A loft is an area in a building that is located closest to the roof. Similar to an attic, a loft is typically an open space with a railing to prevent falls. The different types of loft access are via a loft ladder, folding stairs, disappearing stairs, circular stairs, and an access hatch.
A loft ladder is a wooden or metal ladder attached to the wall leading up to the loft. This type of loft access is often used in residential buildings when the loft is an open air space between two rooms. The most common configuration is when the loft area connects two bedrooms. Each bedroom will contain a loft ladder which allows loft access from both rooms.
Folding stairs, which are also known as a drop down stair, are another type of loft access. Folding stairs are metal stairs that have hinges along the side which allows them to be folded when not in use. The stairs are mounted on a wooden panel and a string is attached to the bottom. When loft access is needed, the string is pulled, which lets the metal stairs unfold.
Disappearing stairs are a type of folding stairs that recess into the ceiling when not in use. Though disappearing stairs are more commonly used for attic access, depending upon the type of loft, they can also used for loft access. If the loft is mainly used for storage, disappearing stairs pose no problem.
For lofts that serve other purposes, such as an office or spare bedroom, disappearing stairs may be an issue since they take up valuable floor space. Disappearing stairs may also pose a safety hazard since the opening is in the floor. The danger of falling through the opening can be avoided if rails are constructed around the opening.
Circular stairs are another form of loft access. Circular or spiral stairs are fixed stairs and are designed to fit into small spaces. Spiral stairs can be added to a corner and usually only take up a little floor space since they go directly up instead of at an angle like traditional stairs.
An access hatch is almost always used for storage-only loft spaces. This type of loft access is a ceiling tile cut into the ceiling and mounted on a wooden frame. When entry to the loft is needed, a step ladder is placed under the hatch and the ceiling tile is pushed up and out of the way. When finished, the ceiling tile is pulled back and falls into place in the wooden frame.