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How to Replace a Pull-Down Attic Staircase

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Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva removes an old attic staircase and replaces it with a new one. (See below for a shopping list, tools, and steps.)

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Shopping List for How to Replace a Pull-Down Attic Staircase:
- Attic staircase
- Attic staircase cover
- Shims
- 2 scrap pieces of wood

Tools for How to Replace a Pull-Down Attic Staircase:
- Reciprocating saw
- Driver
- Staple gun

Steps for How to Replace a Pull-Down Attic Staircase:
1. Measure the rough opening of the attic staircase and match it to find a suitable replacement.
2. Remove the springs from the old attic staircase by bending the metal arms forward to release the tension.
3. Using a reciprocating saw, cut off the metal hinges of the staircase.
4. Also cut off the nails that hold the staircase to the structure opening.
5. Carefully lower the staircase from the opening and remove it.
6. Place the new staircase into the opening and gently set it down on the trim. Be careful to make sure the trim is able to hold the staircase. If not, a second person may need to hold the staircase in place.
7. Center the staircase in the opening using shims.
8. Using a driver, fasten the staircase to the structure opening.
9. With the staircase secure, lower the stairs halfway to the floor.
10. Attic staircases need to be cut to match the height of your home’s ceiling. To do this, use one scrap piece of wood, hold it tight to one side of the staircase until it touches the floor.
11. Make a mark on the end closet to the staircase; that is your length.
12. Flip the piece of scrap wood clockwise and line it up to the bottom against the second piece of scrap wood. Bring the tip up to the edge and make a mark. That’s the angle.
13. Cut the angle on the marked piece of scrap wood with a jigsaw.
14. Extend the staircase.
15. Flip the piece of scrap wood so the pointed edge at the bottom is touching the staircase.
16. Match the length mark on the piece of scrap wood to the joint of the staircase.
17. Mark the length on the staircase to the bottom edge of the piece of scrap wood.
18. To mark the angle on the staircase, flip the piece of scrap wood so the pointed edge is facing at an upward angle.
19. Repeat the measuring steps on the second side.
20. Cut both sides with a reciprocating saw.
21. To install the attic-stair cover, place the sheet over the opening.
22. Use staple gun to attach the cover to the structure.

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