Open That Hidden Storage Space above Your Garage Ceiling and Install a Pre-assembled Attic Stairway for Easy Access

Install a disappearing pre-assembled attic staircase to access above-ceiling storage in your garage. It doesn't require magic--just a little DIY know-how! Perform much of the work with hand tools--even cutting the opening in the ceiling. Add supports, drop the stairway into place, secure it and adjust the legs. Presto-chango and you're pretty much finished!

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testing pre-assembled stairway positions on the floor
Step 1

Position the Opening in the Ceiling to Allow Stairway Operation

Determine the optimum ceiling location for the pre-assembled stairway to unfold in a convenient spot while clearing obstacles. Use a tape measure and masking tape to mark results on the garage floor.

transferring pre-assembled stairway coordinates to the ceiling
Step 2

Transfer Coordinates for the Location to the Ceiling

Use a plumb bob to transfer the coordinates from the garage floor to the ceiling, marking a four-cornered rectangle for the pre-assembled stairway. Insert a wooden dowel at each corner through the attic floor to mark the position above.

checking pre-assembled stairway location from the attic
Step 3

Adjust Location to Avoid Electric Cables and Obstacles

Clear insulation from the attic side to determine if the opening marked by dowels conflicts with electric cables or other obstacles. Consider pre-assembled stairway convenience for people carrying boxes or other unwieldy items. Relocate the hole if necessary.

cutting pre-assembled stairway opening with a wallboard saw
Step 4

Cut the Ceiling Opening with a Wallboard Saw

Use a hand saw such as a wallboard saw to open the ceiling along the marked cut-lines. For this pre-assembled stairway, the opening should fit exactly between ceiling joists that will support the unit.

securing headers for the pre-assembled stairway opening
Step 5

Attach a Header at Each End of the Opening

Nail a two-by-four header between the joists at each end of the opening. Nail through the joists into the ends of the headers. Use a carpenter's square to ensure the opening is square and will fit the pre-assembled stairway.

clamping ledgers on the pre-assembled stairway opening
Step 6

Attach Temporary Ledgers to the Headers Just Installed

Clamp temporary ledgers into position on the ceiling side of the pre-assembled stairway opening. Attach the ledgers by driving screws through the ledger and ceiling and into the headers installed earlier.

cutting the brace that spans the pre-assembled stairway opening
Step 7

Cut away the Wooden Brace That Spans the Opening

Use a Japanese handsaw to cut away the wooden brace that spans the opening for the pre-assembled stairway. The headers installed earlier will provide support in its place. Your project may not require removal of a brace.

lifting the pre-assembled stairway into position
Step 8

Set the Pre-assembled Stairway into Position from the Attic

Position the pre-assembled stairway in the hole, working from the attic side of the ceiling. The temporary ledgers installed earlier will support the heavy unit while to find the optimum position.

adding shims to position the pre-assembled stairway
Step 9

Shim the Pre-assembled Stairway and Secure It with Nails

Insert wooden shims between the pre-assembled stairway frame and the joists to hold it in position. Secure the unit by driving nails through the stairway unit shims into the joists. Trim off the excess shim length.

measuring the length for the last ladder section on the pre-assembled stairway
Step 10

Trim Pre-assembled Stairway Rails to the Correct Length

Extend all but the last ladder section on the pre-assembled stairway and measure the distance to the garage floor. Trim the last section to length, cutting the rail ends at an angle to rest squarely on the floor. Add molding.

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