Loft Ladders – Do you get what you pay for?

If you are in the market for a loft ladder, chances are you have already started to become bemused by the wide range of choice and prices available both in the high street and online. With loft ladders, you want to make sure you are getting a high quality piece of equipment, otherwise it may not just be your money you’ve wasted.

Getting a purpose built loft ladder is a far more attractive solution than simply using a step ladder or extension ladder to get up into the loft space. Free standing ladders of any variety always have the potential to slip out of position, causing the user to fall or become stranded in the loft space. By getting a dedicated loft ladder you will not only be saving yourself the hassle of going out to the shed or garage every time you need to get up into the loft, you could also be saving yourself a grievous injury caused by a fall.

Wooden ladder with broken rungsAlthough any type of loft ladder is better than no loft ladder, inadequate loft ladders that are of a flimsy construction could fail leaving you more likely to lose your balance and take a rapid trip to A&E instead of into the loft. Because of this, you need to weight up the balance between quality and price and make sure you get the best you can for the budget you can afford. You can’t put a price on safety so what is a fair price for a loft ladder, and do you really get what you pay for?

How the price is worked out

Loft ladders are generally made from either metal or from timber. As a general rule, the timber loft ladders are more expensive than metal ones, due to the more solid and durable construction as well as the cost of the raw materials. Metals ladders are most often made from aluminium, which is a lightweight and cheap-to-make material, although some can be found that are made from steel for more heavy duty purposes.

Aside of the cost of the raw materials, the main factor affecting the price of loft ladders is the complexity of their operation. The most straightforward ladders are the sliding variety, which are quite simply extending ladders that have a special kit to fit them permanently to the joists just inside the loft hatch. These tend to be made from lightweight aluminium and are usually the cheapest on the market.

Simple pull down loft ladders can be found for under £50, but you will need to think about whether they are up to the job you require them to do, as well as the amount of space required inside the loft for storage. For the more luxurious end of the market, you could be looking at as much as £200 for wooden ones that come with handrails and other safety features.

man ascending into his loftMore complicated loft ladders will come at a higher price because of the additional engineering required in their manufacture. Concertina loft ladders are an elegant solution to loft access, and are particularly useful in houses with limited space for the loft ladder to descend into. As you would expect, the extra innovation required for the design of the concertina ladder comes at a cost with good quality models priced at around the £140 mark.

Another interesting design is the telescopic loft ladder, which folds completely into itself for storage. Because this design is naturally self supporting, these ladders can be very robust and suitable for even the most well used situation. One of the big bonuses is that they require hardly any clearance at all in the loft space, so if you need to move your hatch by a party wall or need to maximise the space available in the loft, these can be a great solution. They are a highly sought after and modern design, and are priced accordingly, so be prepared to spend more on this design.

The other main type of loft ladder is the fold down ladder. These can be metal or wooden and generally come attached to a new loft hatch, ready for an easy installation in your loft. These are popular because they are easy to use and generally feel sturdier than pull down ladders. The wooden folding loft ladders are, as expected, slightly more expensive than the metal variety but offer a quieter, smoother operation than the clanking aluminium type.

If you really have money burning a hole in your pocket there are a number of electric loft ladders that can be supplied and fitted in your home. However, for most people the cost of these will be entirely prohibitive, so we won’t discuss them in great detail.

 Choosing the right loft ladder

First and foremost, when choosing a loft ladder, set yourself a budget, as this will dictate the quality you are able to afford. As well as this there are a few other things you will need to consider before making an informed choice of loft ladder, so check these out early on and let them help you make a decision.

  1. 1.    How big is your loft hatch?

In general aluminium ladders will fit into a more compact that their wooden counterparts, so check the dimensions of your loft hatch and be sure to choose a ladder that fits.

  1. 2.    Are you prepared to move your loft hatch / make it bigger?

If you have limited space for the ladder to descend or to be stored, you could consider moving your hatch to a more convenient location. Installing a new loft hatch is not as much hassle as you might think, and because many of the wooden folding loft ladders come ready installed on a brand new loft hatch, all you will need to do is cut the new hole to size.

  1. 3.    How will the ladder descend, and is there enough space both in the loft and below the loft to accommodate it?

If your loft hatch is near to a party wall, chances are you might not be able to store a pull down loft ladder inside, as many require a good metre or more of floor space in the loft once they are pushed back up. Wooden folding ladders fold onto the loft hatch, so don’t require any space inside the loft for storage, although they do tend to have a larger footprint than their aluminium counterparts. Concertina and telescopic ladders take up a very small amount of space, and often descend at a steeper angle than folding loft ladders, so could be a better choice for the smaller home.

  1. 4.    How often will you and your household use the ladder? How will you use it?

This question is probably the most important in terms of deciding how much to spend on a loft ladder. A family that will only require access to the loft now and then for general maintenance jobs will be able to get away with a more basic, cheaper loft ladder than a family that intends to use the loft for storage and to be up and down the ladder on a regular basis.

Ladders will generally have a maximum load rating, which you will need to check carefully to ensure it will be safe for the job you intend to use it for. If you intend to carry heavy boxes into the loft to be stored, you will need to add your own weight to the weight of your boxes to see if the ladder will meet your requirements.

So do you get what you pay for?

wedge of twenty pound notes being countedIn general, the answer to this question is yes. There are certainly some distinct differences in terms of quality of manufacture and quality of materials used as you go up the scale in terms of price.

However, there are some really great loft ladders available at a great price, so you needn’t break the bank to get a sturdy, safe and high quality ladder. The Youngman “ECO” S-Line Wooden Loft Ladder, for example, is one of the most popular loft ladders around and made form solid spruce to ensure durability and safety, yet it is available with delivery for a littlejust over £100.

As a general rule, a budget of between £50 – £100 will get you a loft ladder that is safe and secure, although it will probably be made of aluminium and subject to the typically unnerving ‘flex’ when weight is applied. If you can budget £100 – £175, then you can get yourself a really robust and high quality ladder suitable for most domestic uses. A budget in excess of £175 will get you one of the very best loft ladders on the market.

Even if you are buying a budget loft ladder, it is highly recommended that you also purchase a handrail for safe ascents and descents, as well as a balustrade kit for the loft opening, to avoid any costly accidents whilst in the loft space.

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