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Community and Q&A

Gable access to attic?

Debra_Ann | Posted in General Questions on

The house we are designing will have an attic with roof trusses. No ductwork in it, just lots of insulation. The only time I think it would need to be accessed would be to check for or repair roof leaks. Properly air sealing and insulating an indoor attic access hatch seems somewhat expensive.

Does anyone access their attic through an exterior door in the gable wall – where it would need to be weatherproof, but not air-tight or insulated? Not sure if that is feasible or practical.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Q. "Does anyone access their attic through an exterior door in the gable wall?"

    A. Builders of energy-efficient homes do as you suggest all the time. I addressed the issue in my article, "All About Attics," in which I wrote, "Some energy-conscious builders argue against attic hatches — they prefer to install an exterior access door in a gable wall, to prevent homeowners from entering their attic without an extension ladder..."

    A photo of a house with a gable-mounted attic access door (and the required extension ladder) is shown below.


  2. brp_nh | | #2

    We did this at our house and it has worked out well. Attic with roof trusses, ceiling drywall is a very well sealed air barrier and tons of cellulose insulation on attic floor. I would also consider skipping soffit/ridge venting and just do gable venting.

    One side of the house is a smaller fixed gable vent and the other side is a larger hinged gable vent:

    We built a small platform just inside the hinged vent and built a simple walkway down the attic (all above the cellulose). Two photos attached, each side of the house.

  3. Reid Baldwin | | #3

    Make sure your insulation contractor knows your attic access is in the gable wall. When our insulation contractor couldn't find an access in the usual places, they created an access by cutting a big hole in the ceiling drywall. Then, the drywall contractor had to be called back to fix the hole, the insulation contractor had to be called back to insulate the area over the repaired hole, and finally, the insulation contractor had to be called back a second time to fix the crappy job they did insulating the area over the hole the first time.

  4. Debra_Ann | | #4

    Martin, it's almost unheard of locally in my area. Glad to hear it's possible.

    Ouch, Reid! Sorry you had that experience, and thanks for the heads-up. Brian, nice photos! Good suggestion about the platform and walkway. Thanks for the link. I wasn't able to find hinged gable access panels locally.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Q. "I wasn't able to find hinged gable access panels locally."

    A. This type of access panel (or access door) can be built by any carpenter. It's not something that you pick up at a lumberyard.

  6. user-36575 | | #6

    I couldn't find it in a quick search, but I have recollections of a previous discussion on this topic where an experienced hand suggested talking with your truss manufacturer about building supports for an elevated walkway into the trusses.

    Congratulations for thinking of this sort of thing at the design stage.

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