Install attic stairs

By Gene and Katie Hamilton, Tribune Content Agency

Do It Yourself or Not?

5:30 AM EST, January 6, 2014


One of the best additions we've made to our homes has been installing attic stairs that expanded the untapped storage space. While the attic was not additional living space, the foldaway stairs made it easy to access otherwise difficult-to-reach areas and created plenty of open storage space.

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.

While you'll save a whopping 66 percent by doing the job yourself, we suggest you hire a carpenter or contractor, who will charge $647 to install a good quality, three-section, 25-inch-wide unit for an 8- to 9-foot ceiling. That 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.

To find more DIY project costs and to post comments and questions, visit http://www.diyornot.com and http://www.m.diyornot.com on smartphones.

Pro Cost -- DIY Cost -- Pro time -- DIY Time -- DIY Savings -- Percent Saved

$647 -- $220 -- 4.9 -- 11.0 -- $427 -- 66 Percent