Installing attic access requires cutting a hole, framing it and installing a pre-fabricated attic stair unit. This is an easy to moderately difficult task and probably takes two to three hours to complete. You need a folding attic ladder assembly, wood shims, 3-inch wood screws, one 2-inch-by-6 inch-by-4-foot long board and one 1-inch-by-4-inch-by-5-foot long board. You also need a stud finder, reciprocating saw, circular saw, drill, carpenter's square, pencil, chalk line, tape measure, ladder, flashlight, level and a helper or two.
Select a location
Find a spot where your attic ladder is most easily accessed at all times. Avoid a spot near a light fixture or bathroom to prevent accidentally cutting into electrical wires or pipes.
Mark your hole
Use a stud finder to determine where the joists in the ceiling are located. They should each be 24 inches apart. Between the joists, mark a rectangle on the ceiling measuring 54 inches long by 22 1/2 inches wide.
Cut the hole
Use a reciprocating saw to cut a small inspection hole in the center of your rectangular mark. Use a flashlight to check for electrical wires or pipes that may be in the way. If everything is clear, proceed to complete the cut.
Frame out the hole
Measure and cut the 2-by-6-inch board to create two headers that span between the joists on either end of the hole. Fasten the headers in place with 3-inch wood screws.
Attach support boards
Cut the 1-by-4-inch board in half to create two 30-inch boards. Temporarily attach these boards to the ceiling and into the joists on either end of the attic opening. Fasten them so that each board creates a 1/4-inch lip for the stair assembly to rest on after being hoisted into the space.
Hoist the ladder assembly into place
From the attic, and with the help of a friend or two from below, hoist the ladder assembly into the opening. Allow it to rest on the support boards.
Shim and fasten the ladder
From below, have a friend partially lower the stairs so they are out of your way. Place shims between the frame of the ladder assembly and ceiling joists and headers. Level the frame, and fasten it to the joists and headers using 3-inch wood screws.
Remove support boards
Once the ladder is tightly fastened, remove the support boards from below, and fully extend the ladder for use. Add decorative wood framing to the ceiling around the new attic opening to finish the look.