Feb
15
2016

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A Tiny House Loft Ladder

by Tara

Tyler and I have been searching for the perfect ladder/staircase/firepole/anything to reach our loft bedroom for years. Before we actually built our cottage, I was dead-set on having some kind of staircase (inspired by a cob house we visited in Iowa). Sadly, once the walls went up it became pretty obvious we didn't have enough space.

Cob House Interior Straw Bale Cottage Cardboard Model Tara by the Staircase in our Tiny Model Home Model House

At some point, I read Andrew Morrison's article about using a collapsible attic ladder. More than the solution itself, I resonated with these lines in the piece:

We were tired from 3 months of building and feeling frugal after so many expenses. The idea of creating a custom ladder was more than we could bear.

After some consideration, we vetoed the idea. The ladder would have to be mounted on the wall when we weren't using it, hanging in plain sight. Neither of us wanted that visual clutter in our tiny space. We wound up moving in before the house was finished, bringing a metal construction ladder with us. Because we didn't know what we wanted, and we were too burnt out to build something else, we just kept using it.

Tyler Wiring Outlet for Range Hood Vent (plus New Track-Lights)

It’s been a bummer living in a beautiful house whose most prominent feature is a giant metal ladder. Making matters worse, it's not even tall enough to reach the loft! When we get to the top, we have to grab ahold of anything we can and heave ourselves into the room. The annoyance of climbing up and down made me dread having to pee in the middle of the night!


After much debate, we decided that what we really wanted was a sturdy ladder that could swing up and out of the way easily. We ran this idea past our blacksmithing friend Erik and he said he could build us something that would do just that. Sadly, we came to this realization about a week before he and his wife, Radha embarked on a year-long bicycle tour!

At our straw bale workshop this summer, we posed our ladder predicament to Dale, a machinist from Michigan. After the event, he and Tyler stayed in touch, and together they designed a mount that would solve all of our problems. It would be a simple metal plate with two ladder attachments and a single bolt through the middle. The plate would rotate around the bolt and the ladder would swivel on the attachment points.

Dale

It took a few months of back and forth, but eventually, the mount arrived in the mail. A few days later, Tyler test-fit the prototype. It was perfect! The following weekend, we tackled the project of building a wooden ladder that we could attach to it.

Tyler Affiixing Loft Ladder Mount to Tie Beam Tyler Test-Fitting Lumber for Loft Ladder Building Loft Ladder in Tiny Straw Bale Cottage Tara Marking Treads for Tiny House Ladder Tara Making Jig For Router to Cut Notches in Ladder Rails Tyler Setting Up Router Jig Router & Jig Tyler Assembling Ladder in Straw Bale Cottage (Construction Zone!) Tyler Test-Fitting Prototype Ladder on Ladder Mount Tyler Hammering Forged Nails into Rungs of Loft Ladder Finished Loft Ladder Messy Straw Bale Cottage Kitchen with Loft Ladder (Construction Zone!)

What we wound up with is so much better in every way than our old metal ladder—it's beautiful, unobtrusive and easy to climb. It feels so good to have this major conundrum laid to rest! Our tiny house to-do list is dwindling! HOORAY!

Our Tiny Straw Bale Cottage, Facing East (Ladder Swung Out of the Way)
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9 comments

Genius solution! When we went to the model for our cabin the ladder was a bit worrisome for me... They have one attached in the model (I'm sure for liability reasons) but it's right at the edge where yours is and I had trouble twisting around to climb down with no head space. Do you have any problems with that or do you just get used to it? (Or should I just lose about 3" of head?) I really like the sideways way of storing it though; would love to see a video of that in action to see how much space you need to clear to move it up. Also, do you have a railing at the edge of the loft to keep yourselves from falling off?
Posted by Joy on March 2nd, 2016 at 7:14 PM
Cool the licence of your reliable LRC over the door, one of the few souvenirs you brought back from your RTW trip, I guess?
Posted by David B. on March 2nd, 2016 at 9:02 PM
Ditto the video on motion of ladder...and headroom concerns.
Posted by Anne on March 6th, 2016 at 6:13 AM
Joy (and Anne, too) -

Hii!

Re headroom: our ladder placement is not ideal, but it's the only space we can put the ladder, so it's what went with. I currently go to my knees and turn around to face the loft before climbing down the ladder. When we have a railing up though, I'm almost 100% certain I won't have to go to my knees since I'll have something higher to hold onto. I guess I haven't yet dealt with the headroom thing, because I always go to my knees?

I honestly don't find the current setup to be a big deal, but then again I'm short (5'5"), and the new ladder is so much better than the old one that I don't even care if it's mildly inconvenient.

Re video: I'm sure we can get a video of the ladder in action at some point. The cool thing is that you don't have to move much out of the way to raise the ladder. Since the ladder articulates in 2 planes (not only side to side, but also up and down, if that makes sense), you can easily maneuver it around objects on its way to the top.

Re the railing: We have a railing on the non-ladder side that we built last year. We're going to put a railing (with an open entrance flanked by taller-than-the-railing hand holds that go all the way up to the rafters), but we just haven't gotten around to it yet. When we do, I'll let you know about the headroom thing.

Does any of that make sense? I hope it was helpful! :)
Posted by Tara on March 6th, 2016 at 9:48 AM
David - Yep! That and my Tunisian shawl (currently used to cover the space under the kitchen counter) were our two main souvenirs. :)
Posted by Tara on March 6th, 2016 at 9:49 AM
Understand it's movement with the 'double hinge' so to speak...but how do you reach it's storage location up so high?

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Posted by Anne on March 7th, 2016 at 7:09 PM
Want to do this in a mobile tiny house, but can't figure out how to reach it's storage place.
Posted by Anne on March 31st, 2016 at 6:10 PM
Hey Anne! We just took a quick photo of this for you:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerkellen/26104023621
Posted by Tyler on April 1st, 2016 at 9:20 AM
Sweet!! :D Thanks!!
Posted by Anne on April 17th, 2016 at 8:12 AM
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