How to Cut a Hole in the Ceiling for Attic Access

Written by c.l. rease
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Cutting a hole for attic access gives you additional storage, as well as easier access to the mechanical systems of your home. After you cut the hole, take a few extra steps to finish it off so you can continually access the new ceiling opening; it's not difficult to add a small amount of framing and trim work. The work involved is easier and cleaner than repairing the drywall, and the access to the attic will be a permanent addition to your home.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Step ladder
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's pencil
  • 4-foot level
  • Stud finder
  • Framing square
  • Keyhole saw
  • 1-to-2-inch-by-6 inch piece of framing lumber (8 feet long)
  • Power mitre box
  • Claw hammer
  • 8d (penny) nails
  • Drill
  • #2 Phillips screw tip
  • 2 1/2-inch wood screws
  • 3 inch wide trim
  • 3-inch finish nails
  • Nail set
  • White latex caulk
  • Drop-in caulk gun

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  1. 1

    Locate the area in which you want the attic access. The attic access should be located in a hallway or another area that is not easily viewed from the main living areas of your house.

  2. 2

    Mark the hole location with the carpenter's pencil. Locate the ceiling joists in the area of the hole with the stud finder. Mark the location of the two joists on either side of the attic access hole; the two joist locations will mark the width of the attic access. Measure and mark a 3-foot hole in an area that allows easy access to the attic.

  3. 3

    Cut along the lines of the attic access with the keyhole saw. Keep the keyhole shallow in the ceiling drywall to avoid cutting into any electrical wiring. Support the drywall while you cut to keep it from breaking.

  4. 4

    Measure and cut two pieces of the 2-by-6 lumber to fit in-between the ceiling joists. Keep the framing pieces even with the ceiling drywall length cuts that you made for the attic access. Secure the cut pieces to the ceiling joists using the hammer and two 8d nails per each side of each stud. Screw the ceiling drywall around the attic access hole to the ceiling joists and the 2-by-6 framing lumber you installed earlier.

  5. 5

    Cut four pieces of trim to finish around the attic access hole. When calculating the dimensions of the trim, use width and length dimensions that are 2 inches smaller than the actual hole size. For example, if the hole measures 22 1/4 inches by 48 inches, cut the trim to 20 1/4 inches by 46 inches. This overhang will allow you to set the cut piece of drywall back into the opening.

  6. 6

    Secure the trim to the ceiling drywall with the finish nails. Caulk the trim to the drywall ceiling. Replace the drywall that you cut from the ceiling into the attic access hole, and over the installed trim. Paint the trim to match the trim colour of the rest of the area.

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