Stairway To Heaven

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

OK, I may be a Led Zeppelin fan and this post may not exactly be going to heaven, but it might just keep someone on this earth for a while longer!

One very useful, and potentially very dangerous, thing in our houses is the attic access ladder.

So why this post?

Because I find that they are seldom installed correctly.  Or safely!

ESPECIALLY ON NEW CONSTRUCTION.

On new construction I always check the attic access ladder BEFORE I go into the attic!  Why?  Because, as I said, they are seldom installed correctly or safely!

The ladder on this new construction was no different.  It was installed with four, yes FOUR, drywall screws!  Two on each end.

That's scary!

Notice the position of these two screws.  Can you read the plaque in between?  You can't?

Can you read it now?  Maybe the installer couldn't read!

The attic ladder, or "stair" as it is called here, is rimmed on all four sides by jambs.  These are the sides.  Each side, or jamb, is to be anchored.

Each manufacturer has its own recommendation as to how they prefer their ladder to be installed.

Such recommendations include large nails, as it says here, square-head steel screws, "Dacronized" screws, and brass screws.  There may be more for all I know.

Many producers recommend AGAINST drywall screws of any length.  Why?  Because they are not that strong.

They are kind of narrow up near the screw top.  And they have been known to sheer off under heavy loads.

In addition to hefty nails or screws, another installation necessity is a doubled-up 2x4 at each end.  That way the longer nails or screws are anchored all the way through their length.  This is the same principle used at front doors to set them strongly.

Anything less than the above installation means that the ladder assembly is far weaker than it should be.  Carrying a heavy load up into the attic, or down therefrom, can result in the assembly breaking off from its support, or completely falling down.

On this new construction, the ladder was installed with too few, and incorrect, screws and not into doubled ends.  Surprised?  I am not either...  It is, in my opinion, an accident waiting to happen.

My recommendation:  check any ladder access assembly carefully for proper installation!  If it is not, and if someone should fall, the ladder might, in fact, BE a stairway to heaven!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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  1. Brian Persons 11/25/2010 03:27 AM
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Rainmaker
645,414
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Looks like these people are lucky, lucky, lucky they were not talked out of a home inspection because it was new.  I am wondering if all of these lastest posts are from this same house, Jay?  Thanks again for the heads up.

Nov 24, 2010 04:28 AM #44
Rainmaker
140,950
Tre Pryor
REMAX Champions - Louisville, KY
Realtor, e-PRO - Louisville

Caught me with that headline... nice job!

Yes, I agree. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 24, 2010 06:06 AM #45
Rainer
67,953
Carole L. MacCollum
HOME AT LAST REAL ESTATE - Wells, ME
Broker/Realtor 207-337-4792

Oh WOW!  I will definitely be looking more closely in the future before I or my clients start to head up one of these ladders!  Thanks for the great info!  Now I have to go and read all about this "House Of What Not To Do", as it sounds really interesting!

Oh and by the way....LOVE LED ZEPPELIN!

Nov 24, 2010 08:56 AM #46
Rainer
63,328
Loren Green
Greens Home Design L.L.C. - Buckeye, AZ
Phoenix Home Inspector & Designer

Jay - A track home employee told me once that he went to check on some ceiling cracks in a garage for warranty purposes.  The home owner had a full room built up there with tv, refrigerator, and couch.  The funniest thing was that his wife didn't even know about it.

Nov 24, 2010 09:01 AM #47
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Debbie - you don't look very heavy, but I would still look for the good nails!

Claudette - these stairs can be very dangerous, but especially when not put in properly.

Cheryl - I'm glad!  Oh, and it's MaRkanich, not mechanic...   ;)

And I am glad you did Phil!  Stop by again!

Nov 24, 2010 09:08 AM #48
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Mike - nope, the manufacturers leave it up to the installer.  A 16D is a big nail!

Well, Nick, that's good to hear!  I have liked them since college.

And maybe now Barbara you have a bit more information!

Mary - the stair's installation doesn't distinguish between male or female!

Nov 24, 2010 09:11 AM #49
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Michael - you make the huge assumption that the installer can read!  Or read English...

James - they do not, even with the wider screw grips.  And they seem to be the universal installation screw!

Yes, that is exactly what they shoot Mike!  For this installation one would have to get out the hammer!  I have about 6 hammers, for different applications!  I also have a shooting framing nailer though.  Indispensible!

Ann - many!   I got to a house once to see the seller in a wheelchair from having fallen down one and he had a broken back.

Nov 24, 2010 09:14 AM #50
Rainmaker
684,509
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

This is hardly a new construction problem, I find screws in the majority of pulled down stairways I inspect. Doesn't anyone read instruction!?

Nov 24, 2010 09:28 AM #51
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Brian - those reasons will never end!

Suzanne - I think there are many who do not consider the safety or needs of others.

As to Stairway, I can only say, "There are two paths to go by, but in the long run, there's time to change the road you're on..."

Richie - you should not have to read the label.  The installer should!

Wende - information is power.  Now you know what to look for!

Nov 24, 2010 09:37 AM #52
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Yes, DeeDee, same house.  Actually many more could be used for similar instruction!

I'm glad I did Tre!  And a merry Thanksgiving to you and yours.

I am happy you are more informed Carole, and that you love LZ!

Loren - how cool is that!  How in the world did he keep his little room from the wife?

Jim - well, I went to high school in Bethesda, Maryland and stayed in the state for college.  I went...

Oh!  I guess I should have read your comment.  Yeah, they're almost all screwed up.

Nov 24, 2010 09:43 AM #53
Rainmaker
544,206
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Those stairs always scare me. I don't trust them.

Nov 24, 2010 10:06 AM #54
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Me too Eric.  Once I did an inspection for Jon Janzen, who then was an offensive lineman for the Redskins.  He weighed nearly 350 and went right up the stairs and they held!  I was glad they did...

Nov 24, 2010 10:09 AM #55
Ambassador
1,878,678
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Jay, that is a scary scenario you show us there. Imagine stepping onto the ladder and it falling down. Wow. Very dangerous.

Nov 24, 2010 11:02 AM #56
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Gary - I had another such ladder post a few months ago where the improper-installed ladder opened up to right at the top of the stair case to the second level!  14 stairs to fall down AFTER falling down the ladder!

Nov 24, 2010 11:09 AM #57
Rainer
241,927
Justin Dibbs
Pearson Smith Realty - Ashburn, VA
REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale

Another great post Jay, thanks for the tip.  Did the buyer make them fix the ladder?

Nov 25, 2010 04:16 AM #58
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I hope so Justin!  I can only observe and report!

Nov 25, 2010 04:19 AM #59
Rainer
95,419
suzanne welch
Coldwell Banker - Croton on Hudson, NY

Wow..connrats on your feature!

Nov 27, 2010 02:55 AM #60
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks, Suzanne - I sucked them in with the title!

Nov 27, 2010 02:58 AM #61
Rainer
43,428
Renée Montgomery
Century 21 New Millennium - Warrenton, VA
Northern Virginia Real Estate

Jay,

I am so curious which builder this is but I won;t ask you to divulge. Obviously, new construction needs a home inspection regardless of the builder!

Nov 28, 2010 09:26 AM #62
Rainmaker
1,843,815
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

At first, Renee, I thought it was a builder that shared part of its name with Lenn Harley, but found out it is KH.   You know now?

Nov 28, 2010 10:01 AM #63
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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