Loft ladders are ladders which are designed to provide access to a loft, a second story or half story which is directly underneath the roof. There are a number of different styles of loft ladder available on the market, ranging from custom versions handcrafted by woodworkers to mesh with a very specific interior design scheme to generic products available at home improvement stores. When purchasing a loft ladder, there are a number of considerations to take into account when evaluating product choices.
Ladders are often preferable to true stairs for loft access because they take up less room. Since lofts are often used to expand usable space in a small structure, filling usable space on the first floor with a bulky staircase would defeat the point. Depending on design, loft ladders may be installed with a slope so that they are easy to climb, or they may run vertically.
Some loft ladders are simply permanently installed, and they may be bolted to the side of the loft or attached to the wall underneath the loft to provide access. Movable loft ladders are also available, including sliding ladders such as those used in libraries, and freestanding ladders which are leaned against the edge of the loft when people wish to climb upstairs. Both designs can include safety features such as handrails which are designed to provide support for people going upstairs, and rubber feet which provide traction so that the ladder will not slip on the floor or damage the flooring.
Folding loft ladders are also available, in several designs. Some fold up, like folding attic ladders, into the ceiling. Others may telescope, compacting when they are not in use. Accordion fold loft ladders which can be pulled down from a ceiling hatch or the edge of the loft are also available. Manufacturers of these designs may offer pinch protection, rubber feet, handrails, and other safety features to make these loft ladders safer to use, and these safely measures are often recommended for houses with children.
Another type of loft ladder is a safety ladder which provides a safe method of rapid escape from a loft. Many building codes mandate that structures have more than one opening for ingress and egress so that people will be able to get out in the event of a fire or substantial structural damage, and loft ladders can help to satisfy this requirement by providing a way to exit safely from a second story window.