The Deadman's Door

Home Inspector with Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Real Estate Inspections

How do you get heavy equipment into a building, when you cannot get it up the stairs? A deadman's door is the solution.

Usually, builders have different methods for dealing with heavy equipment, and in commercial  buildings, this can be handled by a deadman's door. I wanted to post this photo, because I have never seen one in residential construction. If you have an office building with windows, workers will take out a window if they are doing demolition which has to be removed, or if they need to move heavy equipment into a certain floor. In residential homes, heavy items like the water heater and air heating equipment is moved into place before the roof and walls are installed. When the home is complete, and new equipment is needed, they will move larger, heavier equipment in through attic access points. (Older equipment could be left in the attic, when the crew does not want to deal with it). In commercial buildings with solid walls, you may see a door up high on a wall, and there are no stairs to it. These doors exist to be access points for heavier equipment, which needs to be installed after the building is complete. Movie theaters have them to allow the projectors to be installed. These doors are sealed to prevent anyone from opening them, but the term deadman's door comes from when you would open it and fall out.
    The door on this home may be meant to be used with a future stair and/or patio. I had never seen a deadman's door on a home before, so I thought this was interesting. The homeowner was constructing some rooms in the attic, and they were adding some heavy framing. This door became the solution for getting the items into the attic. Good idea, since their framing blocked the original attic entrance, making it harder to move larger items through that opening. Well, you always see something new on each home inspection. Your home inspector , Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

Comments (7)

Margo Currie
Exit 1 Stop Realty - Saint Augustine Beach, FL

My partner and I recently viewed a large, obviously added on to house that had what appeared to be a "deadman's door." We had no idea why it would be there, but maybe now we know!

Apr 02, 2010 05:52 AM
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Real Estate Inspections - Houston, TX

Could be. It is common in commercial construction; just never saw it in a residential construction before.

Apr 02, 2010 08:03 AM
Carl Winters
Canyon Lake, TX

Frank: I have never seen this but it makes sense to do that in order to get the job done.

Have a nice Easter with your family.

Apr 02, 2010 01:26 PM
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro

Frank, It seems like this would be a liablity to the homeowner.  Someone opens the door and walks out and OOPS LAWSUIT!!

Apr 02, 2010 02:07 PM
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Real Estate Inspections - Houston, TX

Carl- they brought in a large support beam into this home, so they needed it. I think that maybe this door was going to be an access for an apartment, but I am not sure how they would have done the stairs with the design on the first floor. My folks came down for Easter, so we are having an Easter here. I need to finish my wife's pergola over the patio today. I hope you and Ceil have a wonderful Easter with your family.

Marchel- at this time anyone can open the door, but it is difficult to get into the attic (a little acrobatics was needed). I advised my client that it needs to be secured.

Apr 02, 2010 08:52 PM
Dale Baker
Baker Energy Audits and Commercial Properties Inspections - Claremont, NH
New Hampshire Relocation Real Estate Information

Howdy and evenen there Frank

I seen a deadmans door on two homes before, one is right in town here. The first one I seen was at a home in Colorado. This was a mighty fine subject to post about. Have a fine Easter with your family, my friend

Apr 03, 2010 02:21 PM
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck
Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Real Estate Inspections - Houston, TX

Dale- I wonder if the guys putting these doors in came from commercial construction. It does make it easier to get your materials into the attic.


I hope you have a Happy Easter with your family.

Apr 03, 2010 08:12 PM