What is a Scuttle Attic? - Definition & Overview

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever gotten into an attic by crawling through a hatch in a ceiling? Did you know that small entrance has a name? In this lesson, learn about an architectural feature known as a scuttle attic.

What Is a Scuttle Attic?

Have you ever been in an old house with an attic that could only be accessed by a hole in a ceiling? The hole provides entry via an architectural feature known as a scuttle attic.

A scuttle attic is an attic space accessed only by a small hole in a ceiling or, less commonly, a wall. To make sure that it isn't just a gaping obvious hole in a ceiling, it often has a removable cover. Taken together, the hole and cover structure is referred to as a hatch.

Entry to an attic known as a scuttle attic
Scuttle access

A scuttle attic doesn't have a full staircase to access the attic, and you usually need a ladder to get up through the hatch. Some scuttle attics have access with a set of pull-down stairs that can only be used after the hatch has been opened. The size of the attic itself varies. It might be full-sized or just a crawl space below the rafters, and you may or may not be able to stand up in it. Because the term ''scuttle attic'' refers to the access rather than the attic itself, it's sometimes also called a scuttle hole or attic hatch.

Location and Overview of Scuttle Attics

Scuttle holes to provide attic access were commonly used in older homes. Most scuttle attic hatches are located in a part of a house that's unobtrusive but easy to get to. You'll often see access hatches in places such as hallways and walk-in closets, where a ladder can be placed to get to it.

Scuttle attic entry in a closet
attic access in a closet

The opening or hatch is usually framed with molding to give it a more finished appearance. The molding also serves as a frame to hold the removable panel in place. That panel might be a segment of wood finished to match the ceiling, or it might simply be a slab of plywood. The hatch itself is not a very large entrance, but it must be large enough for a person to get through. Rules and regulations in residential building codes often determine required minimum sizes for the attic opening, and it tends to be around no smaller than 24 inches by 24 inches.

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