Every house should have two ways out in case of a fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that every home have a fire escape. Fire escape ladders are safe and easy to install in homes.
In the blog post, we will walk you through the steps required to install a fire escape ladder. Here we will explain the procedure with regards to installing both portable and permanent metal fire escape ladders.
Estimated Time for Installing a Fire Escape Ladder
2 to 3 hours
- Putty knife
- Cordless drill/driver
- Impact driver
- Reciprocating saw
Installation of Portable Fire Escape Ladder
A portable fire escape ladder, as the name suggests, is not fixed to the wall. You have to install an opening on the wall using a template outline that comes with the fire ladder. The fire escape ladder itself remains in the metal box near the window within easy reach in case of a fire.
The steps required for the installation of a portable fire escape ladder are mentioned below:
Step 1: Level the Template Outline
The first step is to take the template that is provided with the fire ladder with you. You should tape the template to the wall and center it below the window. Now, use a level to make sure that the template is in line.
Step 2: Cut an Outline
The next step is to cut an outline from the template. You should first make sure that the template is perfectly level. Next, you should cut along the marked line on the template using the utility knife. Get rid of the template and continue to cut through the drywall as per the markings.
Step 3: Create an Opening
You should remove the cut piece of drywall and remove any insulation from the hole. Next, you should make an opening by using a reciprocating saw.
Create a cut through the stud below the opening. Next, you should cut out the top of the stud flush at the top of the opening. You need to make close cuts under the sill and use a chisel and hammer to remove the extra material.
To create an opening, you must cut the pieces into sizes of 2×4. You need to cut to ensure that it fits the wall allowing solid nails for the escape ladder. Secure it using the 3-inch screws.
Step 4: Install the Ladder
Once you have installed the template outline, you must remove the fire escape ladder from the box. The box should be placed into the opening that you have created.
Next, you should create a hold of about 1/8 inch diameter through each of the four mounting holes. You must attach a box to the opening using two half-inch and four quarter-inch screws. The escape ladder must be secured using the half-inch screw.
Step 5: Test the Ladder
It’s important to remember at this point that the work is not finished once you have installed the ladder. You must test the ladder to make sure that it is safe.
Drop the fire escape ladder out of the window. Make sure that it reaches the ground. You should have someone climb three to four steps of the ladder.
As the person is standing on the ladder, you must inspect the lag screws inside the metal box. Make sure that the ladder is secure.
Once you have ensured that the ladder is secure, you need to pull the ladder back, fold it, and place it back inside the box. Put the protective cover to hide the ladder. You must store the ladder near the window, ideally under the bed.
Installation of Permanent Metal Fire Escape Ladder
A permanent fire escape ladder remains fixed on the wall. The escape ladder is installed so that it can be easily reached from the bedroom window. A permanent ladder is more secure than a portable ladder since it is firmly secured on the wall using multiple nails. It can support more weight as compared to a portable fire escape ladder.
You need to get the help of three to four people to install the permanent fire escape ladder. Here are the steps you should follow to install a fire escape ladder.
Step 1: Place Fire Escape Ladder on the Wall
Place the fire escape ladder next to the wall. You must make sure that the ladder is level against the wall.
Step 2: Secure the Ladder
The next step is to secure the ladder using screws. You need to drill screws that came with the fire ladder on the straps.
Tell the persons with you to hold the ladder as you install the screws. You must cut the wood to about one or one and a half-inch length. You will need to install about ten screws on each side of the ladder on the left and right.
Step 3: Paint the Ladder (Optional)
Once you have installed the screws, you must then paint the ladder. You need to spray red oxide on the metal ladder before applying your desired color. The red oxide layer will reduce rusting of the metal fire escape ladder.
Installation of Permanent Wood Fire Escape Ladder
You can also install a wood fire escape ladder. Follow the steps mentioned below for the DIY installation of a wood fire escape ladder.
Step 1: Cut the Wood
The first step is to cut the wood in about one or one and a half-inch length. The ladder will need at least eight steps, for which you need to cut an 8-foot piece of wood. Each step will be one foot. If you require more rungs, you can cut a bigger piece of wood.
Step 2: Drill Holes
You need to drill holes of about one and a half-inch on each side of the ladder rungs. Measure from the edge of the rungs and then mark where you will drill the holes.
Step 3: Bolt or Screw the Pieces Together)
Using heavy duty bolts or wood screws, attach the pieces together to form the ladder. Make sure the top and bottom of the ladder are securely attached to the structure.
If your ladder is extendable, attach the rope, chain or cable to the bottom rung so it can be pulled up off the ground. Attach the top of the rope, chain or cable to the window frame or run it into the window and secure it with bolts or screws to the wall.
Step 4: Paint the Ladder (Optional)
You must paint the wooden ladder if required. You can also install tread stickers once the paint has been dried. Make sure that the weather is clear before painting the ladder. It should not be raining outside when painting the ladder.
Tips When Installing a Permanent Fire Escape Ladder
Select the Right Place
Before installing a permanent fire escape ladder, you need to select the right place for the ladder. Ideally, the fire escape ladder should be installed from the top floor of the apartment or house. It should be accessible from the window on each of the upper stories.
Examine the Exterior Wall
You should also examine the wall’s exterior to find out the strongest part for installing the ladder. You will have to use concrete screws and a hammer drill for installing the permanent fire escape ladder.
Locate Studs for Drilling Screws
Consider drilling exploratory holes outside the house. Find the studs inside the wall before installing the permanent metal or wood fire escape ladder. You can screw the verticals of the ladder directly into the studs to secure the ladder.
Test Your Fire Escape Ladder
Lastly, it is important that you test the fire escape ladder multiple times. The importance of testing the ladder, whether permanent or portable, cannot be emphasized enough. You may have to make some adjustments when installing the ladder.
Make sure that the ladder can be accessed easily. Also, it should not be awkward or uncomfortable to use the fire escape ladder.
Make sure that you contact the local home building association before the installation of the ladder. This is important to ensure that you don’t violate any rules when installing the fire escape ladder. If the building codes don’t allow the installation of a permanent ladder outside the windows, you should consider portable fire escape ladders. However, you may still have to get permission to install the fire escape opening.
A fire escape ladder is important in every home. A permanent wooden or metal fire escape ladder is recommended for apartments or mansions with three or more floors.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.