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What are the Different Types of Loft Stairs?

By D. Monda Dill
Updated May 16, 2024
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The choice of loft stairs is one of the most important considerations to take into account when planning a loft construction or conversion. There are different types of loft stairs, which fall into two broad categories: fixed stairs and pull down stairs. Fixed stairs include straight run stairs, spiral staircases, and alternating tread stairs. Pull-down stairs include folding, sliding, and disappearing stairs.

Fixed loft stairs permanently connect the loft to the lower level floor. They are well suited for lofts that have been converted into living space, such as a bedroom or home office, and are accessed on a daily basis. Of all the different loft stairs, they most closely resemble the traditional staircase and can even be covered with carpet.

There are different types of fixed stairs. Straight-run stairs are the most common type of fixed stairs, and derive their name from the fact that they are typically ascended in one straight run. Spiral loft stairs are designed in the form of a helix, and are one of the most stylish types of stairs. Alternating tread stairs are a space-saving type of loft stairs, and are designed with treads that alternate between the left and right foot.

Pull-down loft stairs, or drop down stairs, are a popular, less expensive access option for loft conversions. They are often used for lofts that are accessed infrequently, such as those that serve as storage space. These stairs are especially well-suited for areas where space is limited or at a premium. They are a retractable type of stairs, designed to be stored away in the ceiling opening when not in use.

Pull-down stairs come different styles. The most common one is folding stairs, which are constructed from hinged segments that fold up or down as needed. Other folding stairs include accordion stairs, which are hinged at either end of each individual rung, and telescoping stairs, which fold out one rung at a time. Sliding stairs are designed to slide downward along mounted rails when pulled open and up into the loft along mounted rails.

Disappearing stairs are folding or sliding loft stairs that are specially engineered to be stored out of sight. Some disappearing stairs are designed to be tucked into a ceiling recess when not in use. Other types of disappearing stairs are attached to an access hatch that closes flush with the ceiling when the stairs are pulled shut.

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Discussion Comments
By LisaLou — On May 18, 2012

I have seen pictures of spiral staircases that lead to a loft area in many magazines.

While these always look neat, I don't know how practical they would really be. Many of them look pretty narrow, and I wonder how you would get big pieces of furniture like a bed up to the loft area.

If you had to use these spiral stairs every day, I think that would get kind of old.

Once when I was taking a tour of historic homes, we went through an old firehouse that had been converted to a livable home.

They kept the original ladder that was used in the firehouse when they remodeled the home. This led to a loft area, but the homeowners kept it more for historic purposes than for practical reasons.

By julies — On May 17, 2012

The bedroom in the house where I grew up had a loft area above it that was used for storage. There was a set up loft ladder stairs that came down from the ceiling.

You needed a tall chair or ladder to reach the door that pulled these stairs down. This area didn't get used very often because there was no heat or air conditioning up there.

Most everything that was stored up there were things that we didn't use anymore or we just wanted to get out of the way.

I always liked the idea of having a loft area above my bedroom. It was almost like a I had a secret place where I could hide if I wanted to.

By sunshined — On May 16, 2012

We live in a log cabin with a loft area that includes the master bedroom, bathroom and a small sitting area.

The stairs leading up to our loft are wood stairs that are open. The only disadvantage to these stairs is that they can be kind of slick.

When we first moved to the house, my dog was afraid of these open stairs and would not go up them for a long time.

Even though this is where we slept at night, it was several months before she felt comfortable going up and down these open stairs.

My cat, on the other hand, didn't mind them one bit, and enjoyed knowing she didn't have to share the area with the dog.

By sunnySkys — On May 16, 2012
I've seen a set of those alternating tread loft access stairs. I have to say, I wasn't wild about the idea. You have to start at the bottom on the right food, or else you won't be walking on the tread!

I suppose if I lived somewhere with these stairs, I would get into the habit of starting on the correct foot. But maybe not! I think it would be a pain to have to seriously think about which foot you start on to walk up stairs in your home.

By strawCake — On May 15, 2012

@JessicaLynn - Spiral staircases are pretty neat looking, but I don't think it would be worth risking your safety to have in your apartment. However, spiral staircases do take up less space than straight staircases, in my opinion.

I've never lived in an apartment with a loft, but when I was in college one of my good friends had a loft with stairs in her apartment. She had folding stairs for her loft, because it was rather small. She used the loft for storage, which worked out rather well because there wasn't much closet space in that apartment.

By JessicaLynn — On May 14, 2012

When I was hunting for a new apartment the last time around, I looked at a few places that had lofts. I really like the idea of a loft, because it adds more space to the apartment.

One of the places I looked at had loft spiral stairs made of metal. They looked really cool, but they were so small and slippery that I think I would have hurt myself by falling down the stairs. I decided not to rent that apartment.

Then I looked at another place with a loft that I didn't like either! The stairs were carpeted, but they were just too big for the rest of the apartment. I ended up just renting a place without a loft.

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