How to Build a Wooden Loft Ladder

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Things You'll Need

  • 4 two-by-fours, 96 inches long

  • Miter saw

  • Radial arm saw

  • 1½-inch dado blade

  • Wood glue

  • Clamps

  • 3/16-inch drill bit

  • Drill/driver

  • 3-inch screws

Loft ladders should seat flat on the floor.
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Loft ladders, used daily, shouldn't be flimsy, clumsy or awkward. Their rungs need to attach at a precise angle, parallel with the floor and with the ladders' feet. Getting the angle right makes the ladder sturdy, comfortable and safe. Use typical dimensional lumber or take it up a notch and build with redwood, which is less likely to have warps and defects than pine or fir.


Step 1

Measure the distance from the floor to the loft and add 12 inches. Cut two two-by-fours to this measurement with a miter saw.

Step 2

Swing the blade of a radial-arm saw to the right side and lock it down at 15 degrees. Trim one end of both two-by-fours. Don't lose any of the length. The two angled ends are the bottom feet of the ladder.

Step 3

Install a 1½-inch dado blade on the saw. Raise the blade on the saw 1 inch above the surface of the table.


Step 4

Measure from the sharp point at the bottom end of both pieces and make a mark at 12 inches. This will be the first rung. Make another mark 12 inches from the top of each piece, for the top rung. Measure the distance between the notches. Make marks every 12 inches to represent each rung. The thickness of each rung is 1½ inches; when rungs are centered in each notch, the distance between each rung will be 10½ inches. For example: a 8-foot ladder should have 7 rungs spaced 10½ inches apart.

Step 5

Place one of the marked two-by-fours on the bed of the saw, with the sharp point facing the fence. Turn on the saw and cut notches centered at each mark.


Step 6

Swing the saw blade to the left side and lock it down at 15 degrees. Place the other two-by-four on the saw. Cut a notch at each mark with the sharp point facing the fence.

Step 7

Cut 18-inch lengths from the remaining two-by-fours, one for each rung on the ladder.

Step 8

Build the ladder on its side. Place the notched pieces face up across two sawhorses. Apply wood glue to the notches. Fit the ends of the 18-inch two-by-fours into one of the notched two-by-fours to form half the ladder. Place the other notched two-by-four on top of the rungs, fitting the ends of the rungs into the corresponding notches on the upper two-by-four.


Step 9

Place clamps across the assembly, alternating them from side to side. Lay the assembly flat across the sawhorses. Drill two holes, evenly spaced through both pieces for each rung. Use a drill/driver with a 3/16-inch bit.

Step 10

Insert 3-inch screws in the holes. Drive them in with the drill/driver. Allow the glue to dry overnight and remove the clamps.


Finishing is optional. Ladders get lots of wear and tear, and finish wears off. Add mineral oil, linseed oil or any type of stain containing natural oil to seal if desired. Allow it to dry before using the ladder. Use L-shaped brackets to attach the ladder to the loft or floor if desired. Bend them as needed to fit the angle.


Use caution when operating dado blades. If you're inexperienced or don't have a dado blade, make a series of small cuts with a regular blade. Chip out the small pieces with a chisel to form the notches.



Wade Shaddy

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.