Gaining Attic Access

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MarkM
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Gaining Attic Access

Post by MarkM » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:38 am

Hi guys,

I was hoping I could get some advice on trying to do something.

I've been slowly tackling project by project around the house I recently bought. Changing light fixtures, running new light switches, new outlets here and there, etc. I have plans for running Ethernet cable, adding light fixtures, ceiling fans, maybe recessed lighting, etc. As of yet, I've been having to it "without attic access".

The actual attic access in the home is a small 15x15 hole in a closet. I'm a bigger guy (I know, I need to go on a diet... I haven't had the time to find a diet forum as great as this is for DIY projects, but that's another subject altogether). As a result, this little 15x15 hole will not allow me access into the attic. I know that either the Truss or Joists (I don't know what's up there) are indeed 16 inches on center, because I can feel the firmness exponentially change exactly every 16 inches as I put upward pressure on my ceiling (I do not have drywall ceiling). I have not yet put a stud finder on the ceiling, but if I bet pennies to quarters I am confident it would show a "stud" every 16 inches.

I have been looking around for options, and the only two that I can think of is either expanding the access hole, or adding an access door.

When I have looked, it appears that if I expand the access hole, if I have Trusses (which I don't know if it is truss or just joist), I will have to have an engineer look to determine how to balance the load if I cut through the truss to expand the hole. I don't know if there is truth to that or not, but that's what I've read. Hiring an engineer, right now, is definitely not going to be within the budget to do this project.

Part of my house has a vaulted style ceiling, which has to then have a wall between the living room, and the attic to the rest of the house. I have considered cutting a access door (maybe something like 24x24 or 24x30 or something) in the wall to give me access, and when I'm not using it, I could hang a picture, or decoration over it so it remains hidden and aesthetically pleasing. For what it's worth, the walls are 1975 special wood paneling. If I did this possibility, is there anything that I should expect to pose a challenge to me before I go either cutting a hole in the wall, or ripping off the panel board?

I was wondering what you guys thought would be a best choice for me to do, and how would you recommend going about it? Is there another option (with a tight budget of course) that I may not have thought of?

Any words of wisdom you guys would have would be appreciated, as gaining that access would make my projects easier, cleaner, faster, more efficient, and all around better than having to fight without attic access all the time.

Thanks!

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A. Spruce
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by A. Spruce » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:09 pm

I am not a fan of closet located attic access, due to the closets you normally find them in are barely larger than the access itself, trying to shoehorn yourself into a tiny closet and up through an even tinier hole is quite the feat.

If you have an attached garage, you could go through the garage wall. You would need a weatherproofed fire rated door for the access point, but this would solve a whole lot of problems with access size, ease of use, and aesthetics.

If you don't have a garage wall you can go through, then you might want to consider a drop down ladder.

As for cutting trusses, you are correct, you should consult with an engineer before cutting one because trusses are designed to take the load as a whole unit, you cut a part of that unit and you've destroyed the structural integrity of the entire truss. An engineer can give you a plan for transferring the loads around your cut and reinforcing what is left of the truss.

Joists are another matter, joists can be modified with relative ease. Similarly to a truss, the load will be transferred around the cut site, it's just a whole lot less complicated to do it.
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MarkM
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by MarkM » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:24 pm

Would it be possible or practical to do an opening in the wall inside? Something similar to what you discussed with the garage access, only from the house interior? My garage is not aligned with the house to allow for the garage access.

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A. Spruce
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by A. Spruce » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:31 pm

I suppose you could, it will just look a little funny to see a door in the top of a wall, especially if it's in a well traveled area of the house. The nice thing about going through a wall is that it is extremely easy to frame the opening, even if it's a structural wall.
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Shannon
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by Shannon » Sat Feb 03, 2018 4:05 pm

What about a end gable access vent door ?I have not actually ever used or installed one but it seems to be worth a look?
http://www.customgablevents.com/Hinged-Gable-Vents.html

Otherwise your idea of the interior access opening covered with some art work may work.
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MarkM
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by MarkM » Sat Feb 03, 2018 4:14 pm

If I go through the wall like that, what obstacles should I anticipate encountering? Or should it be as straight forward as taking my sawzall and going to town and slip in a prehung knee wall door?

What Would you guys expect to encounter?

I'm trying to reduce surprises and therefore minimize the death stare from my wife in the process! :D

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Shannon
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by Shannon » Sat Feb 03, 2018 4:31 pm

Depending on the construction of the end wall it could vary. It looks like most of those vents are 24" wide but I'm not sure if that is the hole size or the overall size? I would suspect they designed it to fit between framing at 24" O.C? Now you could have a framed end wall up there or it could be a rafter or truss? Can you see maybe from the other access in the closet? Regardless you should be able to cut a hole and figure out what you gotta do in the case of some support framing or whatever. What is your exterior wall finish?
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MarkM
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by MarkM » Sat Feb 03, 2018 4:39 pm

Painted wood siding outside.

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A. Spruce
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by A. Spruce » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:49 pm

You never know what is inside a wall, so you always want to ONLY cut through the drywall first, once that is removed you can then go about dealing with whatever else is there.

What can you find, plumbing, electrical, duct work, that sort of thing. Most of this stuff can be moved without too much effort, but it would be best if you could find a place for the access that didn't have anything there.
If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.

MarkM
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Re: Gaining Attic Access

Post by MarkM » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:04 pm

Thanks guys! You guys are great like always!

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