Any engineering types got ladder ideas?

I’m not sure if this is the right board for this, but it’ll get moved if it’s not…

I’ve just moved into a new fraternity house, and I want to build a better ladder to get up into the lofts, and I know what I want, but I don’t know what I’m looking for to actually do this right and have it last. The lofts are a little under 7’ tall and have a ~2" by ~8" beam across the room to put the ladder on. There is a 4x4 loft support in the center of this beam. The pictures I link to at the end of the post will make more sense.

Right now we have a simple ladder (calling it ladder mark I) with 2 8’ 2x4s with 2x4 steps. The one cool thing it does have is that we affixed some right angle brackets that hook onto the side of the loft to give it extra support and lets you pull back as you climb and not worry about falling.

What I want to do is build a sectioned ladder that can fold up and go up and store at the loft height so it’s not in our way normally. Plus it’d be really cool. Either that, or any other crazy ideas. Personally, I wanted to do a ladder with a way stronger better built hook type thing like mine right now but with a shorter ladder on a track (or something) that can just have it slide up, but it’d have to be able to support a person’s weight and I’d actually have to be able to build it. (my friends think this is a stupid idea, but they can’t come up with a good hinged folding ladder either) Or I could combine both ideas

I’m down to do all the handy work for it, but I can’t come up with a design with what materials and whatever. Specifically what kind of hinges or tracks or whatever I would have to buy to accomplish this, and I don’t mind ordering them over the internet. Nothing at home depot seemed to work and I pretty much stood there lost. I have a bunch of access to tools so that’s not a problem.

Way longer post than I intended, but any ideas?
as a P.S., if anybody has a structural engineering background and can think of an idea for how to support that loft without that 4x4 in the center I would worship you. That thing is the worst pain to design a room around. We can’t hang em from chains from the roof like we used to since apparently 40 years of that caused major structural damage to the roof of the old house. Who knew.

Loft Picture: http://img188.imageshack.us/img188/453/photopw.jpg

try 2 hooks and hang it sideways on the frame of the loft when your not gonna use it.

To get rid of the 4x4 support, you could drill into the concrete block wall (looks like a block wall) and install angle supports from the wall, to the outside edge of the loft.

For the ladder, cut the long 2x4x8’ beams into 4 sections, and reconnect with hinges. The the ladder will turn into a 4 “layer,” 2 foot stack of lumber for storage. (Or into 2, 4’ sections, and hang as Jamicat suggests.

you should look at calvert attic stairs. They have a ladder you can attach to the loft floor and push it up when not used. It would be lot safer than the wooden one you have. Calvert Attic Stairs

I always wanted to build a balance arrangement for that sort of thing. Where you would have energy stored hydraulically. You’d step on a platform and flip the valve and your side would rise. When you got down the platform would lower slowly with you, raising the liquid. There would be just a little bit of effort needed to overcome friction. Maybe it could even be done dry with a form of seesaw, with a weight on one side matching your own, and a catch to keep it up or down.

If only I had $450 sitting around. That looks pretty awesome.

Thanks for the responses. It’s been a while since I’ve actually had time to come by here and check out this thread.
Never Say Dice: I’m sorry, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about or how it would work. Can you expound?

**butler1850: ** That would really be what I want to do, but I can’t find any hinges that will turn in the correct fashion and still allow it to turn(without the hinge getting in the way, though I guess I could cut the wood to allow for a hinge). Know any specifics?

Any hinge is going to have the same basic design. A plate on each side of a pivot pin. Mount the hinge so that the raised portion holding the “pin” will be on the inside of the fold on the ladder. This will cause each set of 2x4s to have a slight gap at the hinge point, but overall, they should balance out when the ladder is stacked. Worst case, you could notch the wood at the hinge point (end of the 2x4), and put the raised portion into the notch. I’d go to your “big box” home improvement store, and browse what they have. You’re not designing fine furniture, you’re designing a fraternity house bunk ladder. It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially as you’re looking for inexpensive, functional, and safe.

One last thought, the hinges should probably be “on the bottom” of the ladder (that side that faces the ground when angled), so that the force of someone climbing the ladder will force the ends of the 2x4s together, rather than apart. I’m not sure how you’d do it with my suggestion of 4 sections so I’d probably go with a single joint, giving (2) 4’ sections, which you can hang… and that would require only a single hinge, and the “gap” wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem.