2020 Update of Conversation With the Fakro Factory
At April 2020, I share more learning with the Fakro factories in Poland, from recent installations of LTK, LWP and LWT wood ladders. This work is with admiration of durable quality and affordability of these ladders, and yet with eyes open for improvements, that I am compelled to offer for safety of my customers. The improvement includes more-thoughtful advice upon each customer's unique needs, of the Fakro model that will serve best. At present, ladder sales and delivery is delegated in USA to Amazon, Lowe's, Home Depot and a few other online sellers, without possibility of informed advice to customers. Information here is only about wood ladders, except that derision is expressed about steel telescoping LST 31" ladders pushed upon customers, that are useless for service work in an attic, in carrying bulky materials.
Learning From Fakro LTK Ladders
Fakro LTK ladders for USA were built as a batch in 2009. They have a strong and sensible 22 cm tall frame, suited to an R38 insulated attic. Framing 2x10 and thicker may then permit a walking floor over the insulation. The ladder door is 6.5 cm thickness, R7.5. Out of the box, these ladders can't deploy at angle less steep than factory preset 70.5°, which is beyond the steepness buyers will accept. They are nowhere offered for online sale. Not really. At April 2020, I find an LTK offered at homedepot.com, for $798. Mine in inventory cost $280 each. LTK ladders now with modern trapeze hardware and improved angle control, are currently offered in Europe.
I have installed eleven Fakro LTK ladders, and hold three more in inventory. Where these deploy at default 70.5° steps angle, I have always reset them to angle of 65° or less, with reset of both ends of the limit arms, and with added hinging.
This is the usual LTK installation, customized for deployment at 60° steps angle, with eight-foot ceilings. With added hinges, the beautiful ladder is very useful.
Go further in 2014 with step elements not yet on-offer. A longer added section is taken from a second LTK ladder.
A tall 2x4 truss attic has vast walking space possibilities well above the lower truss crotches where plywood rips 24" wide may be laced in, upon 2x4 bridges. The bridges and walking floor make the truss assemblies unitary and stronger. Here the tall attic is over a tall, 9 foot, second floor.
This solution employs the typical section-splitting that makes an LTK ladder useful. It goes further to take the center section from another ladder, making two 50 cm elements of tenting for taller ceilings. At 60° stairs angle, the floor to ceiling reach, FC, is the 108" needed here. See a plywood tenting rest invented in the job. See dimensioned details of the as-usual reset of limit arms for less-steep settings.
The ordinary choice of a 2014 Fakro wood ladder for 108" ceilings would have been a 54" LWP ladder, Model 66803. I consider it unsafe here. At this time, I had not experimented with adjusters to find the means of setting at safer 60°.
Wood ladder Customization for Confined Deployment
A customer need may be fit within confined swing space with a default ladder crashing into a wall header or a wall. My best example of this is in my own home, where a Fakro LWS-P 22/47 deploys between walls 48" apart. Here I show this on YouTube:
LTK with a Broad Top Step, Fall 2019
In a home with 92" floor to ceiling distance, FC, I have at last tried a Fakro ladder with a broad top step. It isn't a vain experiment. There is wonderful added safety in sure engagement of feet in departing the attic. Move the top step up, and extend the top section to reach as close as possible to the back frame of the ladder. There is much innovation beyond the LTK ladder broad top step. Most-new is the effort to have square, less-visible , 1/8" gaps about the ladder door. Old-hat is the unique strong attic floors strengthening of 2x4 truss bottom elements, to better than 2x10. All investment in safety, never billed, is of immense value in avoided accidents. This is my best-possible investment against liability ruin of a business. Such protection outlives that of purchased insurance, that may expire. I will stand behind my work, while I stand.
LTK three-section deployment is fine, where shortened lower sections may be walked out and down to the floor, not clashing with the ladder frame. There is rare opportunity for this, with low ceilings.
Here is a better top step that a toe will recognize, including perhaps some touch upon the top of the ladder door.
I have rushed to complete ladder installation, with the flexible grout edges of the ceiling cut not yet perfect. I want straight square edges all round, 1/8" gaps to the door, for least visibility of the ladder over a kitchen. A bag of Rockwool Comfortbatt insulation has been pushed up the ladder with force from my head, wedged beneath. Nothing snagged. Bags are most challenged by hex-head lag screws that support the limit arms.
See aluminum angle used to bind the broad top step assembly, to the remnant of the upper steps section. See the red handle most useful at nearest proximity to the bottom of the door.
A Prepared LWT 47" Ladder, Surprisingly Similar to Improved LTK
I was able to steer a customer away from a Fakro LST 22/31 ladder received by special order at Home Depot. Taken back. No questions asked. But again with pain for Fakro. Someone bore the large cost of oversize shipping back to metro Chicago Fakro storage in Addison, IL. I lost the shipping cost and more, in 2011.
What could pass through here? Not any bag of insulation. Not needed 24" x 96" rips of plywood flooring. The mechanism is a toy. It is interesting for freedom to control angle by adding or removing a step, a very large increment in angle then often quite steep. Interesting adjusters block an angle setting to largely control a springiness of the steps.
This was the happier outcome for my 2011 customer, a Swedish MidMade Lux 22/47, one of seven MidMade ladders I have installed.
For my would-be customer in January 2020, I ordered a Fakro LWT 22/47, Model 66891, via Lowe's. I chose from among these Fakro online offerings. See that Amazon listings reveal products out of production, then offered from other sellers at discouraging prices. Important to me, know that Lowe's sells at 10% discount to service veterans, and I pass along that discount.
I had long wanted to get to know LWT ladders, and to gain deep understanding of all offered Fakro wood ladders. The LST 22/31 had cost $573. I could offer the LWT Model 66891 at $455.40 after a Lowe's 10% discount. Compare to lesser cost of $280 for an LTK in my inventory , or 0.9*$290.45 for an unknown Model 66801 LWP 22/47. Among these choices, my customer happily chose the LWT. And, a great learning opportunity opened up. The first learning was in understanding how the new LWT 47 compared to my better LTK ladders, and to all of the models in the table.
Why, I wondered, are there two families of LWP 54" ladders that had befuddled me in recent orders? What is the meaning of "Range" that seems to be fundamental in selection for a need? Why do section lengths vary between families of same frame length 47" or 54"? Is a newer model of a size, judging by later availability and larger model number, an improvement? If the older model is inferior and out of production, why is it still offered without discussion and discount, until inventories are expended? May I prove to be a best, unbiased observer, to be trusted by a purchaser? By my nature, I will not be in deference to the self-interest of any manufacturer. Isn't that to be valued and rewarded?
See direct correspondence of customized LTK ladders, to existing design of steps of LWT 47" ladders.
Find a new 54" steps arrangement that corresponds to LWT 47" steps, and see that existing LWP 47" and 54" ladders are unlike the LWT 47" and the "new" LWT 54" steps.
Steps at Less-Steep Angle Settings
What of the warning by Fakro that for angle adjusters common to all offered wood ladders, adjuster bolt threads exposure must not exceed 8 mm? Why? Dare to question, and to ensure that customers are best-served. Beyond testing adjuster bolt settings, address adjuster improvement to allow full freedom to choose steps angle anywhere in a range from 65°, to 60°. By testing reported here, see that the default adjusters allow angle settings from 65.5° (zero exposed threads) to 62.9° (12 mm exposed threads). 10 mm exposed threads is found to be ideal, at about 63.5° steps angle.
For less-steep angles set lag screws thus: Pull out each adjuster upper mounting bolt. Rotate adjuster upward. Reset the bolt and let the adjuster bear against it . Use the hole of the adjuster as a drill guide to set a 1/4" lag screw firmly in the rough opening frame. See that the less-steep adjusters allow angle settings from 62.9° (zero exposed threads) to 58.5° (12 mm exposed threads). 8 mm exposed threads is found to be ideal, at about 60° steps angle.
This is an LTK 47 angle adjuster at RHS, steps hinging down from the left. The adjuster bolt is set to prescribed 8 mm max, with the upper mounting bolt holding a temporary less-steep angles range. If less-steep angles are preferred, drill through the bolt hole with 3/16" bit, into the rough opening frame. Insert a 1/4 lag screw and discard the 6 mm hex bolt. The large load upon the limit arm will then not tend to twist the frame side.
Θ = arcsin (Y/R).
Resolve Θ from values sinΘ = Y/R, with web arcsin calculator:
Deployment Studies, LWT 47 Ladder
Where the top step of the tested ladder has broken out with drops of the ladder box in shipping, hereafter illustrate the thick replacement broad top step,
At both sides of the upper step section, wood above the top step is sheared from drop events in shipping. Then, saw off this step as opportunity to try something better.
I think it is unacceptable design, that default deployment for the most likely need, eight foot ceiling, can't be allowed.
This is the best possible installation of LWT 47" with 96" FC, if there must not be added hinging. Wood supporting the bottom step is still marginal. Added hinging is needed for further angle adjustment to lower the trim cuts.
With angle adjusters rotated to less-steep setting, the default steps will not deploy.
For easiest, safest deployment, add hinges and tenting. This must become an ordinary possibility. Any carpenter-as-installer, will need a drill guide and a tenting latch.
A Drill Guide and a Tenting Latch
This is a tenting latch now in-hand as useful prototype, awaiting a test opportunity. I do not call upon customers at this time. Lacking a current customer, there is no urgency to go forward making hinge drill guides.
I have prototype pieces laser-cut in acrylic, One would serve a first customer, then learning whether the slot needs the restraint against bounce in a jarring drop of the door.
I have tried many tenting rests. This in cabinet-grade plywood 0.19" thickness and not a latch, has worked well for the LTK with 108" FC and with leveler legs protecting a hardwood floor.
I have been unhappy with my thin drill guides for new placement of hinge bolt holes, that worked most accurately as a delicately-clamped stack of two. I couldn't advocate that for anyone else. I have an order in process for guides made of hardwood with inset drill bushings. I may proceed to order one out of a planned order of six, for evaluation, but in that lack a customer.
In my 7/24/2015 half-day tour of Fakro factories I didn't get to see how this is done right, at very high speed. Likely upon cut stile before assembly.
The drill guide for hinges as simple design basis.
Referred Service to A Fakro Customer
At April/ May, 2020 I share need to serve a customer with a LWF 30/54 ladder, model 869720, this at Lowe's. Serves maximum 121" floor to ceiling. The customer to be served has 128" FC. Upon referral to the customer by Fakro USA, I offer the help needed. Here is presentation of the problem. There must be error in my understanding of the lengths of step sections.
Stowed condition simply adding a 50 cm extension:
Note that the customer attic flooring is not known. Here 2x12 framing of a ladder among 2x4 trusses is illustrated, and we find that the tent clashes with the rough opening header. Simple 2x10 framing, or less, is more likely. Stepping down in strength, wonder about complexity to tolerate a cut beam allowing a 30" ladder frame width. See that a hinging trapeze is visible in the customer photo. I haven't seen this before. It seems to be peculiar to LWF. The customer reports that the ladder door drops suddenly and is a concern for his safety. I want to know more about this, and would address many possibilities of improving LWF ladder design.
My customer, rescued, has had the work done by a local craftsman, in California. I am not privileged to know details beyond fitting in a fourth step section at my suggestion. The craftsman surely inserted added hinges with the section cut to 50 cm, and invented some form of tenting rest. As I see it, a least-steep angle of 61° is possible. Probably, there is excess of trim, at 65°. Where I offer instruction, and then some responsibility, I will require more involvement. Above, see what will be possible with better step sections of a design common to all Fakro wood ladders. The better step sections will be tentable even with floor framing deeper than 2x10.
Find much of the derivation of information here, in this pdf album at my Google Documents:
A Common Design of Fakro Flexible Wood Ladder Step Sections
There and here, see that important standards insight comes of studying a recently-built LWT 47" ladder. The top of LWT 47 and LWF 54 ladders and interface with a hinge trapeze must be identical design, then that of a common standard for all ladders. There is also a standard top-end geometry of ladder lower sections.
See that the top end of suggested new "Standard 54" Steps," corresponds to the top end of the referred-customer LWF 30/54, drawn at left in the graphic above. Within the referred drawing set, see that as-built the top step is prone to shearing off if the packaged ladder is dropped in shipment. Prefer to replace the top step with a "broad top step" that can't shear off since it is mounted to stile tops with bolts. The broad top step is a such-safer destination of a blindly-probing foot, than the factory-offered space 13.4" wide where stubby stile tops confuse the probing. A broad top step of a ladder for 30" frame, might be doubled in size. Where the top step resides within the ladder frame, depth of toe engagement is reduced; counter this then with the greater step width, and with traction features that keep a foot from sliding.