First, if there is an existing stairway, measure from the outside to the outside of the existing box frame. Do not measure the inside of the box frame and as that is not a true rough opening measurement.
If you do not have an existing rough opening, determine where you will put the stair and the orientation in the space.
In order to do this, you will need to know what type of ceiling structure you have. Generally there are two types of ceilings: A beam ceiling and a truss ceiling. It is also useful to know if you have any electrical fixtures in the area where you plan on installing the stairway to be aware of where these are running.
If you desire to have a larger opening than your trusses, you need to contact a professional contractor regarding cutting these. Do not attempt to cut existing trusses without consulting a professional!
Typically the attic stairway you purchased includes the manufacturers recommended size for the rough opening. It is not recommended to attempt to put a stairway in a smaller rough opening than what is recommended by the manufacturer.
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