Folding attic stairs are available in four basic types. True folding attic stairs fold into thirds and are mounted on the attic hatch. One can also choose disappearing stairs, which do not fold at all, but slide into the attic along mounted rails. There are accordion staircases that unfold on hinges located on either side of each rung. Finally, there are telescopic stairs, which pull out one rung segment at a time. All types of attic stairs are available in preassembled kits that can easily be installed in almost any attic entrance.
Folding attic stairs are common to many households and can be made of wood or aluminum. This type of attic staircase rests at an angle of 64 degrees, which is the same angle as a painter’s ladder. Folding stairs typically fold at two joint locations, spaced approximately three rungs apart.
Disappearing stairs are still considered folding attic stairs, although they do not actually fold. Instead, they slide along a track mounted on the attic hatch. The track allows the ladder to slide up into the attic. When the hatch is closed, the disappearing stairs rest on the floor of the attic and on top of the hatch, instead of resting on the hatch alone.
Disappearing stairs can come with handrails, something rarely seen on traditional folding attic stairs. They also rest at an angle of 50 to 57 degrees, which is closer to the angle of a standard staircase. Aluminum and wood are the most common materials used to make this type of staircase.
The accordion pull-down stair comes in steel or aluminum. Because accordion stairs must have hinges at each tread, wood is not a practical material. Accordion stairs fold at each tread, much like a drying rack for clothing. They can extend and lock into place, no matter the length from floor to ceiling, making them versatile for many applications.
When compressed fully, these stairs fit snugly onto the attic hatch. Like disappearing stairs, accordion stairs can include a handrail. The metal frames are painted and can be purchased in many colors.
Telescopic stairs, sometimes called telescopic ladders, are made of approximately eight segments, with each segment containing a single rung. The rungs fit one inside another like nesting tables, so that the entire staircase slides up into the attic space. The telescopic ladder is mounted on the attic ceiling, rather than on the hatch.