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Monday, July 27, 2020

A "Commercial" Attic Ladder

This is the situation found in a coffee shop under renovation. Twenty foot industrial ceiling. A scullery and big refrigerator in a back corner under nine foot loft ceiling. There are many uses for the loft, although it is thoughtlessly crossed with head-high gas pipes. The loft was disused perhaps for years with a broken access ladder, not trusted.







This is a common happening with the thin soft-steel hardware.




Werner WH2208 ladders are still sold proudly despite antique hardware. This graphic, compared to my drawing, is from a listing at lowes.com . $294.75. Not cheap. Less-expensive ladders are still made with same antique hardware by several manufacturers in Southeast USA. Multiple offerings from Europe have simpler and stronger assist linkage with springs that drop with the door and have little to snag carried loads.





This is first among warnings of a label glued to the topside of the door panel. Warnings do not address the weakness of the ladder with deformation of the door-assist linkage.







This is my solution in a modern Fakro ladder, defended in this post as a fully "commercial" installation.




What constitutes a "commercial" attic ladder?  Google the question and find no certain answer. Probably see guidance to something metal, perhaps power-operated, $3000. That is not the answer for loft light usage in a coffee shop. I suggest that professional, thoughtful installation of a ladder with clever and strong hardware, costing less than $350, $850 installed, is a better answer. A more spot-on answer is that in commercial usage,safety innovation through a decade of experience is the want, from a highly-regarded installer.  My customer has said he is glad to have found me, for I have no known rival in this.

I delivered the expected solution, a 54" ladder replacing a 54" ladder. I knew however that Fakro wood ladders include a smaller ladder LWP 22/47 Model 66801, costing $40 less. Perhaps that is a better choice, then with a "step-off well." I like a step-off well that is larger however, times-two, with ample space to turn from ascending or descending facing the steps.  The step-off well would yet be superior as a top step, to that on the ladder. Another argument for the 47" ladder with step-off well is that there would be more space to walk under the deployed ladder. 







































































Safety measures learned in a decade of practice are the most important want of a commercial installation, protecting the welfare of workers. Firmly grasp a sequence of safety pole hand grips in mounting or dismounting the ladder. Securely move out of harm's way over the hole. Don't be turning about in the transition, looking for lighting.
















































Here there are three safety poles, and they are not in-the-way. The third pole, at the side, is a barrier against backing onto the hole. An installer for commercial use should have the experience and means to invent solutions unique to any job.









The LWP 22/54 Model 66853 installation closely follows an installation one year before, detailed in a pdf album: Varma Ladder . There, I experienced a slam, a hard swing in the process of a second mounting of the door. I knew better. I was aware. The range of down-stability is extremely narrow with default mounting of the assist springs. Hinges of the upper step section were bent in the slam.


I know that stability of a steps-down condition is not yet resolved with factory-installed hardware. The first generation spring upper pulls worked well but were in-the-way of a user with a thin attic floor. My solution is to discard the factory upper pulls, and to pull springs to eye hooks engaged in strong rough framing as far up and as far as allowed, beyond the ladder hinging header frame.


Here begin admission that as a professional advocating for Fakro ladders, I am yet a free agent. I advocate first, for my customer. I will not be constrained against employing a product with adjustments and additions that better serve customer needs and safety, as I judge them. I begin always with full disassembly then able to repair breakage-in-shipment happening far more often than not. 


Factory-applied labels and other instructions are not helpful. I discard all door labels, then dissolve and remove glue and apply several coats of paint or clear polyurethane finish. This is an important element of professionalism wanted in a commercial installation.

















































I do not accept default factory settings where that would diminish user safety. This begins with the provision of means to adjust ladder steps angle in a full range from 65°, to 60°, to best meet the floor. Where angle adjusters best engage limit arms with zero to 10 mm exposed threads, there is not one best orientation of the adjuster bodies. There is first the default 45° angle of adjuster mounting bolts. Achievable steps angle with adjusters as-shipped, is from about 64° to 66°. This narrow range certainly disserves many buyers having an unlucky bottom step.

Here are the default and alternate bolt-mounting of angle adjusters.  Ladders are shipped with the default adjuster placement. For the alternative, remove and reset the upper bolt to pin the adjuster, as a drill guide.  









































The process of angle measurement is well illustrated in the pdf full photo album for this job. Here are measurements for default angle adjusters. Useful angle settings are between about 65° and 64°.







































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Here are measurements for adjusters with the small upward rotation. Useful angle settings are between about 63° and 59°. 





















































Cutting step sections to safer, more-useful custom lengths, is among abilities I will share with installation professionals. Here is my first, of a first batch of six drill guides for section hinges, on-offer. Tools and intellectual property are elements of imagined  installer franchising via web site r5portals .


Below the shouldered drill guide with hardened-steel bushings see a section remnant that could not survive as a drill guide, or ever be reliably precise.









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