Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:
Safety tip for inspectors: Place an "InterNACHI Inspector at work!" stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.
The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.
2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):
1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.
2006 IRC (Residential Construction):
R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.
Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:
Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.
In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.