Remodeling Your Attic: What You Need to Know

Posted by Bob Wiedenmann

In my family, the attic is a place to dump stuff. Old photo albums from Grandma, the baby crib with the cracked headboard, unwanted Christmas gifts and of course old magazines that we’ll never read again.

Don’t judge—we know you probably do it too. We’ve seen enough homes by now.

The good news is, an attic space can be a value-add to your home, not just a repository for junk, if you optimize the space. Consider it “flipping” a part of your own home, in a sense. The most sensible thing to turn the attic into is a bedroom or an office.

Is Your Attic a Good Candidate for a Remodel? 

The first step to remodeling the attic is to figure out if you have the right type of space. A good candidate will be:

Having a contractor inspect it. Since this is our blog, we’re allowed to plug our own services, but we won’t be the only people to tell you this one. Having a contractor inspect an attic space is absolutely essential before you start any work. This is because building codes can be finicky, and you must make sure you are able to meet them before you convert your attic. If you fail to do this, you could end up with fines or other headaches in the future, especially when you decide to sell your house.

Typically, a contractor will check to make sure there are at least two escape routes from the attic, possibly through a window and also down a flight of stairs. This is essential for emergencies. It’s also important to make sure that the ceiling meets the requirements to be considered usable—typically, this means being a certain height. A typical rule is around 7 feet of height.

A contractor will also make sure the construction of the home can handle work being done in the attic, and support activity up there to boot. For example, joists in the floor may need to be supported so they are able to handle the added stress that comes from people moving around, weight of added furniture and any work you choose to do to the flooring or the walls. Depending on what you choose to use the space for, you may need to have a closet—but if you’re going to use the space as an office or a playroom, this may not be necessary.

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What Does the Remodeling Process Look Like? 

We focus mostly on bedrooms because those are the most amount of work. If you’re focusing on a less intensive room like an office or media room, some of these won’t apply—but you’ll get a good idea of the general aspects.

After your contractor secures the necessary permits, the next focus will be on the flooring. Joists and supports will be secured first, followed by the subfloor. This is an essential step, as it sets the stage for the space being walked on. Building codes may require that you have a staircase leading from the attic, so make sure to figure this into the budget and the timeline. Joists in the floor of the attic may need to be strengthened. This is all part of preparing the space to physically support being used by people, so be patient with all of the steps.

Note: During this step, if you’re using the space as an added bedroom, this will be the time that your contractor adds a closet space. For most areas, that’s what is required to consider a space as a bedroom.

Material Selections for Your Attic

Next, your contractor will focus on the type of flooring that you’ve chosen, as well as drywall to fill out a shape for the space and seal off any odd areas. During this step, you’ll likely be asked about insulation, and don’t be tempted to skimp on this for the sake of cost. The fact is, insulation will make the difference between whether your new space feels like a converted attic or an actual room. This is because your attic is the most vulnerable to losing air, being at the very top of your home, and so it can feel drafty and cold in the winters, and especially stuffy and hot in the summers. Also, it’s very difficult to go back in and change your insulation choice once the entire project is done. Make the right choice the first time and skimp on something accessory-related when you get to a later step to account for it. Insulation is very important for this type of renovation. Hint: For the ceilings, focus on R-30 insulation, and for the walls, R-13.

If you have a slanted-wall attic space, ask your contractor if it’s possible to use the edges or corners of the room as storage. This prevents the very low corners from being wasted space, and if you’re converting the space to a bedroom, it helps the person in there to create a real living area.

Making the Most of Your Attic Space

Families living in small homes with attics may find yourselves looking upward as you think of ways to expand your living space. Children grow and they accumulate more and more things, such as toys and electronics. As they grow, they take up more physical space. 

As your family grows, you might find that the number of bedrooms becomes too small, but finding a bigger home just isn’t a realistic option. What to do? A Middletown home renovation could be the solution to your problem. 

If You Need Extra Room

Look up! Literally, look up. Your home has an attic. What’s in that space? Dust, creepy-crawlies, memories and boxes and boxes of possessions that may (or may not) ever be used again. 

If your children are getting bigger or their possessions are starting to crowd you out of the house, why not make that attic into an extra bedroom? Of course, you’ll have to look at everything you have stored up there and plan a major yard sale. Get rid of those old clothes and outgrown toys that will never be used again. Separate what you’ll keep, such as holiday decorations, and find a new place to store them. It’s time to expand. 

Great Attic Ideas

If you’re fortunate enough to have an attic in your home, then you’ve got a whole lot of extra floor space you could be putting to good use. That is, if you choose to finish and upgrade it. Like basements, finished attics can add tons of square footage to your home’s floor plan, and if you are looking for a great way to expand the size of your home without undertaking a major addition, this could be the answer.

We’ve collected some amazing ideas you can use to transform all that space into something that really works for your family and your lifestyle.

1. Kids’ Space

Of the people who live in your home, it’s the kids that generally eat up the most space – and more specifically, it’s their stuff that occupies the most space. Most families find they have enough toys lying around the house to fill a whole new house, and while the type of toys and activities change with time, it’s something you will live with until they all head off to college.

Transforming your attic space into a kid-friendly zone is a great way to reclaim your living spaces, and the change is well worth the time and effort if you feel your life is being taken over by toys and games.

2. Man Cave

Most guys find that as soon as they move from bachelor pad to family home, the space that used to be used for football games, playing pool or playing poker with their buddies disappears. It’s like magic, only less fun.

An attic offers a large space that can easily be transformed into a great man cave. Just make sure your builder pays special attention to sound proofing! Game day can get noisy.

3. Master Suite

If your home is feeling tight and you’re finding there’s not enough room and privacy for everyone, then it might be a good idea to transform your attic into a master suite. You’ll free up space on lower floors, and because most attics are large, open spaces, there’s room for a bedroom, bathroom, office and even a sitting area!

4. Guest Suite or Older Kids’ Room

If you need space in your home for guests or your older kids are begging for their own space, then your attic might be the perfect solution. Most attics can be transformed into a few decently sized rooms for visitors or older teenagers, or even into a separate apartment with an outdoor staircase.

5. Family Room

A large attic space can become an amazing family hangout space. Turn it into a cinema-style movie room or into a library and music room if your family is culturally inclined. Adding a casual hangout space to your home this way allows you to reclaim formal living rooms and dining rooms or just to declutter your main living spaces.

If you are considering additions, it may make more sense to go up, into existing attic space. The structure is already there, so there may be more flexibility in the transformation, and you may be able to get more bang for your remodeling buck.

Other Ways to Use Your Attic

Get some new designs for your attic space renovation, along with several quotes. Maybe you and your family already have some ideas for how that unused space will be used. 

 Home office

 Extra bedroom

√ Hangout spot for your older children and their friends.

√ Game room. 

Whatever your ideas and plans, you need to have a solid set of plans before you get started. The contractor that does the work will need to know what to do so you get the best product for the money you’ll be spending. 

Take Heating and Cooling into Account

As you discuss your ideas with your home renovation contractor, don’t forget that you’ll need to make that new living space comfortable. You’ll need heat for those winter months and air conditioning for the hot summer months, if you use air conditioning. 

Ask your designer to look at your current HVAC system. You may need to make some adjustments so you don’t overload its current capacity. If needed, an HVAC contractor can make needed changes to your system. 

Now that you have all these ideas in mind, it’s time to get started on your Middletown home renovation. Draw up some plans and expand your living space upwards!

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