Safe Attic Storage Systems

What are some safety concerns for attic storage? What safe attic storage systems can you install yourself? Attics are wonderful for storage but there are important safety considerations. Properly prepared attics make great storage spaces. Attic storage is great for seasonal items like Halloween and Christmas decorations. It’s perfect for things you use only rarely like a miter saw. It’s a great place to hold things for years you’ll eventually want like baby clothes. Moving items into attic storage lets you claim more living space and reduce clutter. However there are some considerations to ensure your safety and preservation of your stored items.

Here are some key areas to consider for safe attic storage:

  • Attic access
    • For people
    • For storage items
  • Attic flooring systems
  • Attic roof framing
  • Attic climate

Attic Access Safety

Getting into your attic has two important considerations: access for people and access for storage items. Most attics are built with a hatch of some sort in their floor, that is, the ceiling of the living space below the attic. Many also come with an extendable, pull down ladder or stairs. These are a potential hazard on two levels. First, if they are improperly installed or maintained, they can fail, resulting in a nasty fall. Second, ladders are an okay attic access system for people, but not much good for cargo. Carrying items up and down the attic ladder or stairs is a significant concern.

Good ladder practice dictates keeping three points of contact with the ladder at all times: two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Giving up both hands to carry a storage bin or box of stuff up into the attic, balancing only on your feet, is risky. Risk is even greater if the storage item is bulky, odd shaped or very heavy.

ladder safety showing proper three points of contact

For those lucky few in older homes that have a dedicated attic stairway, these are the safest for conveying people, but still of concern for carrying storage items. You still have to let go of the handrail, if there is one, to go up and down when carrying something.

carrying storage bins in and out of the attic is risky, even with stairs

Unfortunately, few attics come with a dedicated system to move storage items in and out of the attic. SpaceLift Products offers an attic lift you can install. It’s like a dumbwaiter for your attic. Now you can use the attic ladder or stairs only for you. You load up to 200 pounds of attic storage items on one floor, push a button and meet your items on the other floor. Two people can even set up an fast and efficient chain system, one in the attic, the other in your garage or home living space, loading and unloading the lift. A SpaceLift attic lift is an integral part of safe attic storage systems.

Attic Flooring Safety

Do you remember the scene in “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold is stumbling through his attic, stepping on loose boards laid over the floor joists, with the boards flipping up to slap him in the face? Next he takes a chance standing on the ceiling instead of the joists and breaks through to the room below. It’s funny in the movies, but in real life, people have broken legs falling through attic floors. One misstep can cause hundreds of dollars in damage. A proper attic floor is a key part of safe attic storage systems.

First you should know how much load your attic floor is designed to hold. DIY guru and “This Old House” host offers an article “Flooring 101: All You Need to Know about Attic Flooring.” Author Glenda Taylor states, “A common misconception is that it takes little more than the installation of some decking over the attic joists.”

Most attic structures are strong enough for storage of typical items like Christmas decorations and clothes. However some are made to support only the weight of the drywall ceiling hung below and little else.

Taylor says you can get some idea of your attic’s load bearing ability by examining the floor joists. The size of the joists and the spacing between them are key indicators. Joists made of 2x6s or 2x8s should be suitable for most attic storage items. Standard joist spacing is 16 inches on center. Sometimes to save money, builders will place joists 24 inches on center, obviously a weaker configuration.

The only way to be sure is to consult a structural engineer familiar with your local building codes.

A variety of methods to strengthen joists and attic flooring to carry a heavier load are described in the article.

For light storage, usually all that’s required is an attic floor or flooring system installed over the existing joists. At the very least you should create flooring around your attic access space and your SpaceLift attic lift. You can install just catwalks or put in a full floor. Remember to consider weight of flooring materials in your load calculations.

SpaceLift™ attic lift shown installed in the attic floor, surrounded by plywood flooring.
SpaceLift™ attic lift shown installed in the attic floor, surrounded by plywood flooring.

For joists on 16-inch spacing, ½ inch plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) 4 x 8 panels can be screwed into the joists. (Don’t use nails, you may disturb the drywall or plaster ceiling below.) For 24-inch centered joists, consider using sturdier ¾ inch plywood to prevent sagging.

An alternative to plywood, Metro Products offers Attic Dek, a plastic panel system. Lightweight but strong panels can be screwed to the joists in an open or interlocking configuration. They’re lighter to handle than plywood, won’t warp or sag and are premade with holes for screwing into 16 or 24 inch spaced joists. Attic Dek even includes the screws. The product was invented after the owner of a plastics company accidentally put his foot through his kitchen ceiling.

Proper attic flooring is an important component of safe attic storage systems.

Attic Roof Framing

Now that you have the floor resolved, look up . . . carefully.

Traditional house roofs are built with rafters running from a center beam at the peak down to the walls. Sometimes the rafters meet without a center beam. Newer construction methods use truss-framed roofs. Prefabricated trusses are big triangles that typically include the roof rafters and floor joists. Often they have additional bracing triangles built into them for strength. Trusses can limit space for moving about in the attic and storage options. Some modified versions are made with open space in the center for storage. Trusses should not be cut or compromised. Remember they’re holding up your roof and ceiling.

Once you’ve determined your attic framing system, there are several cautions to consider for your safe attic storage system. Of course you don’t want to exceed the attic framing’s load ability. This includes hanging items from the rafters or trusses. It might make for handy storage, but a heavy snow could compromise the structure.

Headspace is a consideration in many attics. They are often built lower than a standard ceiling height to save expense. You’ll want to site your attic access hatch and SpaceLift attic lift where you have maximum headspace. SpaceLift offers a site guide to help you determine the best place to install one in your attic.

Attic trusses are often manufactured with flat metal plates joining the wood. These are typically not finished and can have sharp edges. In high traffic areas you can pad the plates with duct tape or even insulation foam. Also, it is not unusual for roofing nails to be sticking down through the ceiling.

Attic Climate

Often attics are spaces are outside of the home’s thermal envelope, the insulated space keeping your living space comfy. Most attics do not have climate control, heat and air conditioning. To manage the attic space climate – and protect the living space climate – there are a wide variety of attic insulation and ventilation schemes. You should know and understand yours.

If you’re using your attic for storage only, generally you simply want to make sure you do not interfere with your existing insulation and air movement system. Don’t block vents with storage containers and don’t move or add insulation. Knowing what temperature extremes to expect in your attic in your part of the country helps inform the items suitable for storage there. Safe attic storage systems consider both the people using them and the items being stored.


A properly configured attic storage space adds value to your home. Convenient attic access is key to reducing clutter, claiming more living space and getting more enjoyment from your home and garage. Creating safe attic storage systems ensures these benefits for years to come. Often the best, and least expensive, home storage solution is right above your head.

SpaceLift attic storage lift shown from inside attic with plywood flooring surrounding the lift
SpaceLift™ attic storage lift being installed. View is in the attic. Note plywood flooring. Part of a safe attic storage system, an attic lift moves cargo in and out of your home or garage attic, instead of carrying on the attic ladder or stairs.


Attic flooring safety:

The Spruce attic storage:

Metro Products Attic Dek

Home Storage Solutions 101, attic safety

DIY Stack Exchange

Have You Done the Self-Storage Math?

Updated May 2021
Renting a self-storage unit is certainly an option for keeping your stuff, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau an option rapidly becoming more popular (see chart). In recent years, self-storage has mushroomed into a $39.5 billion industry in the U.S.A., renting 1.9 billion square feet of space. More than 10.6 percent of U.S. households rent a self-storage unit. Have you noticed how giant self-storage facilities keep sprouting in every neighborhood? We propose an alternative to self-storage rental.

alternative to self-storage rental chart shows construction spending by month, 2013 - presen. Source U.S. Census Bureau. Do the self storage math and consider a SpaceLift attic storage lift instead.

Nationally, the average cost to rent a self-storage unit is $89.12 per month, $1,069.44 per year, according to SpareFoot data (2021) comparing costs in more than 200 U.S. cities and towns. You can expect those rental fees to increase year, after year, after year (see chart).

alternative to self-storage rental chart shows average storage unit cost nationwide 2020

We have an alternative to self-storage rental.

Frankly, those of us who work at SpaceLift Products are baffled.

A one-time investment in a SpaceLift™ attic lift offers easy storage access virtually forever. Plus it raises the resale value of your home. We think it makes more sense to invest in your own storage and your own home, instead of paying rent for someone else’s profit and equity.

Our attic lifts cost $1,895 for the smaller size unit and $1,995 for the larger one, with free shipping and a two-year warranty. At the average cost to rent a self-storage unit, you can have a permanent solution for less than two-years of rental fees. That includes some room for installation costs, although many of our units are installed by do-it-yourselfers. You may pay for your lift even sooner, depending upon the size of unit you rent and where in the country you call home.

If you have an attic or basement that’s not full, why are you schlepping your stuff to a storage-unit and paying month after month, year after year? We can only figure it’s because you haven’t heard about our elegant storage access solution.

We are big fans of keeping your stuff. It’s yours, you bought it and clearly you see a future use and value for it. That’s what storage is all about. We believe easy access to storage spaces is the key to successful management and seasonal rotation of your valued items. Your storage items are safe and secure in your own home. You can reduce clutter and claim more living space.

Here’s how to deal with that attic ladder.

Listen, we get the inconvenience of those pull-down attic ladder contraptions. That’s why we invented the SpaceLift attic lift. Install one of our computer-controlled units and enjoy instant, convenient, easy access to storage space right in your own home. No need to load up the car or SUV and drive to a self-storage facility where you then have to unload. Then when you want something from your rental unit, it’s back over to the storage unit to load up again. We change all that to the simple push of a button with our storage lift.

It’s like having your own mini freight elevator or dumbwaiter for your stuff, right in your own home. Customers tell us that once they install a SpaceLift attic lift, they find more uses for it. Some report using it several times per week.

SpaceLift unit raising boxes into the attic

References: SpareFoot self-store industry statistics.

dumbwaiter for food shown, the SpaceLift attic storage lift is like a dumbwaiter for your attic

It has a funny name. But the dumbwaiter represents an important invention of convenience for homes and businesses. There are actually two types of dumbwaiters of different configuration but similar purpose. Both take their name from the same attribute.

Have you ever wondered how dumbwaiters got their unique name? Tracing its exact origin is difficult. But the concept is widely agreed upon. “The small car performed services in restaurants, allowing the noise and odor of cooking to be isolated from the patrons. No doubt, this was where the silent servant earned the name ‘dumb waiter’! The mini-lift may have been silent but it did not remain dumb,” from the Elevator Museum website.

First the dumbwaiter acted as a silent, inanimate cart acting as a stand-in for an actual member of staff. These days we just call those kitchen or serving carts. Nowadays, we associate dumbwaiter with a mini freight elevator. Dumbwaiters today carry food still in restaurants and upscale homes. You’ll find them in factories and shops moving storage items, dry goods and valuables. One even carries automobiles. And now there’s a dumbwaiter you can install in your home to lift storage items in and out of your home or garage attic.

Dumbwaiter History to Present

Thomas Jefferson used the “silent cart” kind of dumbwaiter during his presidency. He favored them for both his Virginia home and the White House. “These ‘dumbwaiters’ were small tables, equipped with shelves placed at varying heights. Some might hold salads and wine; others would accommodate cutlery and serving utensils. Servants brought in hot food, but did not remain in the room during the meal. Conversation could flow freely, without the possibility that workers might overhear sensitive information and repeat it outside the White House,” from White House History website.

In America, the first elevator type dumbwaiter was hand powered. It used a lifting mechanism comprised of pulleys and weights. According to the United States Patent Office, inventor George W. Cannon of New York City was first. He applied for a unique brake system patent for a dumbwaiter elevator in 1883. Four years later he applied for the patent on a mechanical lifting dumbwaiter. Patents for dumbwaiters are still issued today. Two U.S. patents protect the SpaceLift™ attic lift. It is a dumbwaiter for moving storage items between floors in homes and businesses. It uses electrical power and computer controls. But the basic purpose is still the same.

Dumbwaiter for Items, Not People

As a silent waiter, food and drinks are to this day whisked from kitchen to floors above. They save the manual labor of climbing stairs to deliver the goods. Dumbwaiters provide a simple, space-efficient alternative to carrying items between floors. Unlike elevators, “distinguishing the dumbwaiter was its inability to handle a passenger – no control ever existed in the car,” from the Elevator Museum website.

The White House now has a series of dumbwaiters. They connect the kitchen to various dining rooms. A dumbwaiter connecting the main kitchen to a smaller kitchen in the residence was featured in the 2013 movie “Whitehouse Down.” The president escaped bad guys by shimmying down the dumbwaiter shaft hidden inside the walls.

Dumbwaiter for More Than Food

Dumbwaiters move more than food. Banks use dumbwaiters to move currency, gold bars and valuables securely between floors. Retail stores of all sorts use dumbwaiters to move goods between storage and the sales floor. People install lifts in their homes for transport of food, yes, but also storage, laundry and more.

One SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its model rocketry store. “We usually try to be careful not to reveal any ‘trade secrets,’ but here is an exception,” says the owner of Jon Rocket. “Our office is located in a loft. So, we are often moving products and packages up and down between floors. A few years ago we installed an “attic lift” from Spacelift which works like an elevator or powered dumbwaiter. Not only does it make it easier and quicker to move things between the floors, it makes it much safer than trying to carry things while going up or down stairs.”

Another SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its commercial kitchen. Connie Sun at Tiny Drumsticks says, “We’re so delighted with your Spacelift! The lift has allowed us to provide a machine that has made our tenant’s lives easier. They’re happy, so we’re even happier. Not only does the lift work well, your customer service is even better! Incredibly friendly and very accommodating staff. We sincerely appreciate and rarely come across better service! Thank you so much!”

Dumbwaiter for Your Home?

Another customer installed his dumbwaiter to move a hot water heater into his attic when the old one didn’t work. Another stores a large portable table saw in his attic. Little used but valuable, it is impossible to haul up a ladder. Other customers move a whole artificial Christmas tree in and out of attic storage. Read more on the Testimonials Page.

Storage lifts are an increasingly popular type of dumbwaiter for home use. Having easier access to storage helps you claim more storage space thereby reducing clutter in your living space. Storage lifts are like mini freight elevators. They make it easy to carry storage items between floors in homes and garages. Rather than trying to carry boxes and storage containers up the attic stairs, a dumbwaiter like the SpaceLift attic lift carries the heavy load up and down with an electric motor.

A smart dumbwaiter, the SpaceLift has computer controls for safety features like object detection that automatically stops the lift if it encounters any obstruction. Smart weight detection stops the attic lift from operating if it exceeds the 200-pound weight limit. You can see a video of it in action on our website.

Dumbwaiter for Cars?

Today dumbwaiters serve commercial kitchens, restaurants, hotels, nursing homes, schools, retail establishments and private homes. The automobile vending machine introduced in March 2018 by Alibaba and Ford in Guangzhou, China relies upon a dumbwaiter, albeit a rather sophisticated one. Carvana now sells used cars online. They can deliver, or if you live near one, you can use their car vending machines.

Still silent servants, dumbwaiters are getting smarter all the time.

When it comes to choosing a storage container for attic use, there are literally hundreds of containers, totes, footlockers, bins, boxes, baskets and bags. How do you know which ones are best for attic storage? Just as importantly, how do you get them up into your attic?

Attic storage has unique characteristics. You will want to first consider some of the following before you head off to Home Depot, Lowes, Target or Wal-Mart or start clicking on Amazon to buy storage containers.

First, head up the attic stairs or ladder and take a fresh look at your attic space with storage bins in mind. Bring along a tape measure and notepad. Your goal is to make a plan of what you want to store where and then match your needs to the panoply of storage containers on the market. Remember this is all about convenience, your convenience. Some of the following considerations affect the types and sizes of containers you’ll want to buy for each of the different storage spots in your attic.

Attic Flooring

Do you have an attic flooring system over part or all of the attic space? Sturdy bins can span between the attic floor joists, but if you slip as you’re moving them around, even a moderately heavy bin could crack or even break through the garage or home ceiling on the other side of that unprotected space between the floor joists. If you are going to span the floor joists you’ll need a storage container long enough with some overhang. So measure and note the distance between joists.

Moving bins by carrying or sliding them around your attic is easier if you have at least some flooring space for staging. More flooring makes moving the bins easier. If you have sturdy attic flooring, many of the bigger bins and footlockers have wheels and handles built into them. You can load these heavy and roll them into place. If you have only partial or minimal attic flooring, think about the weight of your loaded storage containers. How will you need to carry them to their resting place? Are you sliding them or carrying them, perhaps hunched over? Sometimes using more and smaller containers makes storage easier than fewer and larger containers. Will you need totes with handles built in to make them easier to carry?

Attic Ceilings

Now that you considered the floor, take a look at your attic ceiling or the house roof. Height is an important limiter of your available storage space. In most attics the roof angles upwards from the sides. Planning ahead lets you maximize the available vertical space.

For example, you can maximize storage space with bins of different heights; lower ones tuck in closer to the eaves while taller ones or stackable containers fit better toward the center. Measure the different heights from floor to ceiling. Later you’ll divide these measurements by the heights of the storage containers you purchase. Some containers are made for stacking. But the problem with stacking bins is that you have to pull out the whole stack to access items. An alternative is to build some inexpensive shelving.

Another height consideration is how much space you have between the container top and attic ceiling. Some containers have lids on hinges and you’ll need extra space so the hinged lid can open upwards if you want to access or view the storage items. Otherwise you’ll find yourself constantly pulling out containers to open and examine the contents, then pushing them back into place. For containers kept tight to the attic ceiling, consider types with flat lids that snap off.

Do you have rafters, an attic truss system, or some combination? You’ll want to measure the space between trusses. Then purchase storage containers that easily move around the trusses. Maximize available storage space by purchasing bins that fit neatly into the space between trusses.

plastic storage containers stored between attic trusses

Attic Storage Items

Make a list of the items you want to store in your attic. Your list will come in handy when you make your storage plan and catalog. With your list of items or types of items you can then match your needs to the types of bins available. There is a type of storage container for most every item. You’ll end up with a list of bins of varying sizes and types. These can then be mapped to your attic measurements for an efficient system.

Some items you may want to store in small, six-quart sized boxes while other items may be better suited to a 169-quart tote. Combinations work too. You may want to store a variety of shoes or holiday decorations in smaller containers to keep them organized, but then put all these small containers of like items into a big tote.

Plastic storage containers are available in a wide range of prices and quality. You can save money by purchasing lower cost bins for storage items that will not be accessed very often. Purchase higher quality bins when you expect to handle or move them around a lot. Generally it is in the handling where quality issues like the strength of the bin, the roller wheels, clasps and handles become more apparent.

Weight of the bin contents is also an important strength consideration. Capacity of your SpaceLift attic lift is up to 200 pounds. You probably do not want to have that much weight in a single plastic storage container, not only for the strength of the plastic, but for your convenience in moving the container around the attic. You can stack containers high on your SpaceLift attic lift and if you’ve stacked too much weight it will let you know.

Where possible, we prefer clear plastic storage containers because it is easy to see what’s inside. Even with clear bins, but especially with opaque ones, be sure to label. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. A labeling system saves you hours of opening and closing containers searching for a particular item. Want to take it a step further? Make a list and maybe even a map of your storage items and containers and keep it on a clipboard at the attic entrance.

Storage Container Considerations

Okay. You have your list of storage items. You have your map of attic space. Now you can match the size and type of storage containers to the items and space available.

Now you’re ready to go shopping in person or on the internet. The Spruce offers this blog post, “The 6 Best Plastic Storage Bins to Buy in 2021.” They cover a broad range of container sizes and types.

three plastic storage bins stacked on SpaceLift attic lift

Get organized month makes sense for January. It’s a month of resolutions and renewal. There are lots of reasons why you should get better organized. Ever wonder how much time you lose trying to find misplaced possessions? Tired of navigating through canyons of storage bins? Is your car stuck outside because there’s just too much stuff in your garage? January is national “get organized month,” as declared by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

The average American spends one year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items, according to U.S. News and World Report. A Newsweek article stated the average American wastes 55 minutes a day (roughly 12 days a year) looking for things they own but can’t find. This article estimates the cost to U.S. households is $2.7 billion annually.

Getting better organized is a New Year’s resolution many of us deem worthy. But like most changes in behavior, keeping the process simple is critical to year-long success. We all know resolutions stick easier when they’re easy to implement.

Finding more space is key.

Lack of space was cited as the biggest challenge to improving organization. So say 32.9 percent of consumers surveyed by NPD Group for HomeWorld Forecast Consumer Survey. That may be why the self-storage industry is booming. It is expected top $39.5 billion in revenue in 2021. That’s up from $36 billion in 2016, according to IBISworld. The U.S. Census Bureau records a spike in self-storage construction spending. See chart.

get organized month has multiple options for success, this chart shows growth of self-store units construction

But self-store units are a hassle. You have to load up your car or SUV and drive your stuff to a rental storage unit. Then when you want an item, you have to drive back over and load up the car again to bring it home. Plus you pay monthly storage fees. Check out our blog post, “Have You Done the Self-storage Math?

Where to put all our stuff? Half of homeowners rate their garage as the most disorganized place in the house, according to NAPO. A U.S. Department of Energy poll found 25 percent of homeowners with two-car garages have so much stuff stored there they can’t fit even one car inside. Yet above most garages is a spacious attic. Read our blog “Benefits of Parking Your Car Inside.”

get organized month should include your garage shows car covered in deep snow parked outside garage
Don’t treat your car as a second-class citizen. Use your garage attic and a SpaceLIft attic storage lift to free up enough space. January is a tough month for cars. It is also get organized month.

Easy access is the secret to storage success.

Going up and down those pull-down attic stairs or ladders is pretty dicey. It is especially scary when carrying storage containers and boxes of stuff. It’s nearly impossible with bulky items. Imagine storing four snow tires in your attic. How about patio furniture? Attic storage is perfect for large, but infrequently needed tools.

There’s also the risk of falling or hurting your back carrying on the ladder. Ladders take a lot of time too. Even if items are small, you are very limited how much you can carry per trip. (Check out our blog on ladder safety.)

A SpaceLift™ attic lift offers easy and fast access to your own home and garage attic space for safe and convenient storage. It is a motorized platform lift system capable of transporting up to 200 pounds and 24 cubic feet of cargo per trip from your living space to your attic. It moves at three inches per second. All with the push of a button. It is like having your own mini freight elevator to carry storage into your attic in just minutes. It’s a dumbwaiter for your stuff.

Manufacturer Redco Home invested seven years of engineering development and more than $250,000. The result is our patent-protected lift. It offers superior capability. It incorporates critical safety features not found in other lifts.

SpaceLift attic storage safe and simple

One key benefit is no limitation on vertical stacking. The computer-controlled lift pulls evenly at each of the platform’s four corners. This leaves open all the space above. It also stops automatically for obstructions. It will not lift if cargo weight exceeds 200 pounds. Low profile design makes it easy to load and unload. Slide your best storage containers, boxes, heavy items and more off of the platform and onto attic flooring systems with ease. Protected by two U.S. Patents. Our storage lift launched in 2009. It is now installed in hundreds of homes and garages nationwide. (Plus, we shipped a few internationally.)

Designed to fit between attic floor joists, installation is easy requiring basic carpentry and electrical skills. Many are installed as do-it-yourself projects. Redco Home can also help with local installers. It sells directly on its website, and through a network of 30 nationwide vendors. A short video on the website shows how the lift works. Detailed installation instructions and videos are also on the website and available for download. Also available is a siting guide. We even offer CAD files.

There are two models, different in their width, selling for $1,895 and $1,995. This includes free shipping. A two-year factory warranty is standard. SpaceLift™ Products are assembled in the USA. They are manufactured in Monroe, CT, by Redco Home, a division of Redco Audio, a family-owned company. A lift is installed at the Redco facility and you are invited to stop by to see it.

Get Organized Month every month?

To be sure, January is fine. But every month should be get organized month. Why wait? Resolve to get organized, reduce clutter, claim more living space and get your cars back in the garage. A SpaceLift™ attic lift will help you claim more storage space in your own home.