Dear PoPville – Getting Attic Access

Photo by PoPville flickr user laurabl

“Dear PoPville,

I have a house that was renovated before I bought it, and part of that renovation was, apparently, to remove the internal access to the attic. I would like to hire someone to restore internal access – cut the hole in the ceiling, reinforce the access, install stairs, etc. Among other reasons, I want to be able to get in there to improve insulation and fix problems with the ductwork.

Any ideas on what kind of person/company I should hire for this? Is it a roofer? A remodeler? A carpenter? Some combination?”

28 Comment

  • The guy I hired to put in insulation in the attic crawl space did this for me – sounded like it was pretty standard when you get blown-in insulation.

    • how much was it to get the blown in stuff for say a standard size attic ? Do they price per/ft?

      • Ours was about $1,000.

      • We just did the insulation for my parents river house in Tappahannock. 2,000 sq feet of attic. We used 60 bags of insulation at $13 per bag. That was good for about 6 inches of insulation across the entire attic. Quotes came in anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, and it cost us about $800 to do it ourselves.

        Pretty misrable few hours, but it is really quite easy. Need one person to put the insulation into the machine that vacuums it up into the attic, and another person to be in the attic blowing it. Best recomendation is to get the full body suit to do it, and get face masks and the plastic goggles that cover your entire eye area.

        We are planning on doing it at my home sometime in the next couple of weeks. Figure we need about 25 bags, so should be much easier/cheaper than the river house was. Petworth should get ready to see me looking like Dexter in my suit and goggles and mask!!

      • austindc

        We did it ourselves in about 450 sq foot row house attic for about $400. Frager’s rents the blower for about $90 per day, and the insulation is about $37 per bag (each bag covers 100 sq ft to about 7 inches, so you may want to double up). Only took a few hours to do. Just make sure to wear a dust mask and long sleeves and pants (maybe a hood). Oh yeah, Frager’s was also very helpful with making suggestions about the process, like taping a broom handle and a flashlight to the hose to reach into those tight little corners. You will also need friends there to help move the machine and load insulation into it.

  • Back in the day, my now wife had a roommate and his friend try this at her row house. That was a mistake. Don’t do that. Alcohol was involved.

  • standard procedure for upgrading insulation, depending on the attic setup, may require two holed to be cut in order to get past the pocketed joist in the center. Often can be installed in the top of a closet

  • janie4

    I had my contrctor do it. Just remember – it should go between the joists to maintain structural integrity.

  • this is one of those things that might not really be worth doing if you already have decent insulation. you can generally see what you’ve got up there by shining a light through one of the vents (small metal grates at the front and back of your roof line).

    my house also lost it’s attic crawlspace hatch and we haven’t put it back.

    of course if it’s a full blown attic you should definitely go for it.

    good luck.

  • If you still have the hatch on the outside / roof side but not on the inside all you have to do it cut the drywall ceiling and make some kind of door to replace that panel of ceiling. If the hatch was removed in the roof then you need a roofer.

    • that’s for roof access. not attic access.

      • this kind of roof access allows you to pass through and access the attic or insulated crawl space in many houses.

    • Good point about the roof access. The hatch to the roof is usually aligned with the ceiling hatch below if the attic is low height. You might want to try to align the new ceiling hatch with the roof hatch above.

    • PDleftMtP

      Answer above is right, though. Contractor should be able to do it – cut the drywall, put some molding up attached to the joists to hold the hatch (you can just use the piece of drywall they just cut) and put a couple of crosspieces between the joists at the edges (unless you want to put your foot through your ceiling), and make sure it’s under the roof hatch (if your attic is like mine, it’s a PITA crawling around in there, so you just want a straight shot up and you can go either into the attic or out onto the roof). I didn’t do it myself, but it didn’t look hard. I just use a ladder – for as often as I need to go in there it’s fine.

  • Any recommendations on who could do the insulation + attic access?

  • My house does not have access either but I can access the attic through the return air grill in the ceiling.
    The grill is about 2’X2′ and allows one to slide through the opening and disconnect the flex duct return that goes to my rooftop air handler. Once the flex duct is disconnect from the return you can get into the attic space. Obviously not convenient for storage access etc. but it allows you to get access in a pinch for repairs etc.

  • Where was that picture taken? looks like Bloomingdale but I’m having trouble pinpointing.

  • For those that have recently added insulation to thier attic, has your winter/summer utility bill changed significantly?

  • You should start with an Energy Audit from the DDOE. If the auditor is good, they will have some information for who and what you need. Hopefully even give some estimated pricing. However, due to a nice feature of DDOE they are not allowed to recommend specific contractors.,a,1209,q,492761.asp

    Also Maryland is years ahead of DC with this kind of stuff, while the rebates don’t work through, there is a good list of contractors here who have been vetted and do good work.

    • We got the DDOE free audit but they could not recommend contractors or estimate cost. I was excited about doing it, but it turned out to be pretty useless since it mostly just uncovered where air is leaking out, but I presume a contractor would have to repeat this test in order to know where to do their work. Oh well.

      So who knows a good, affordable weather-proofing contractor who can just take care of our door weatherproofing (that we’ve been meaning to do ourselves for two years now) and do some targeted caulking/sealing?

      • I didn’t find it useless at all. The DDOE auditor sent me a detailed report, with photos, showing me where the air leakage was — for my future use, or a contractor’s. He also helpfully recommended that I seal the easy ones myself, and then hire someone to do the rest, because a contractor would likely offer to reduce leakage by a set percentage (e.g. 25%) of the efficiency, so if I did the easy fixes myself I would get more out of the money I paid to a home energy contractor. I thought the DDOE program was great, and my energy bills already went down some, just from the little things we fixed ourselves.

  • Wasn’t this person asking about recommendations for rebuilding the attic stairs, not suggestions on how to insulate the attic? Anyway, one option could be something as simple as installing pull-down attic stairs in the ceiling. Depending on the height of your ceiling you probably need to go with aluminum, but it’s an easy alternative to rebuilding the entire staircase and will save on house space. Just at a thought.

    If you do go this route, the stairs are reasonably inexpensive and can be installed either by you or a general handyman that you trust. I personally use Wall to Wall construction but they’re a little more expensive.

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