Some home builders fail to provide an access point during construction. I’ll never understand it. At some point, you are going to need access and the only solution is to create one.
Here’s how you can get into an attic with no access:
- Decide where to put the attic access.
- Prepare the tools and set up your workspace.
- Locate the joists and outline your access hole.
- Turn off the power supply.
- Cut through the drywall and remove it.
- Install a support frame around the hole.
- Attach the drywall back and let it rest on the frame.
Each procedure is relatively simple, but we’ll look at each more closely. In this article, we’ll go over how you can choose a good location for attic access, which materials to prepare, and how to execute the process safely and efficiently.
1. Decide Where To Put the Attic Access
The first step will largely influence how easy or difficult it’ll be to access your attic.
Placing your attic access in the bedroom makes it convenient for you to retrieve seasonal clothing and other seldom-used items when the need arises (source).
The location also keeps the access private, so your guests wouldn’t see it when they come to visit. Visible attic access will also make it more challenging to incorporate ceiling designs in your home’s public areas.
Another option would be to place the access in one of your bathrooms, preferably one that guests aren’t using. It would be awkward to have to get something from the attic but a guest is still in the bathroom doing their thing.
2. Prepare the Tools and Set Up Your Workspace
Good news — there’s no need for fancy tools when creating attic access. In fact, it’s best to opt-out of some power tools.
At the minimum, you’d need a roll of tape, a stud finder, a drywall knife, a square, a nail gun, and trims.
You can have the trims pre-cut and primed at the hardware store where you buy them. You need to measure the dimensions of the attic access hole and add roughly 2.75 inches (6.98 centimeters) on each side to get the trim length.
In some cases, you may find joists that cut through your access hole. This can happen when you fail to detect them using your stud finder. If such is the case, you’ll also need a wood saw to cut through the joist and 2 pieces of additional 4 by 2-inch (10.16 by 5.08 cm) wooden planks to support the attic access on both sides of the hole, parallel to the joist you just removed.
3. Locate the Joists and Outline Your Access Hole
Using your stud finder, find the joist locations and mark them using your roll of tape. The area inside the tape outline will be the location of the access hole.
This time, it’s now a question of what the size of your hole will be. You’d likely want it as large as possible, so you can choose the entire area inside of the outline as your attic hole.
4. Turn Off the Power Supply
For safety purposes, you should always turn off the power supply before doing any cutting. It’s a risk that you can and should avoid. If you skip this step and accidentally cut through a livewire, you’ll likely sustain severe injuries from electrocution, and the outcome can be fatal.
5. Cut Through the Drywall and Remove It
Using your drywall knife, follow the inner outline you previously laid out using your tape roll and cut carefully through the drywall.
If you use a power saw instead of a regular drywall knife without being sure about the complete joist layout, you might unknowingly cut through existing joists. This will make your DIY attic access more complicated, especially if you created a mistake in outlining your joists and are cutting through the wrong location.
There’s no need to worry, though, as the manual cutting wouldn’t take long. The most challenging step is pushing the knife into the drywall.
The cutting will be easier because you’ve already outlined the borders of the hole. When cutting each side of the access panel, remember to leave roughly an inch of each side uncut. This is so the drywall doesn’t suddenly fall on you while you’re cutting the other sides.
When you’re ready to fully detach the portion of the drywall, put one of your palms on the center to hold it steady and fully detach the panel.
6. Install a Support Frame Around the Hole
Using a nail gun, attach the pre-cut trims around the hole.
Make sure that the first side is placed directly along the outline, as you’ll position the rest of your trims according to the first one. Additionally, use a square to make the second trim perpendicular to the first one.
When you’re down to the third side, temporarily place the 4th one on its expected position as well, so you’re sure that all sides fit together like a perfect square, and then attach the third trim to the drywall. The fourth one will now be the easiest, as it’ll fit perfectly on the remaining space.
7. Attach the Drywall Back and Let It Rest on the Frame
As a final step, insert the cut portion of the drywall back into the hole. Since the trims have an allowance of 2.75 inches (6.98 cm) on each side, they’ll be able to hold the drywall steady. However, since the drywall is now a little bit larger than the access point, you’ll need to tilt it a bit when putting it back in place for it to fit.
Attics make for good storage spaces and provide insulation. If you’d want to get both perks, but your attic is currently inaccessible, there’s no need to worry. Getting into an attic is reasonably quick and easy.
The most crucial part is selecting the access location and preparing the necessary tools. It would also be a great idea to turn off the power supply right from the get-go and opt-out of power tools when cutting through your ceiling’s drywall. Having an assistant will also help make the process faster and safer.
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As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.