I recently bought a house built in 1927. I'd like to somehow expand the
attic's original, tiny hatchway and perhaps add a retractable ladder...the
hatchway is located over a staircase leading to the basement, so it's just
about as inaccessible as one can imagine. The hatchway is approx. 2'x2.5'
and it's about 12 feet from floor. Having no home improvement experience,
what can I do to expand this hatchway and make it accessible? Who would I
contact to perform this kind of work? There is a stairway light only about
a foot away from the hatchway entrance, so I imagine lengthening and
widening this accessway will be particularly challenging.
That would be the easiest route, like above a bedroom hallway if the joist
structure and floorspace and headroom above are adequate. Another idea- what
does the 'dead' end of the basement stairwell back up to? Might not be that
big a deal to add another staircase above the basement stairs, opening into
a hallway or closet or something. The lower end of new stairs would need a
simple door over it to avoid heat loss. Yes, it would mean gutting all the
drywall/plaster in the stairwell, but since that isn't 'public space', a
cheap drywall job could finish it out 'good enough' and add the
code-required firebreaks. Since the high space in the stairwell is wasted
space anyway, the added convenience of fixed stairs may make up for higher
costs, assuming the attic is big enough for useful storage space.
Now for the bad news- none of these options are a good DIY job for someone
with no experience at all. Even just adding a hatchway requires knowing how
to header off the new or expanded opening, and possibly sister some joists
to spread the load, etc. Not rocket science, but not something a book will
tell you all the variables on, either. I'd strongly recommend getting some
bids from a small remodeling contractor, or even an <experienced> freelance
carpenter like a retired guy who wants to make some cash on the side.
Ideally, somebody who would let you watch and learn, and maybe once he did
the hard parts, let you save a few bucks by doing the drywall/trim/paint on
your own. If nothing else, those pull-down stair units are heavy, and it
takes a couple strong guys to place and fasten them.
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