Can’t Open Attic Door – What To Do?

If you can't open your attic door, it can spell big issues for your household, especially if you have a water heater or furnace located in your attic. There are a few reasons why your attic door may become stuck at some point. We've researched the most common ones, and in this post, we will share them with you.

Here are the most common issues that cause an attic door not to open:

  • Loose jambs & gaps 
  • Low-quality hardware
  • Worn & dry springs
  • Strike plate misalignment
  • Bowed ladder
  • Misaligned hinges
  • Improper installation
  • Weather changes
  • Daily wear & tear
  • Shifting foundational shifts

Sometimes you may be able to fix a stuck attic door yourself, and other times you may need the help of a qualified contractor to assist with this time. Either way, it's better to fix the issue sooner rather than later as you never know what the project will entail. Continue reading to learn about the most common reasons why attic doors stick and how to fix them when they do.

A man trying to pull down the attic ladder of his house, Can't Open Attic Door - What To Do?

Common Reasons Why Attic Doors Won't Open

An attic ladder dropped down on a hallway of a rustic themed house

Loose Jambs & Gaps

Door jambs are located on the door frame at the opening near the ceiling. If these jambs become damaged or have been improperly installed, they may contain gaps between them and the trapdoor joists. They may also loosen over the years. In any event, they'll need to be repaired or replaced altogether.

If the damage is minor, you may be able to repair them yourself if you have some carpentry knowledge. The best way to do this is to take a close look at the jamb and inspect the area where the door is sticking. If the jamb is loose, you can take a screwdriver and drill it. If it's damaged, you'll need to measure it along with the space between the rest of the frame and then replace it with another jamb.

Click here to see this drill on Amazon.

Low-Quality Hardware

Some pull-down attic doors and ladders come with cheap hardware. The hardware includes the nuts and bolts used to secure the jambs, braces, and springs on the pull-down. If this hardware becomes worn, you'll need to replace them to ensure your ladder and pull-down safety.

You can typically inspect the hardware by merely opening up the door and pulling down the ladder. Go over each step and all of the hinges on the pull-down to determine whether the hardware needs to be replaced. This could be a simple DIY job.

Worn & Dry Springs

Another common reason for stuck attic doors is worn or dried-out pulldown springs. The springs are located on both sides of the attic door and can pull down and retract when the door is closed easily. Over time they can become dry, and when they do, you'll need to add a bit of lubrication. It's a good idea to regularly oil the pull-down springs and joints to prevent this from happening. It can be done in about 15 minutes, and you can purchase a vacation online for under $20.

Click here to see this door lubrication on Amazon.

Strike Plate Misalignment

Sometimes the attic pull-down will get stuck if the strike plate has come out of alignment. As the years go by, it's common for the screws inside the strike plate to loosen, and this can keep the door from closing and opening.

However, this is another relatively easy fix.  You'll need to take a close look at your door to make sure that it is configured properly against the strike plate. The strike plate should be flush with the door and the frame. To repair this issue, you'll need to take a screwdriver or drill and tighten up the screws on the strike plate and the strike as well.

Misaligned Hinges

Sometimes pulldown door hinges can become loose and cause the door to rub against the jamb and the frame. This could be because the hinges are misaligned and need to be reinstalled on the pull-down. To perform this task, you'll first need to remove the current hinges from the door.

Next, while on a ladder, place the door inside the frame and use a pencil to mark the areas where the hinges should go. Then drill pilot holes into the areas where the screws will go. Finally, take the hinges and drill them into the door. Before performing this project, it's best to have an extra pair of hands to hold the door while drilling it into place.

Improper Installation

An improper installation of your pull-down can lead to serious safety risks. It can also cause your door to become stuck at any time. If your door seems too big for the frame, has hinges that are misaligned, has gaps in the door jambs, or does not close completely, the chances are that you had a subpar installation. If you are not someone with advanced carpentry skills, you may want to reach out to a qualified contractor to fix the issues with your door. Be sure to look at the ratings for the contractor before giving them the job.

Weather Changes

Weather changes can cause your pulldown to stick as well--and this is a fairly common issue. The reason is that humidity or an excess of moisture in the air causes wood to swell. If the door has expanded, it will become too wide or long for the door frame, resulting in it becoming stuck. Depending on how much the wood has expanded, you may need to wait for it to shrink back to its original state before repairing it.

Once it does, the best way to prevent this issue in the future is to shave the sides of the door down or shave the frame down to allow for expansion. To fix this, you will need to find the sticking point, measure the door and the frame, and then shave a few inches off each to create the perfect fit. If you have advanced carpentry knowledge, go for it. If not, you'll need to contact a professional carpenter. This type of project can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to complete.

Daily Wear & Tear

Interior of a gorgeous rustic themed farmhouse with walls painted in dark green, hardwood flooring, and dropped down attic ladder

Another common reason why your pull-down door may stick is from daily wear and tear. If you and your family utilize your attic daily, it's common for the frequent opening and closing the door to cause the hardware and wood to become worn over time and even misaligned. This is normal, and depending on the specific issue, it can usually be fixed relatively easily. The most common issue with wear and tear is the replacement of hardware, so it's always a good idea to keep extra screws and hinges handy.

Click here to see this hinge set on Amazon.

Shifting Foundational Shifts

Unfortunately, foundational shifts are something that you can't control. All homes will naturally settle throughout the year, which can throw off the alignment of your attic pull down. If it does, you need to locate the specific area causing the misalignment and reconfigure it. More likely than not, you'll need to either shave down the door or adjust the door frame to fill in any gaps or create more space for the door.

How Do You Fix An Attic Ladder?

If your attic ladder needs repairs, you can usually give replacement parts from the manufacturer. However, if the repairs or frequent, it may be time for a new attic ladder altogether. The most common repair for attic ladders is replacing the springs that connect the sections of the letter. This is a relatively simple fix, and here's how to perform it.

Steps to Fix An Attic Ladder

  1. Open the attic door and pull down the ladder completely until it touches the floor. Inspect the entire ladder, checking for loose nuts and bolts. You may need an additional ladder to stand on if the attic ladder is unstable. Use a screwdriver to tighten any loose nuts.
  2. Inspect the sides of the ladder for any springs that may be loose. If any of the springs have come out or are lost, you will need to close the ladder to repair them. Start by climbing the stairs to answer the attic and have someone else close the stairs if you are unable to. Next, grab a pair of needle-nose pliers and reattach the loose spring pulling it into the end where the hole is located.
  3. Have your assistant lower the stairs and then examine the springs and the metal arms to ensure they are in alignment. If the spring is bent, you can purchase an alignment kit from your manufacturer or a local hardware store.
  4. After you repair the string, lower the ladder again and test a few times to ensure that it is good to go.

Click here to see this arm replacement kit on Amazon.

How Do You Replace An Attic Door Pulldown?

You can replace your attic pulldown in about 1-2 hours. If your old door becomes damaged or warped, you can typically purchase a new attic door from the manufacturer or have a customized attic door made. Let's look at how.

Steps to Replace Attic Pulldown:

  1. Before installing the new door, you'll first need to remove the hinges from the other door.
  2. Start by grabbing a ladder and placing it to the side to have room when the door is open. It's also helpful to have an extra pair of hands to hold the door while you unscrew the hinges.
  3. Use a drill to unscrew the bolts and screws that attach the springs to the side of the door and the frame. Next, unscrew the hinges on the metal plate that secure the door's end to the frame.
  4. After you have unscrewed all of the hardware, place the letter to the side.
  5. Next, grab your new door and install the hardware on the metal plate to the bottom edge of the door frame--your assistant should be holding the door while you do this. Next, have your assistant continue to hold the ladder in place while you screw in the brackets for the side springs and attach them.
  6. Finally, test the door by pulling the cord down and extending the ladder to make sure that it functions properly.

What Is The Best Pulldown Attic Ladder?

Choosing an attic ladder can seem like a lot of work. So to help you on your search, here are the top-selling attic ladders on Amazon.

Louisville Ladder

This lightweight aluminum ladder is capable of supporting 375 pounds and comes with adjustable rubber shoes. It is robust, had press maximum traction, and folds smoothly for easy closing.

Click here to find this ladder on Amazon.

WolfWise Telescoping Ladder

If you have a smaller opening, this ladder is worth taking a look at. It has a smart-close system with one-button retraction makes portability a breeze. The ladder can support up to 330 lb and has grooved steps for increased safety and traction. This telescoping ladder is one of the best modern attic ladders available on the market today.

Click here to see this ladder on Amazon.

How Do You Seal An Attic Door?

Sealing your attic door is relatively easy and can be done in about 15 to 20 minutes. To do this, you will need to use weather stripping, spray or foam insulation and align it around the attic doors. Be sure to accurately measure the insulation before placing it around the door, as you don't want to hinder the action when the door closes and opens. When applying weather stripping to the attic door, make sure that the door lace's latch flush against the door frame and isn't obstructed.

Click here to see this weather stripping on Amazon.

Wrapping Things Up

We hope that this post has provided you with the information you were looking for as to why your attic door may become stuck. Remember, it's best to seek a qualified carpenter's consultation if you do not have advanced carpentry experience. You don't want to end up creating more problems by trying to fix advanced repairs yourself.

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