When you’re standing there, surrounded by Christmas ornaments, Halloween decorations and other boxes representing a plethora of seldom-used items, your eyes can’t help but wander up toward the ceiling. Hmmm … all that space up there in the attic, just waiting to be filled. But can you use it safely? And how do you get up there, without having to drag out the big ladder every time?
Whether or not an attic can be safely used for storage depends on the framing that supports the ceiling, the size and span of the lumber, the weight of the items being stored, and other variables that are unique to each home. The typical trussed or stick-framed attic is capable of supporting light loads evenly spaced, such as boxes of decorations or clothes. They are typically not suitable for heavy, concentrated loads such as boxes of paper or files.
Also, you should never cut any components in the ceiling or roof framing in order to accommodate storage — or for any other reason — unless you fully understand how the framing supports its loads, and how to transfer those loads during and after the reframing process. In short, never attempt to alter framing or use the attic for heavy storage purposes without first consulting with an experienced contractor, architect or structural engineer.
If you’ve determined that the attic is safe for storage, the next question is how to get up there safely and conveniently. For that one, Werner Ladders has come up with an innovative solution in the form of their “Televator” Telescoping Attic Ladder. The Televator is a fully retractable aluminum ladder that stores up in the attic behind a door, and that telescopes down into the room when needed.
Unlike traditional folding attic access stairs, the Televator requires very little effort to use, and very little room in which to open and set up, making it a great solution for confined areas such as bedroom closets where existing attic access hatches are typically located. An included metal pole is used to open the ceiling door and then telescope the ladder down, and the same pole is used to reverse the process to store the ladder back in the attic. The ladder sections are spring-loaded, and require only minimal strength to pull down or retract. The Televator comes complete in one box, and is easy to install for the average do-it-yourselfer. You will need to supply your own plywood for constructing the door, but all of the necessary door hardware is included with the kit.
The first step in the installation of a Televator is to determine if it will work for your particular attic access situation. The Televator is available in two sizes — one for ceilings between 7 feet 4 inches and 8 feet 4 inches in height, the other for ceilings up to 10 feet 3 inches. Both require a ceiling opening that is a minimum of 22 inches by 22 inches (it can be larger than that in either or both directions, but not smaller). When the ladder is closed, it requires 13 horizontal inches from the back of the attic opening to any obstructions, and when it’s open it requires 30 vertical inches of clearance from the top of the attic framing. In its fully extended position, the 8-foot ladder requires 35 inches of clear space horizontally from the back of the attic opening to the front of the ladder’s feet where they rest on the floor; the 10-foot version requires 41 inches.
Once you have the hole in the ceiling ready, installation is pretty straightforward. The ladder unit is completely assembled, and requires only the installation of a couple of corner support brackets and a header plate. You’ll need a drill and a wrench for putting in the lag bolts.
Next, the length of the ladder is adjusted for your specific ceiling height. Here again, the Televator’s unique design makes this process a simple matter of removing and then reinstalling a couple of screws in the adjustment brackets — no cutting is required.
The final installation step of the ladder itself is to lift the unit into the opening and hang it on the support bracket. Two locking plates are then bolted into place and the two support struts are attached, and that’s it. Complete installation, not including making the door or doing anything with the ceiling opening, should take less than an hour.
Making and installing the door is a matter of cutting a piece of 1/2-inch plywood to size, then installing the hinges, support brackets, latch and weather stripping. Everything you need (except the plywood) is supplied, and there are complete instructions and templates for every phase of the installation.
The Televator ladder carries a load rating of 250 pounds, and retails for $199 for the 8-foot version. You can visit www.wernerladder.com for more information, including a dealer locator.
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