Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Attic ladder

It is my personal belief that a good ceiling fan means you can run the A/C between two and five degrees warmer and still maintain the same comfort level.

We do not have a ceiling fan in our living room. Mrs ERJ gave me a list of projects to keep me out of trouble and one of those projects was to install that fan.

To install the fan, I decided I needed better access to the attic. I currently have a 21" square hole through the ceiling that I must shinny up. The access is in the closet in Kubota's bedroom. It is a chore to empty the closet, hoist myself through the hole (which seems smaller every year), do the task and then reinstall everything in his closet.

I decided that I am old enough to treat myself to a pull-down ladder to the attic.

I have been holding off on drywalling the ceiling until after the new roof. Leaks, don't you know.

We have the new roof.

I started stripping the pressed-paper ceiling tiles out of the kid's bathroom, the better of the two potential locations for the ladder.


The house was built in the mid-1970s. The tiles had been installed with a staple gun. All I had to do was look at them cross-eyed and they fell off the ceiling.

Cutting the lath the tiles were stapled to was not a big chore.

Then it got ugly.

I cut the fiberglass batting and was rewarded with three bushels of blown-in, cellulose insulation on my face and down my shirt.

Peeling the insulation back I was rewarded with the sight of electrical wires strung across the opening where I had hoped to install the ladder.

I piddled around for five hours running wire to clear up the mess. One of those hours involved trip(s) to the hardware stores. Then I had to knock-off for the day because I was scheduled to take food to Mom.

An occupational hazard of blogging is that I might imply that I am handier than I really am. A real electrician would have been able to rewire this in less than an hour.

I will give it another whack tomorrow. The directions for installing the ladder say I need two people but I am going to try it by myself. A real carpenter could probably knock it out in an hour so it will consider it a glorious victory if I can knock it out in less than five.


  1. I installed two ceiling fans when we moved into Stately Wilder Manor. It involved me crawling in the ceiling and generally sweating a lot.

    I still have the third in a box, in my garage.

    12 years later.

  2. Been there--done that myself. No fun. To install the steps I screwed a 1X2 across the stair opening about 1/3rd of the way along the length of the opening and shoved the ladder up and rocked it on the 1X2 into position. Then drove a nail through a pre-drilled hole in the stairs frame into the ceiling Joyce to hold it while I went to have a beer. ---ken

  3. Had a remodel kinda like that a couple years back. 6 ceiling cans and a fan. 2 foot clearance between ceiling and roof, 24x24 access hatch. Tie a length of paracord to a spark plug socket, and use that to throw from hole to hole. And I TOLD 'EM, yes indeed I told 'em, that putting ceiling cans above the ceiling fan was gonna give 'em headaches, and that some track light with the heads below the fan blades would be better. Now they post on Nextdoor in an ADHD group about how their kids are somehow learning disabled. No, they are having headaches from watching TV under, effectively, a strobe light.

  4. Another job wanted a ceiling fan in a formal dining room. 'Pretty place' I said. 'Lots of nice candlelight.' 'Oh yes, we love the effect.' 'You know the fan's gonna blow out all those pretty candles?' 'Oh. You have any ideas?' Couple low voltage VAV registers too care of that problem.

  5. Similar installation in my house. 2x4 chords are not stiff enough for the spring. Brace or sister them or end up with what I look at.

  6. When it's time to make the electrical connections to the ceiling fans, put ALL your ceiling fans on one dedicated circuit with its own dedicated breaker. It will be a real PITA to do a home run for the cabling to all the ceiling fans back to the breaker panel, but it allows powering all ceiling fans with whatever you have for backup power.

    Pro Tip: Be careful what you touch, or turn the main power off - remembering that if the main breaker is in the panel the wiring TO IT IS ALWAYS HOT.

    In the panel is an "A" buss and a "B" buss, each with 120 volts; double breakers connect to both busses to deliver 240 volts. If one - very carefully - moves critical breakers to one buss - but DO NOT OVERLOAD THAT ONE BUSS - you want to maintain a rough load balance across both busses, which means keeping track of the wattage load - (the ceiling fans, a fridge, maybe a few very small LED bulbs) you can successfully use a 120 volt generator for backup for those critical items by powering only the one buss the "critical" breakers for them are connected to. Code requires a transfer switch, either automatic or manual, but some people interpret "code" very loosely, others can't even spell it.....

    If you're a novice at this stuff hire a competent electrician to explain it. An hour of his time will be worth the expense.

    Pro Tip: It's worth the time & effort to map your electrical system - label each receptacle and switch as to which breaker controls it, and while you're at it use a plug-in circuit tester (about $8 at Amazon) to verify correct wiring polarity (hot, neutral, ground) at the receptacle. The tester has a button to also test your GFCI receptacles and breakers (it's common for "production-volume electricians" to meet code by protecting an entire circuit (bathrooms, wet side of kitchen, outdoor receptacles. garage receptacles) for GFCI with ONE GFCI receptacle wired to protect all downstream receptacles. Problem is, trip the GFCI from one bathroom and you're hunting all over the house for that one GFCI receptacle to reset it - assuming you even know that's how the house is wired, most people don't. It's $$, but extra points for installing individual GFCI receptacles at each location where they're needed instead of a GFCI breaker or one GFCI receptacle for the entire circuit.

  7. In Texas the climate is slightly different. When I built, I installed a ceiling fan in the garage, and also specified that the soffits around the house were perforated, all the way around the perimeter. I also have ridge line vents and turbinators on the roof.

    So when it's been a super-hot day, I can open the garage door and turn on the fan. Cooler air is pulled in, forced into the attic, and out the soffits and ridge vents. It'll cool the attic down by 15°F in 15 minutes.

    When it's a nice cool fresh morning, I keep the garage door closed but open the entry door into the house, open all the windows, and turn the fan on - and it pulls air into the house. Standing in front of the entry door, it'll lift your hair up. Works great!


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