Building an Attic Walkway of Your Dreams

Building an attic walkway in our house was a cheap and easy investment in safety.

The attic walkway we installed in our house.

Are you considering replacing all the electrical in your house? Do you ever need to service the A/C in your attic? Perhaps you would like a internet line dropped in the spare bedroom you are converting to an office. If so, building an attic walkway is probably in your future, if you do not already have one.

We spent quality amount of time in the attic.

Our remodel started in August and went through January. It spanned the hottest months and the coldest months of the year. Any amount of time not spent up in the attic is a time savings. It also saves you from losing too much water weight in the middle of the day in September and hypothermia in the dead of night in January.

When we replaced all the electrical in the house we also removed all the haphazard cable wiring all over the outside and underneath the house. For all that hard work that meant any new wiring should be from above in the attic to maintain a beautiful exterior.

The cable and internet company agreed. They were willing to drop a line in the wall from above, but ONLY IF they had attic access with a sturdy attic walkway. They would not install it if the technician had to straddle joists.

Likewise, an air conditioning technician would be much appreciative of an easy stroll in the attic towards the unit along with a legit work surface to place tools.

Our only complaint: it is unfortunate it did not occur to us to put in an attic walkway sooner.

Building an Attic Walkway
The 2x4's peek out on the side of the attic walkway surface. They are directly above the ceiling rafters /truss bottom chords. You can see the electrical wire is run safely beneath the  catwalk. Unfortunately, the cable wire is not  run under the catwalk. Sigh. HOWEVER, it looks much better here than on the outside of the house!!!

The 2×4’s peek out on the side of the attic walkway surface. They are directly above the ceiling rafters /truss bottom chords. You can see the electrical wire is run safely beneath the  catwalk. Unfortunately, the cable wire is not  run under the catwalk. Sigh. HOWEVER, it looks much better here than on the outside of the house!!!

An attic walkway doesn’t have to be pretty or expensive. The surface itself just has to be strong enough to handle your weight along with tools and gear. We used leftover ¾” plywood scraps to build ours.*

An attic walkway also needs enough support. The intent is to lay down the boards and the ends should attach to a ceiling rafter. If it does not, you should trim it down to size. In addition, it is necessary to account for blown -in insulation and/or any electrical wiring. If the ceiling joists are only 2”x4” you can add height by horizontally placing another 2”x4” cut down to match the walkway on top of the ceiling joist. So now your insulation can be a more housewarming 6” instead of 4”. Or better yet, beef it up even more by adding higher blocking from leftover foundation work with scrap 4″x6″ beams.

Learn from our mistake–we ran all the wiring without building the attic walkway first. Thankfully we left enough play in the wires to go underneath the walkway at the desired locations without too much heartache or thinking involved. If we had not, our longer home runs would have to be rerun– I would not hear of adding a junction box in the ceiling below. Even worse, if you have watched Mike Holmes you *know* what I’m saying about having access in the ceiling below versus hiding an electrical junction in the attic waiting to burn down the house.

Another cardinal rule when building an attic walkway: NEVER CUT A CEILING JOIST OR ANY PART OF THE TRUSSES. An attic walkway NEVER trumps the safety and structural integrity of the house.

For very little cost, you get a huge time and safety savings. Plus building an attic walkway is a quick win in the “let’s at least say we completed something today” department.

 

*Also note, the trusses are not designed to have massive amounts of weight aside from their main purpose of holding up the roof. This is not meant as a place for storage, but to make servicing different house systems easier. DO NOT put your weightlifting set in permanent storage up in your attic–you could cause roof/ceiling problems as well as foundation problems. Second, you should use your weightlifting equipment or store it on Craigslist. 😉

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