Really, Is It So Important To Follow The Manufacturer's Instruction?

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

I wonder how often this is said by "contractors" - "Really, is it so important to follow the manufacturer's instruction?"

Or, "I have been doing it this way for 20 years..."

The answer to the former is yes, and the answer to the latter is - SO WHAT!

On this new construction the manufacturers' stickers were present on most everything.

This is the sticker on the pull-down attic staircase.

This sticker is approximately 12"x12".

It is right in your face when the stairs are pulled down and hard to miss.

It has various installation instructions.  Even diagrams!

Most notably, for the purposes of this post, it says this:

"Stair frame must be secured directly to ceiling joists on all four sides with 16D nails or 1/4" by 3" lag screws.  Use of other fasteners such as finish nails, brads, staples, sheet rock or deck-type screws, can cause sudden, catastrophic failure and should not be used."

That is #3 on the list above.  The manufacturer ranks it as pretty important!  Properly installed this staircase is rated for 300 pounds, so the manufacturer thinks it is a good product.

A 16D nail is 3 1/2" in length.  That is long enough to go through the stair frame, joist and even into a second joist beside, which is recommended at least at each end.  The same strength would be achieved by lag screws.

There are even holes in metal brackets at each corner and the front to accept these nails and screws!

Imagine what I was thinking climbing up to see that this staircase had been installed with brads!

At least they used the very strong triple array!  (I cough as I say that)  

There was a gap all around of 1/2", except at the front where the stairs hinge.  Even without the gap, brads are not strong enough to hold this ladder.  In fact, they are SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED from installation use.

The other thing in the right photo is the tip of a screw coming from the other side of the joist, and not touching the stair frame.

By anybody's definition, and certainly the manufacturer would agree, this is not a securely-installed ladder staircase. 


My recommendation:  new construction needs an inspection just as does old!  Maybe even more so because the house has never been lived in and nothing in the house has been tested.  My biggest beef with modern construction can be described in one word:


The installation above is amateur, dangerous, unthinking, uncaring and decidedly UNPROFESSIONAL.



Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


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Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Jay, what were they thinking? You know... I would laugh if it weren't so.... tiring... exhausting...

Aug 18, 2012 10:02 PM #4
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Yes, unfortunately, some contractors don't read the's a costly mistake...and they should be then be responsible for full replacement value - removal, replacement + materials.  I had a contractor who installed a hardwood floor wrong in a large and expensive kitchen.  Even if he didn't know the right way to install wide plank boards, the instructions were right there on the box.

Aug 18, 2012 10:08 PM #5
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Vince - the "English barrier," as you call it, would make it a hair difficult to know if this wonderful construction meets code.  How can someone who cannot read or speak a language be expected to meet standards demanded in that language?

My sarcastic word for "unprofessionalism," the word used in the post, is 7-11 CONSTRUCTION.

If the shoe fits...

These things go on and on Andrea.  Will the carousel ever stop?  Nope.

Aug 18, 2012 10:10 PM #6
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Debbie - see my answer to Vince above.  I find instructions to be written carefully, without the use of uncommon words.  They do that intentionally and hire writers to so do!  I would not want the jokers who installed this ladder to remove it and install another.  Get a pro...

Aug 18, 2012 10:13 PM #7
Randy Ostrander
Lake and Lodge Realty LLC - Big Rapids, MI
Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI

Good morning Jay. I would think if not adhering to the instruction there is all sorts of liability issues for the builder. I always get a kick out of guys who use drywall screws for framing. Yikes!!!

Aug 18, 2012 10:32 PM #8
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

I can remember when I first started making my own clothes, I never read the pattern instructions.  Fortunately, I worked in a fabric store part-time so I could get extra material to fix my mistakes...not so today!

Aug 18, 2012 11:02 PM #9
John M. Wickline
JW Home Inspections, Inc. - Hilton Head Island, SC

Great post Jay

pull down stairs are often accidents waiting to happen. I always enjoy not having to pull out a ladder to access an attic, but I always check the stairs first before climbing. Nuts and bolts are often loose or missing on these stairs. I always like the ones that have the ladder feet improperly aligned with the flooring.

Stay safe out there


Aug 18, 2012 11:03 PM #10
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Randy - I agree!  You would think the builder would be grateful somebody is pointing this out!

Wallace - been there.  Believe it or not!

That's right John, and also a part of the instructions.  Often the stair treads come loose or the spring is not resting properly on its perch.

Aug 18, 2012 11:15 PM #11
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Geting back to knowing what you don't the case of directions...certainly should know for liability, reliability and the legal hassle that may accompany it !

Aug 18, 2012 11:18 PM #12
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Your post reminded me of when I was younger, naive and didn't know I was ignorant...I would see stickers attached to products that peel off that I bought and think...Wow, they shouldn't litter on new products like that...It never occurred to me read it....Too much

Aug 19, 2012 12:40 AM #13
Charlie Dresen
Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty - Steamboat Springs, CO
Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro

This is pretty scary and I'm I get the feeling that this kind of thing happens more often than we think.  I enjoy your posts.  Thanks!

Aug 19, 2012 12:51 AM #14
Harry F. D'Elia
Real Estate and Beyond, LLC - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

It must be a man thing because many men do not feel they need to read instructions. Read the instructions

Aug 19, 2012 01:21 AM #15
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

I've opened those up before and realized I had to use my own ladder. I just love when you see the holes in the brackets that have the arrow pointing to where the nails need to go and there are none.

Aug 19, 2012 02:32 AM #16
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Jay, My builders welcome a home inspection on their homes. They realize they are not perfect builders and things can be overlooked.

Aug 19, 2012 03:22 AM #17
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi Jay,

I see this all the time. I found a furnace installed the wrong way in the attic one day. It clearly stated on the furnace to mount or install vertically only. They had installed the furnace horizontally.

The mechanical guy was not a happy camper.

Have a good day in Bistow.

Best, Clint Mckie

Aug 19, 2012 03:39 AM #18
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

S&D - so one would think!  Apparently not though, in new construction.

Richie - were those stickers on attic ladder staircases?

Charlie - this stuff is as common as s'mores at a Boy Scout camp!

Harry - we know everything!  Well, it really is best to read this stuff!

Aug 19, 2012 05:19 AM #19
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Rob - I love the ones where they cut through a truss to install them perpendicular to the roof supports!  And there is nothing to nail to.  Then they use staples!

Debbie - it would seem to me to be wise.  But, I guess it's not!

Clint - I guess not!  He had to buy a different unit!

Aug 19, 2012 05:21 AM #20
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I have written about this same issue. I think about half the pulldown stairs I see are not installed correctly. Finish nails or sheet rock screws seem to be the fastener of choice. 

Aug 19, 2012 09:24 PM #21
Robert Sole
REM Inspections LLC - Winter Springs, FL

I see the same thang all the time.  In most houses that have an attic stair installed, I put my laddfer up through the opening and climb it instead.

Aug 19, 2012 10:46 PM #22
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I remember your post Jim.  Excellent as always.  Thought I'd add to the library!

Robert - I got up a little ways and bounce to see.  Then I look for nails or lags.  If none, I follow the Sole practice and get my ladder!

Aug 20, 2012 09:28 AM #23
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