why didn't I think of that first, instead of thinking about some custom wooden raceway? Duh... :) I think this is likely to be my accepted answer, but I'll give others at least a day or so to make other recommendations. Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:03
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    Yes, but your advice about an alternative handhold makes much more sense.
    – bib
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:44

As @tester101 suggests in his comment, it is much easier and safer to put a handhold on the inside of the upright stud


 Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of any product or source.
  • 1
    True, but I don't see it as an either-or proposition. The layout of my attic is such that after getting up the stairs, a person's first inclination will be to move to the right. So, they may ignore the hand-hold and wrap their hand around the outside of the upright member. (An inside handhold just won't feel right, as a lead-in to your next action.) So I still want an insulating barrier covering the Romex, even with hand-holds. Commented May 8, 2014 at 23:56
  • Big on belt and suspenders.
    – bib
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 2:16

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