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How to Expand a Trapdoor for Installing Stairs

Begin a trapdoor construction process by framing out the trapdoor opening to make space for the stairs. These step-by-step instructions demonstrate how to complete the process of opening a trapdoor.

More in Remodeling

install stairs leading into attic
  • Time

    Day

  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty

    Moderate

Highlights:

Step 1: Prepare the Opening

If a new hole needs to be cut for the trapdoor stairs, make sure there’s no electrical wiring or plumbing in the way. It’s best to orient the opening so the stairs will run parallel to the joists.

Make sure that there is enough head room to move things in and out.

Take the correct measurement from floor to ceiling, because the stairs do come in different sizes.

If there is already a rough opening, the hole may need to be adjusted to fit the stairs. Start by taking off the existing trim from the trapdoor.

The rough opening needs to be 1/2" longer by 1/2" wider than the stair unit, this will give a 1/4" all the way around for shimming and squaring.


take off existing trim from trapdoor

Step 2: Cut the Opening

Measure and mark the length for the stairs and snap some chalk lines.

Using a circular saw with a segmented masonry blade, set it to the depth of the plaster (about 1" thick) and cut through the plasterboard (Image 1). Go slowly.

Finish up the corners with a jab saw (Image 2).

Step 3: Remove the Header and a Joist Section

Remove the old header and a section of the joist that is in the way of the rough opening (Image 1).

Make the first cut through the joist cutting 2" back from the rough opening to allow room for a new header.

Cut through the nails on either side of the old header, and take out the joist section and the header in one piece (Image 2).

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