Attic stairs design ideas – pros and cons of different types

by Kremy

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Attic stairs come in so many design varieties and options that when you plan a remodel or a renovation of your attic, you have a wide choice of ideas and opportunities to organize the access.

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Converting the attic into a functional living space adds value to your property, and whether you need a guest bedroom, a space for a teenager, a playroom or storage space, the space under the roof can be used in many creative ways. Nowadays interior staircases are not only functional and in addition to their main purpose – ascending and descending – architects, designers and home owners use the stairs as a statement and an element of interior design which enhances the style of the home both architecturally and stylistically. Despite the fact that people seldom think of stairs as an element of the interior, in the gallery below you will see beautiful examples of staircases with artistic and original design which greatly contribute to the appearance of the home.

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How to choose the best attic stairs? What is the most functional and ergonomic type? How to choose the material ? We shall look at some of the most popular types of attic stairs, their advantages, disadvantages, functionality and visual aesthetics.


Attic stairs design ideas – what are the most popular types?

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When you need stairs leading to the attic you’d have to define your idea and what you want – do you prefer an ordinary ladder, pull down attic stairs, a designer’s staircase or a sliding ladder? As you can see there is a variety of options and types. Attic stairs differ on the way they fold up and the material from which they are made. Also, there are various methods of attaching the stairs or ladders. By definition, such ladders are described as stairs for access to the attic or loft. What are the requirements that they should meet?

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On the first place attic stairs should not occupy valuable space, especially in small homes. The size and dimensions should be adjustable to suit your individual needs. Easy installation is another major criterion, it is not necessary to disassemble half of the house or change the design of the roof to install the stairs or the ladder. Safety is another major consideration and you need to make sure that the type you chose is completely safe to use. The position, type and stair insulation, framing, weight capacity, and size – all these important criteria should also be considered before hand. Last but not least, the design should work harmoniously with the style of your home.

So, what are the most popular types? We shall look at the different options – stationary stairs, pull-down-stairs, folding ladders, telescoping ladders, sliding ladders, etc.

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We shall begin with the traditional stationary staircases – straight run stairs, corner (angle) stairs, scissor switch staircase, spiral staircase, quarter or half turn stairs, etc. Stationary attic stairs with a handrail look great, they are very convenient to ascend or descend and blend into the interior without any problem. However, staircase structures have one significant drawback – they take up considerable space. They are suitable for homes where the space is enough and the installation of a staircase will not take up from the living space. An advantage of this type is the fact that they can become an artistic and original element of the interior. For example – a contemporary spiral staircase has a great visual appeal and can be a focal point in a room. An advantage of spiral staircases is that they may be very compact and even when positioned in a corner, their attractive appearance is noticeable. Stationary attic stairs work with any design style – from rustic to contemporary – and are a good choice when you want to make a statement or create a visual accent in the interior design.


Attic stairs – pros and cons of folding, telescopic and sliding ladders

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Many people wonder what the differences between the different types of attic stairs are. There are different definitions and classifications, pull down ladders, retractable ladders, drop down ladders, but to make it clearer, here is a simple explanation – attic stairs (ladders) come in three major types – folding, telescopic, and sliding.

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Pull-down attic ladders are a set of folding stairs that can be pulled down for easy attic access. Folding or telescopic – they are especially convenient, although each type varies and has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Folding designs are made of two or more segments and are made of wood or metal. Telescopic models have an accordion-style extension mechanism and are usually made of aluminum. Sliding stairs have one or more segments, usually of wood or aluminum, which slide to the floor when opened.

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Folding attic ladders are ladders that fold up to fit inside a ceiling hatch. Folding ladders are constructed in several (three or four) sections and this type of ladders is compact and especially suitable for small attics. Folding attic ladders come in tow main varieties – the first one folds and unfolds automatically and  the second one can be folded and unfolded manually. The principle of folding is that when the hatch is opened the stairs (ladder) must be unfolded (pulled down) to the floor. Folding attic ladders are affordable and easy to install. These pull down ladders are usually designed to unfold to an angle of about 64 degrees which makes them steeper than a traditional staircase which has an angle of 40- to 45-degrees. Folding ladders are usually made of wood which makes them quite heavy. You can opt for a metal folding ladder, which is made from aluminum or steel. Generally, folding ladders require more space than telescopic ladders which can be a significant drawback.

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If you choose for a drop down variety, also called “disappearing” stairs, you should keep in mind that they come at a higher price than the folding ones and should be installed by professionals. However, one of the main advantages of drop down option is that they are designed with an inclination of about 40 degrees which makes them as comfortable as a regular staircase and more comfortable than folding stairs. Drop down designs are attached to the ceiling hatch and drops down in one piece unlike the folding ladder which is also attached to the ceiling hatch but folds into itself.  You will need a cord which is pulled to let the ladder down. Another major advantage is that drop down attic ladders are designed and manufactured to be durable and stable and support more weight than folding ladders.

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Retractable attic stairs, as a variety of the bigger group of pull down designs, are the ones with a telescopic mechanism and are also called telescopic ladders. The main characteristic of telescopic attic ladders, also called “accordion ladders”, is that they are designed as small, connected sections which create a single ladder. The difference between a folding ladder and a telescopic ladder is that instead of folding, the telescopic ladder slides into itself. These ladders are the perfect choice for small spaces as they require little space to be stored. They are pulled down from the ceiling and their length can be adjusted. Telescopic ladders usually extend at an angle of 53 to 57 degrees which makes them steeper than regular staircase but not as steep as folding ladders and that is why people find them easier to climb. Telescopic ladders are usually made of lightweight aluminum, but you can find models made of steel, which are heavier. These ladders are affordable and easy to operate which makes them a popular choice among customers.

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Sliding attic stairs may have more than two sections and usually are equipped with a spring mechanism: you pull the stairs and it descends gently at your feet. Sliding ladders can be called scissor or accordion ladders due to their construction. These ladders are more compact than folding, but because they require a smaller hatch.


Metal or wooden attic stairs – how to choose the material?

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Attic stairs – with or without a hatch – nowadays are manufactured from different materials. Typically attic stairs are made of aluminum, steel, and wood and each material has its pros and cons. Aluminum is lightweight and strong, rust-resistant and in addition, is not affected by humidity and temperature changes. Wood is a natural material and has many advantages to offer, but is affected by moisture and temperature changes, pests attacks, etc.

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Whatever type of attic stairs you choose, remember that they should be, before all, functional, safe, and space saving, if you have a problem with space. The good appearance is an additional bonus which can complement your home.



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