This is the second in a series of guest posts by Jim Quarello, founder of JRV Home Inspections in Wallingford, CT. Find out more about Jim and the services he can provide at his web site.
You ever get that feeling that something just isn’t right? A nagging feeling perhaps misfortune is but a moment away. Surely everyone has experienced it at one time or another.
One place I’m sure many people have anxiety is on a ladder. Especially one set against the house or precariously perched on an un-level surface. The combination of height, those little rungs and a somewhat wobbly perch is enough to start heart palpitations in anyone.
Now a relatively steady, rugged and permanently installed ladder should be another thing all together. For instance your attic pull down stairs. Attic ladders are not too high; a good quality unit is actually quite steady and sits on a nice flat and level surface.
But…what if the frame were fastened to the ceiling joists with teeny, tiny little nails. Nails so small that the moment you’re carrying up the Christmas ornaments to put away for another year, right before you get to the top rung those nails fail like a Wall Street investment bank. A catastrophic collapse with no bailout.
Take a look at the photo with those two big red arrows. They are pointing at the finish nails (finish nails are for fastening trim work) used to “secure” this set of attic stairs to the ceiling joists. The scenario I just painted very easily could have occurred to a family member using these stairs.
The diagram at the right is from the installation instruction for a set of attic pull down stairs. Notice section “a”; Drive 10 16d nails… 16d nails are 3½ inches long and 10 would probably hold a rhino…a baby rhino. This fastening method is pretty much standard for this type of stairway. Yet I see them screwed in with sheet rock screws quite often as well. Sheet rock screws are made for holding up a piece of drywall, not an attic stairway.
When you’re home today or the next time you’re showing a house and happen to look at the attic stairway, see what’s holding those stairs in place. If its itty bitty nails and you happen to decide to go up it, you may just get that sinking feeling.