The term loft typically refers to a room or open space just beneath a roof. While attics typically are closed spaces that require trapdoor-like access, several types of ladders can be used for accessing small spaces such as open lofted bedrooms or attics.
Folding Attic Ladders
Folding attic ladders are the standard trapdoor-like ladders typically installed in homes for access to an otherwise closed off space beneath the roof and above the ceiling. These types of ladders are comprised of a trap door that is usually flush with the ceiling and held in place by springs mounted on either side. When pulled down, the door reveals a folded ladder typically comprised of three sections folded at two points by hinges. When unfolded, the length and weight of the ladder hold the trapdoor down and can be climbed safely. Although this type of ladder is not typically recommended for open lofted spaces and is usually purchased as a unit, it can be installed without too much difficulty.
Fixed ladders are simply step ladders attached to a lofted space at a comfortable angle for easy climbing. These can be built by any do-it-yourself carpenter out of wood or steel. The primary downside to these ladders is that they are permanent fixtures much like staircases.
One of the simplest and easy to construct loft ladders is a one-piece removable ladder. These ladders are generally made of wood or steel and resemble the sides of step ladders used for climbing. At the top of the ladder is a fastening mechanism (such as hooks) with the corresponding mechanism (rail) built into the loft. To use the ladder, attach it to the lofted space and climb up. The primary benefit of this type of ladder is that it can be moved out of the way when not in use.
Rolling ladders have casters and wheels mounted on opposite ends of the ladder and glide across the floor and a corresponding rail. These ladders usually are fixed to a railing that spans across the lofted space by a set of wheels at the top of the ladder. The railing acts like a track for the wheels to slide along, much like a sliding glass door. Casters are fixed to the bottom of the ladder's legs to allow for easy rolling across the floor.
Some space-saving enthusiasts use rope ladders to reach their lofts. These ladders are designed like the rope ladders used on playgrounds and usually are attached to lofts by a pulley system so they can be let down and drawn up easily.