What Are the Different Types of Attic Access Door?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Nearly every house has an attic, and with it, an attic access door. The types range from the common attic hatch, sometimes with pull-down stair, to the knee-wall door. Most attic doors come with the house, but changing the type to suit the homeowner's preference is usually an option.

The simple attic hatch, also called a scuttle hole, is quite common in homes. It is a removable part of the ceiling that is typically in the shape of either a rectangle or square. To access the attic, the homeowner simply has to push up on this ceiling cut-out and move it to the side. Once the access door is out of the way, a ladder can be used to enter the area.

Some homes come installed with a pull-down stair attic access door. This type of door is spring loaded so that once the door is pushed up and a nearby cord is pulled, the stairs can easily come out. The stairs are typically made of either metal or wood, and fold up just as easily as they fold out. This type of attic access door looks similar to the simple attic hatch, but is more convenient in that the ladder is already built in.

The knee-wall door is another common way to access the attic. It is usually located at mid-height on a short, vertical wall rather than on a ceiling. This type of attic access door is typically found within a small room on the top level of the house, which can be used as a loft, storage area, or bedroom. The ceiling in the room is usually sloped.

One concern with any attic access door is the amount of insulation. No matter what kind of door the attic has, many houses lose heat through the area. For this reason, it is recommended that all attic doors be outfitted with some insulation, such as weather stripping and foam board. The method of adding such insulation aids varies depending on the door type.

Yet another consideration to make when thinking about attic doors is the level of security. A homeowner can add a lock to any kind of attic door. In fact, this is suggested for doors on outer walls in both office buildings and homes. Many people do not realize the easy access to their possessions that an attic can offer, which makes learning about door options recommended.

How To Build an Attic Access Door

For those looking to build an attic entry or wanting to change the existing entry, understanding the difference in door installation can help homeowners decide which types to consider. Regardless of choice, before making changes, homeowners should check for minimum size and location requirements regulated by local building codes. Learn how to build three types of attic access doors with the following instructions:

Simple Attic Hatch (Scuttle Hole)

A simple attic hatch starts with measuring the square or rectangular area on the ceiling. Mark the measurements are marked and cut an opening into the drywall. If the portion removed remains undamaged, it can be saved and used for the simple hatch door; however, foam boards or smooth panels are also options.

Create a wooden frame for the opening in the ceiling from wood trim, planks or door jambs, and secure the wood frame in the hatch opening by screwing it in place. Finish the door for the hatch by installing it to sit flush on the completed frame.

Pull-Down Stair Attic Access Door

Pull-down doors are bought as a self-contained set. Start by cutting a rectangle in your ceiling or enlarging the previous opening to adequately fit the new door with stairs. Create a wooden frame that fits securely into the new opening.

Install the door to the bottom of the frame using the metal hinge that comes with the stair mechanism. Next, install the hardware that enables the stairs to open and retract. Build the stairs, and secure them to the door, cables and pulleys. Last, add a pull to the exterior.

Knee-Wall Door

Knee-wall doors are cut into vertical walls between studs. Boards made from wood trim or door jambs can be secured horizontally at the top and bottom of the opening to complete the frame. The knee-wall door can be made by cutting down an existing interior wood door or creating a custom panel from plywood. Hinges are installed to the back of the door along one edge and the inside of either vertical stud.

How To Insulate an Attic Access Door

Insulation is crucial in keeping energy costs down from season to season. To maintain your home's temperature and avoid losing heat or cool air through the attic access, you need to insulate your frames and doors.

Frame Insulation

Homeowners can use weatherstripping that attaches to all sides of the frame and sits snugly against the door when closed. Any pressure on the seal, such as adding weight to a ceiling door or a latch to hold the door closed, will increase effectiveness and durability. For added insulation, plywood or additional cut trim can be secured around the perimeter of the exposed frame on the attic side to reduce airflow.

Door Insulation

Most attic access doors can be insulated with foam boards on the back of the door or with layers of a product like extruded polystyrene. To prepare the door for pull-down stairs, you can purchase or create an attic stair cover box. This box contains rigid insulation, fits directly on top of the stair frame and sits tightly against the pull-down door.

How To Lock an Attic Access Door

Any attic door can benefit from increased security with a lock. Whether homeowners are protecting people or pets in the home from gaining attic access or securing the attic door to avoid unauthorized home entry, many types of locks are available:

  • Lockable draw catches (buckle latches) can hold an attic door closed from the interior and work on both simple hatch attic access doors and pull-down stairs access doors.
  • Hook and eye latches can childproof normal hatch and stair openings and provide some security in knee-wall doors.
  • Deadbolt locks can be installed in conjunction with pull-down stair doors and knee-wall doors.
  • Door chain or security chain locks that slide into place could accommodate all attic doors.

Discussion Comments

manykitties2

If you just choose to use your attic space for storage, it will still require maintenance, just as every other part of your home does.

The attic door being properly insulated, no matter which version you choose, is just one of the things you take care of when you have an attic.

You need to check your vents and fans in our attic every year to make sure they aren't blocked and gathering debris. You also need to check the insulation in the entire attic to see if it has moved and created gaps over time. This should be done once every 5 years.

Lastly, the attic should be checked for any cracks that can let critters in, or leaks that can damage your home.

letshearit

Many people focus on finishing their basements when they buy a new home, but very few think about the potential of their attic. With some homes, the space above your heads is large and spacious, as well as ready for renovation. If it has high enough ceilings you can easily add in a loft space or another bedroom.

A good idea is too see what the access to the attic is like before you buy the home. Homes that have a pull down staircase are great because you can see where the staircase would fall. Putting in a permanent staircase is a must if you are going to make the space a fully integrated and functional part of your home.

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