Loft storage can be a godsend for all those household bits and pieces that need to go somewhere. Holiday luggage, Christmas decorations, sports equipment, old toys…it can all fit in the loft, where it’s stashed out of sight and out of mind, ready for the next year when you need it.
However, if you don’t have a loft ladder, getting into your attic storage can be a precarious job. Whether you use a beefed up kitchen step stool or a normal household ladder, or your partner gives you a leg up to get through the hatch, it’s not only awkward and inconvenient but downright dangerous. For safe access, you should really invest in a proper loft ladder.
But before you get carried away with the purchase, there’s homework to be done. Loft ladders come in different designs, shapes and sizes and in order to determine the best solution for your home, it’s important to find answers to these 3 key questions:
#1: How frequently will you be using the loft ladder?
The first thing you should ask is: Why do you need to go up to the loft at all? Is it for occasional access, say once or twice a year, or will it be once a month to access less-frequently used storage items? For less frequent users, and for those who want to save space, consider the telescopic or aluminium loft ladder.
Easy to install and quick to deploy, these telescopic loft ladders are perfect for occasional use. That said, their angle of operation is usually slightly more acute and there’s likely to be no handrails, meaning climbing the ladder could be tricky. This may be a particular issue for those who are not confident on ladders or have limited mobility.
For those who plan to use the loft-access more frequently, consider the traditional sliding loft ladder. A light duty product with a load rating of 150kg per tread should be ample for your needs.
A regular sliding loft ladder with handrails is easy to operate and the handrail makes it easier to move bulky items up and down.
Timber sliding ladders tend to be quieter than aluminium ladders and look more attractive, although lower quality timber ladders may not stand the test of time with frequent use. Metal (aluminium or steel) ladders have the edge when it comes to durability, while counter-balance springs help to lighten the load and minimize the physical effort required to fold/unfold or slide the ladder segments. If your budget will stretch, electrically operated loft ladders are the ultimate in convenience.
#2: Who in your home will be using the loft ladder?
Although all domestic loft ladders are safe, some types are better suited to people with mobility issues, or children. If the loft ladder is used to access a permanent room upstairs — perhaps a playroom or media room — more stability and a handrail is highly recommended.
The alternative is a sliding loft ladder with at least a single handrail.
Of course, if your home’s layout permits it, a permanent, space saving staircase with a small landing at the top may be your best option. The alternative is a sliding loft ladder with at least a single handrail. This is also the recommended solution for regular access to an attic that’s purely used as storage. Make sure the ladder is checked on a regular basis and kept meticulously maintained to make sure there are no rusted or broken parts that could compromise safety.
Equally important, in terms of safety, is to always ask for assistance with moving items in and out of the loft. The best way to do this is to have someone stationed at the bottom of the ladder who can help pass items up and lift down.
#3: What’s the right size and style for your home?
Once you’ve decided on the best type of loft ladder for your house, it’s a question of getting one that fits. It’s important to understand the space available for your loft ladder. Measure from the landing floor to the top of your roof joists and the floor of your loft, then take the dimension of the loft hatch.
Wooden loft ladders will often need a larger opening length due to the way they fold up onto the door of the hatch. They may also require more space in front so they can be extended. Ground clearance for a sliding loft ladder will be larger than for a telescopic or concertina loft ladder which can be fitted to the loft hatch or the frame around the hatch and is perfect for smaller openings.
Space inside the loft is another logistical issue since this is where the ladder will be stored when the loft hatch is closed. Concertina and telescopic loft hatches are the best choices when there’s not much room in the loft since they require virtually no horizontal clearance and only a bit of vertical space.