If you found this, looking for attic ladder installation ideas, try the Ladder Installation link at the left, or this.
At September 2010, note intended move of all attic ladder resources to R5Portals: http://sites.google.com/a/r5portals.com/www/home.
An attic ladder installation is much more than a ladder, involving intelligent rough framing, methods of placement, ceiling edge finishing, integration with insulation and decking, and safety features guarding against falls.
A consumer will be poorly served by anything that is stocked at Home Depot, or Lowe's. At Home Depot, the brand name is Louisville. Louisville proudly declares that they have no interest in improving their ladders. At Lowe's, it is Werner. I have some trust in the Werner WH-series heavy-duty wood ladders, made in the USA by Century Industries, Little Rock, AR. Despite large size and weight, these ladders have strength no better than better-designed European ladders. Fasteners are mismatched to the rugged wood pieces. Nuts and bolts loosen and fall off, inviting breakage. Ladder frames are of mere 1x4 lumber, thus out of proportion to steps and to most attic floor construction. Models on-the-shelf are of cheapest construction, and emphasize metal assemblies made in China. The WH ladders must be special-ordered, and can include sealing gaskets on three edges and an afterthought insulation panel, 3/4" foil-clad urethane panel, R5.4. That panel is too-easily destroyed by kick damage, and loss of toe space is a safety compromise.
I prefer wood ladders, with brands including MidMade, Calvert and Fakro. MidMade was originally a Swedish-government business employing the handicapped. Ownership is now SSC Joinex, still a Swedish-government corporation. I am limited in MidMade offerings, by what importer Conservation Technology, will purchase: just one model and size. Fakro ladders are imported via Canada from Fakro Industries, in Poland. Calvert ladders are imported by Calvert USA, of Maryland, from factories in the Czech Republic. I am happy to install Rainbow ladders from Austria, but find price resistance; their steel ladders are nearly double the cost of a MidMade Ladder, four times the cost of a Fakro or Calvert wood ladder. There are many good local distributors of profitably-sold Rainbow ladders. There are more-affordable Rainbow wood ladders, but still pricey with distributor mark-up.
There are similar, good, door insulation claims for the various wood ladders: Fakro door with 1 1/4" polystyrene, claimed R6.2. Calvert door with up to 1 1/2" polystyrene. MidMade door with 2" polystyrene, claimed R7.3. The Rainbow steel ladder, door with 2" styrofoam, has claimed R15, but that number seems inconsistent. A Rainbow ladder door with 1" styrofoam is claimed R8. Rainbow claims are not consistent with stated R-values for expanded polysyrene foam of about R4 per inch. Please see further discussion of energy efficiency at the Insulation Math link.
In most communities, code requires a fire-rated ladder in a garage attic that does not have fire separation from the main house. Here is the requirement for my house, in Portland, Oregon. A thirty-minute fire-rated ladder is required for my garage, and I have installed a Fakro, Model LWF. The model LWF costs 60% more than the most-similar non-rated ladder, model LWS-P. Features contributing to added cost include a composite facing (pretty red ceramic fiberboard), a thermal-expansion sealing band above the door gasket, and an attempt that the door should close with a simple push, without a latch, by strong spring action. Mine does not close by itself. Due to the extreme spring forces, or some other oversight, the door binds and does not fully close. I wish the door had ordinary hinges and a latch. I invite some fire expert to rationalize rules for residential ladders, that might bring down cost and lead to simpler, more-reliable design. No fire-rated ladder other than Fakro was at all affordable to me. In all cases, code should not be written where there is no means of compliance. I think it is ethical for code writers to solicit conforming products, and thereby to write rules that best serve the public.
Telescopic steel ladder. Heavy, needing hoist or crew for installation, but with convenient jacking screws to bring into position. Twice the cost of a wood ladder. This one has a handy rug nearby to set under landed legs. Nylon wheels gouge a wood floor.
Presented large, to show detail of blend with ceiling drywall, flexible grout patch for a moved hall light, and even a view of leveler legs on the cropped-out drop cloth. The leveler legs are important to stability of the lowest hinge. All fold-out ladders have the lower hinge pivot adverse, from the back. Working via this ladder, I learned to not rest legs on the drop cloth. The kick-out that can occur is one reason some people choose telescopic pull-down ladders. I don't like tendency of wood floor impression by plastic wheels of the indeterminate telescoping floor contact.
With Extension Kit. This is an elegant ladder, able to reach a tall ceiling.
1803, with compact 22"x43" rough opening, noting virtue of off-center placement
in a hallway, and ability to clear the header of a doorway. The Calvert ladder
angle of 68 degrees ( vs. 65 for Fakro and MidMade) gives the
most-compact swing upon deployment.