Looking for a simple and sturdy loft ladder that you can build yourself? Here’s how we built a loft ladder out of scrap wood.
Here’s how we built a simple loft ladder out of scrap material for our tiny self-built shabin. It is part of a series of posts on building our shabin (shed+cabin). You can find all of the currently available posts here.
Our little shabin has a loft that sits on top of the walls, so it’s about 8 ft. high. However, it’s a very tiny shabin with an 8′ by 12′ footprint so we had to have a small-footprint ladder. And we wanted the ladder to be removable.
Here’s how we designed and built our tiny shabin loft ladder.
Building a Wooden Loft Ladder
Building a ladder is really easy. Probably the only tricky part is building a ladder that is reasonably safe! There’s a whole art to calculating load and spacing. While this usually applies to floor joists, it’s most certainly relevant when building a ladder!
We used our local building code when figuring out the supports required for our loft. The same thing applied to the ladder. The rungs and side rail needed to be thick enough to support the required load. Luckily, most ladders are made for one person at a time, and the load isn’t that much. So just make sure your rungs aren’t more than 18 inches long, and you should be fine to use 2x4s or 2x3s.
- Side Supports: Two 2″ x 4″ boards are needed for the side supports. They can be up to 10′ long. Beyond that point, you probably want to use a larger board to prevent warping.
- Rungs: Two 2″ x 3″ x 8′ boards. You could also use 2″ x 4″ x 8, but we wanted a slightly smaller rung.
- Screws: We used 2 1/2 inch deck screws leftover from construction.
This is not a step-by-step guide since building a ladder really only involves one step: attach rungs to side supports at equal intervals. Providing instructions for a ladder that is safe is an entirely different thing. Our ladder is steep, it doesn’t have railings. However, our space is tiny and we can grab onto the walls if necessary. Regardless, I want to give my usual disclaimer: I’m a writer, not a builder, so please do your own safety assessment.
Here is some general advice for putting together your own loft ladder:
- Our rungs were 16 inches long, set at 12 inches apart.
- Mark out where the rungs should be placed on the side supports. Then attach the rungs to the side supports with just one screw. When the ladder is in place, use a level to make sure all the rungs are flat, then secure with a second screw.
- To make sure the ladder sits flat against the floor, level the bottom of the ladder by using a wooden block as a guide. In this case, a picture is definitely worth 24 words, so check out the photo below.
Securing A Removable Loft Ladder
Since our ladder had to be steeper than ideal, it was important to secure it firmly at the top. We considered the idea of buying fancy library ladder attachments. Or making our own hook and rail system using pipes. In the end, we decided that both options were too bulky for our tiny space. We didn’t need to move the ladder side to side, we just needed to be able to secure it in place.
Securing with Pegs
The easiest solution was to attach the ladder to a peg that could be slotted into a hole in the loft floor. Then the ladder would be securely slotted in place, and if we wanted to remove it, we would just need to lift it out of the slots.
Here’s how we set up the peg and slot system.
- Brad added a block to the top of the ladder. It took a few guesses to get the angle exactly right. The easiest way would have been to repeat the process used for cutting the feet of the ladder. With the ladder in place, set your block on the floor of the loft and trace the angle you need to cut in order for the block to sit flush with the ladder side supports and the floor of the loft. (Instead, Brad got all caught up in calculating angles and doing math that wasn’t exactly successful… but we were pretty worn out after a summer of camping while building).
- Attach the support blocks to the ladder side support with two screws.
- Add a hanger bolt to the bottom of the support blocks.
- Drill holes in the floor of the loft to match the position of the pegs. This was probably the hardest part because it was hard to lift the ladder in place with the pegs sticking out and correctly guess the location of the pegs when the ladder was properly in place. We didn’t get it right the first time, but luckily we just needed to expand our holes slightly.