7 Helpful Tips for Turning Your Attic into a Living Space
Does your attic have the potential to become a cozy habitable space, such as a bedroom for guests, toy room for the kids, or maybe a relaxing space filled with books, art materials, and musical instruments for when you just want to get away from it all?
Indeed, attics can be more than just a storage area for old furniture and childhood photos you don’t want to see the light of day. So if you’re ready to start converting yours into a space-gaining option, here are 7 tips to follow.
Ensure Your Attic Meets Local Building Codes
The building requirements for living spaces applies to all rooms, including the attic. You’ll need to check with a local building inspector or architect for the exact requirements in your area, but they are generally the following:
- 70 square feet or more of floor space
- At least half of the floor space should have a ceiling height of 7 feet or more
- At least 7 feet wide
The floor space requirements exist to prevent uncomfortable and potentially dangerous room configurations. For example, it’s easy to have 70 square feet of floor space with 4’ x 17.5’ dimensions, but that does not meet the other criteria, which is to have at least 7 feet in any direction.
Other considerations before repurposing your attic into a living space:
- Must be accessible via a full-size staircase
- Must have another means of egress, such as a patio door or operable (not fixed) window leading to the outside
Secure a Permit If Necessary
Many home improvement projects require a permit to ensure the structural integrity of the house. If you have plans to add electrical wiring, plumbing, or ventilation to your attic, talk to your local permitting office first. The same is true if you wish to expand your attic space by knocking down a wall or adding a dormer.
Have a Good Climate Control System
Air sealing, insulating, and adding an option for ventilation can help to ensure that your HVAC system is utilized as best as possible. Fill holes with caulk and stuff gaps with insulating material. It’s dusty and dirty work, but it’s the fastest and most cost-effective way to save money on energy bills. Not to mention they help make the space more livable and prevent mold formation.
When installing insulation for the attic, you’ll need to choose a material with the recommended R-value according to the US Department of Energy. Colder regions — those belonging to Climate Zones 4 to 8 — can benefit more from R38 insulation and higher, while warmer regions work well with R30 insulation.
Sound-Proof The Walls and Floor
Installing insulation has the added benefit of restricting sound from travelling to different areas of the house. It also reduces noise from the outside so the living space feels more private. But there are other ways to make an attic more sound-proof. Adding floor floaters underneath the attic joists, for instance, can reduce vibrations and are therefore effective for impact noise. You can also use floor covers or rugs made from thick, sound-absorbing material to deaden echos.
Sit Your Bathroom Closer to Existing Plumbing
If your attic conversion plan includes a bathroom, avoid extra costs and potential plumbing problems by putting the bathroom where new pipes can easily connect to the old ones. Of course, you can opt for dedicated pipes for your attic bathroom that run straight from the basement, but you can reduce costs and wall damage by adding the bathroom within convenient reach of your plumbing system.
Use Every Nook and Cranny
Attics already have a reputation for being cramped, so why not make yours stand out by turning those awkward spaces into smart compartments and make the living space feel more roomy. You can find a lot of creative ways to store small items such as turning the walls of a staircase into bookshelves or building window seats that can double as a drawer.
Opt for Light Hues When Finishing
When choosing colors for your attic, opt for light hues to give your attic a bright and airy feel. Cream and beige shades are great options to make the living space seem more spacious. They’re also great for reflecting natural light, which can be useful for areas that lack natural light.
If you want something a little more colorful, add a few pastel shades such as light blue and green. Orange can add brightness to the space too, and can make the living space feel warmer—useful for homes that are in the colder regions.
Generally speaking, a typical attic conversion takes about four to eight weeks to complete, but expect to add a few more days if you want to install custom storage. The expenses will greatly vary depending on the size and complexity of the job at hand. With planning and the right materials, however, it’s possible to convert your attic from a cramped storage space into a more livable space for your family to enjoy. Plus, you can raise your home’s real estate value if you ever decide to move out.