By Gene and Katie Hamilton
One of the best improvements we've made to our homes involves foldaway stairs. We've installed two attic stairs in homes we've remodeled, and in both cases stretched their livability by making untapped space usable. The foldaway stairs, also called a pull-down folding attic ladder, made it easy to access otherwise difficult-to-reach areas and created plenty of open storage space. In one we built in shelving and in another we left open, both were upgrades worth doing.
The unit is a complete framed assembly with a folding, sectional ladder designed to be installed in a ceiling opening. That's the rub: you have to cut a rather large hole in the ceiling - not a job to be taken lightly. The unit is bolted into the rough opening, then trimmed with molding and painted for a finished look on the ceiling. Stair units are sold at home centers and lumberyards in a range of ceiling heights from 8 to 10 feet; there’s also a 12-foot model that’s designed for high ceilings, which you’ll find in some new and older homes.
This is a job that requires having a helper on hand. While someone is up in the attic muscling the stair unit in place, you need to have someone else in the room below standing on a ladder to adjust the unit in place. Figure on taking the better part of a day to install attic stairs. A contractor who has made the installation before will do it in less time because of his experience.
Here's the dollars and cents: While you'll save a whopping 66 percent by doing the job yourself, we suggest you hire a carpenter or contractor, who will charge $657 to install a good quality, three-section, 25-inch-wide unit for an 8 to 9 foot ceiling. This includes the labor and material. The job involves cutting through ceiling joists and reinforcing them with headers without destroying the integrity and strength of the joists - clearly a job for an experienced professional.
Consider your options for placing the stair with a carpenter who will inspect the ceiling joists and suggest the best location for the foldaway unit. Ideally, it should unfold into a room or hallway and be easily accessible. Schedule the inspection with the carpenter during the day so you'll have light in the attic. Have a ladder, flashlight and measuring tape handy.
Werner Company offers several videos about installing their attic stairs Attic Stairs Installation Support.
That sums it up. Knowing the average cost to install attic stairs lets you compare doing it yourself with what you can expect to pay a contractor. To customize the cost to where you live add your ZIP Code in the cost box.
Improvement and Repair Cost Updated 2018
The cost and time data is generated by averaging labor and material data from annually updated cost books used by contractors and refined by the authors'
experience remodeling 13 houses. They are authors of 20 home improvement books and Do It Yourself or Not, a weekly column syndicated by Tribune Content
Agency. The national cost can be adjusted by ZIP Code.