Drop Down vs. Folding Attic Ladder: Pros and Cons

A ladder leading up to an above-garage attic.
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An attic ladder makes it much easier to access your attic. Without one, you have to drag out a standard step-ladder whenever you need to get up there. It's time-consuming and cumbersome. Installing an attic ladder, as part of your attic door, will spare you this hassle.

The two common types of attic ladders are the drop-down and folding varieties. The drop-down variety, or disappearing stairway, is attached to the rectangular ceiling hatch. It is let down in one piece from the ceiling. The folding ladder is also attached to the attic door but folds into itself when the door closes.

Pros of Drop-Down Attic Ladders

Drop-down ladders generally have an inclination of about 40 degrees. This makes them more comfortable to navigate than the folding type. Drop-down ladders are more similar to the regular stairs you may have elsewhere in your house.

With just one pull of a cord, requiring hardly any effort, the entire ladder will glide into place. Drop-down ladders are also more durable and stable than the folding type. They are manufactured to carry greater weight than folding ladders. Some can even support as much as 800 pounds. This type of ladder can hold both you and your big box of Christmas decorations.

Cons of Drop-Down Attic Ladders

Drop-down ladders cost considerably more than the folding type. Besides that, installing one involves a good amount of expertise, meaning you will probably have to pay someone to install it for you.

Pros of Folding Attic Ladders

These are ideal for small attics. They are cheaper and easier to install than drop-down stairways. Some basic equipment is all that is required to install them. Folding ladders are available in aluminum, steel, fiberglass, and wood. The beauty of having one in aluminum is that it will not rust or rot. This eliminates repairs and keeps maintenance to a bare minimum.

Cons of Folding Attic Ladders

The angle of inclination for folding attic ladders is fairly steep. At about 65 degrees, this is much steeper than your regular stairway. Folding attic ladders also tend to be weaker and not as secure as the drop-down variety. Many of them have thin steps, while most of them only support weights ranging from 250–300 pounds. Some also do not have a ladder rod under each tread, reducing their overall strength.