Some time ago my good friend Jim Quarello, Connecticut home inspector, did an excellent post about pull down attic stairs. And if you want some good additional information regarding installation of these stairs I hope you will visit his post.
This post is about one of the worst installations of these stairs I have ever seen. While they are almost always installed improperly or have other serious defects that can result in collapse or maiming, this installation also resulted in serious structural damage to the home’s roof structure.
Most of these stairs are conveniently designed to fit between ceiling joists or trusses that are spaced 24 inches on center. The installer of these stairs decided that they wanted the stairs to run perpendicular to the trusses. This required that two of the trusses be cut—-bottom chords as well as diagonal web members.
The blue dotted lines show the trusses that have been cut.
These next two pictures show the cut trusses in the attic space (note the b-vent in two of the pictures).
It is a safe bet that the same installer also did the wiring visible at the light in the bottom picture.
At this point a structural engineer will need to be called in to design proper repairs to the damaged trusses. This is one of the hidden costs of not knowing what one is doing, or worse—not caring. Hopefully the stairs will be abandoned in favor of the access opening visible at the right side of the first picture. These trusses are not designed for the weight of storage and using the space for storage will hopefully be abandoned as well.
Truss me—this is a saver approach.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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