One of the most common problems we find in home inspections is attic pull down stairs problems. A huge percentage are installed wrong creating a safety issue that most homeowners are unaware of. Stairs are one of the most dangerous places in your home.
Most are poorly installed, missing fasteners or not cut to the right length. Attic stairs that are poorly installed pose a significant risk and should be installed to manufactures instructions.
Fasteners should be placed at all indicated locations.
Most manufacturers specify 16d (sixteen penny) nails or lag screws. Drywall screws are easy to find around a jobsite, they are sometimes used instead to secure the frame at the well opening, but they have a poor shear rating and are not acceptable.
Look for loose or missing hardware and cracked or split wood, loose hinges, (often they are bent). Another common install issue is the ladder not cut to the right length or angle. Too long or too short are both dangerous. Attic ladders are not engineered to hang free at the bottom, and should not be used if the bottom stiles are not angle-cut to securely bear on the floor.
Remember, most ladders are rated for a 250-pound load (total weight of you and anything you are holding). Exceeding the rated load can cause failure, typically of the treads.