When designing your tiny house, every square inch matters. With only so much space to work with, you want every decision to be the right one. After all, the choices you make in the planning stage of your tiny house build will define the way you and your family live for the foreseeable future.

Which leads many tiny house planners to the important question – should you build a ladder or a staircase to access your loft? Each has their pros and cons, functionally and aesthetically, and the decision you make will depend on your preferences as well as the ages and physical capability of you and your family.

We’ve broken down the ever-present argument point by point so that you can decide for yourself which works best for you: stairs or ladders. Which way is the best for tiny houses?

Stairs VS Ladders: Why Is It Important and Why Does It Matter?

You might think, “Why does it matter?” As long as you can get up to your loft, then that’s all you need. But choosing between stairs or ladders comes more than just an aesthetic preference for your tiny house.

The decision of building a staircase or a ladder will change a number of aspects of your access to your loft as well as your general tiny home. This choice can influence:

  • Safety
  • Available space
  • Design style
  • Versatility of the home
  • Mobility
  • Physical capability of your residents
  • Your way of climbing up

Why Ladders

  • Space Saving: Stairs are typically bulky and wide, especially since they usually have to be built to regulation size, meaning there are always requirements in terms of width and railing. Ladders allow you to get valuable space in various dimensions, and they can also be tucked way to the side when not in use.
  • Versatility: No matter what your tiny house style may be, a ladder is almost never an inappropriate choice. Its thin and narrow basic design means that you can easily add a ladder in any blueprint without changing much around it.
  • Privacy: Ladders offer you a kind of privacy that stairs do not. If you are up in the loft and you don’t want to be disturbed, you simply have to pull up the ladder – whether it is a traditional ladder or a rope ladder – and you can stop other people and pes from coming into the loft, thus saving your privacy.

Why Stairs

  • Absolute Safety: Stairs offer you safety in ways that ladders never could. If you are intoxicated or sleepy, a ladder is never a good idea to use. Or if you are older or have older relatives living with you, or people who are physically impaired, ladders might be difficult if not impossible to climb up. Stairs guarantee that you and your family can use them whenever without any safety issues.
  • Possible Storage: The great thing about the space that typical ladders take up is that they can easily be transformed into storage areas with little extra work. There are many stair designs that transform the under-stair area into cabinets, drawers, and cubby holes that can be used for all kinds of storage needs.
  • Pet and Kid Friendly: Ladders can be dangerous for pets and kids, because they may end up trying to jump from the loft to the lower floor and hurt themselves in the process. But a staircase in your tiny house means that your pets and kids never have to do anything risky to get down from the loft – just walk down the stairs like you would in any regular home.

Innovative Ladder and Stair Designs

Still can’t choose between ladders or stairs? The great news is that the drawbacks of both ladders and stairs can be negated with innovative designs. Here are some of our favorite tiny house ladder and stair designs that can help you think of something new for your own tiny house plan:

Fold-Up Slanted Ladder

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In this first example, we see a basic ladder design that slants slightly from the loft space to the ground floor, adding extra safety to the design. The cool thing about this ladder is that it actually hangs off a hinge along the loft, allowing you to pull it up and save extra space when it’s not in use.

Fold-Slide Ladder

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This next ladder comes from a tiny house called The Orchard House, which showcases a really innovative design that utilizes both folding and sliding mechanisms. When you want to store the ladder, you begin by folding its first leg up behind it and latching it back. It can then be pressed against the wall and slid into a small cubby at the side, making it take up no space at all.

Wall Ladder

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If you are strongly confident in your physical ability and you want to save as much space as possible, you can try copying this ladder design above and simply build your ladder rungs into the wall, allowing you to climb up with no extra storage space taken up.

While we could never recommend this for tiny homes with older people or kids, we can see many young tiny house homeowners who would love to try this or a similar design.

Slide-In Storage Staircase

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Looking for staircase designs? Here’s one from a house they call The Millennial Tiny House. This staircase design utilizes a staircase style known as the Tansu design, in which cubby storage holes are incorporated into the staircase. 

While it isn’t an exact Tansu staircase since it slides into the wall beneath the loft, it does have the same feel while mixing in a modern appeal to it.

Spiral Staircase

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Another awesome possible staircase is a spiral staircase, with steps twisting around a pole that goes up to the loft. This gives homeowners the space-saving convenience they may need, while still offering some of the extra climb safety of stairs (although you should check with your local building restrictions and if they would allow you to set-up stairs such as these).

Skinny Stairs

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If you want space-saving convenience but don’t want to twist around a spiral staircase, you can also consider building skinny stairs that are pressed against the side wall of your tiny house. 

For extra safety if necessary, you can install a rope railing along the side to hold, as well as panels between the steps to keep people from stepping in.

Stairs or Ladders? It’s All Up to You

Every part of your tiny house should feel right for you and your family. If you aren’t feeling your current plan for your stair or ladder, then switch it up – see what else may be out there. There is no one way to do things that you need to follow when it comes to tiny houses.

Your tiny house should be the perfect environment for you and whoever else living in it, so make the right choice. Stairs and ladders may both have their pros and cons, but with the right design and tweaks, you can pick a style that fits what you need perfectly.

About Us

Manuela and Ivan from Tiny House Bloom

Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).

This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.