Have you ever considered renovating your attic? Is it too full of “stuff” to even dream about it? Someday we’ll do a blog post on decluttering, but for right now, let’s pretend your attic is easily cleared for renovation (including some smartly designed storage!).
Now let’s dream. Do you want a hangout for the kids, a hangout *away* from the kids, a master suite, guest room, or home office? Depending on the layout of and access to your attic, you could one day be enjoying any of these options. But first, let’s talk about some basics:
1. Codes and Safety
Your local and state housing codes may be different from others, but there are some general guidelines to be safe, such as ensuring at least half of your attic is 7 feet high, and at least 7 feet wide, and at least 70 square feet. Dormers count, and if you don’t have any, you could consider adding some. Not only will they help with code requirements, but they will add neat alcoves for reading nooks, office desks, or gaming centers.
2. Get a pro to check out your attic’s structure
The last thing you want is your house to sag because you finished the attic and didn’t account for the additional weight. An engineer will be able to assess your house’s structural makeup and give you an opinion of what you’d need to shore up or support before finishing your attic.
3. Figure out your access to the attic
What kind of stairs are you putting in (if needed)? You may want to consider switchback stairs, which take up the same space roughly as a straight run of stairs, but can fit better into many home floor plans. Just make sure the landing of the stairs is large enough for you to fit your furniture!
4. Decide on your lighting
Do you want ambient lighting? How about skylights? Perhaps some recessed lighting in-between roof trusses will do the trick, and leave you with the max amount of headroom.
5. Climate control
Few will enjoy an attic that’s a sauna or an icebox. There are ways around this, such as running furnace ductwork to the attic, installing ceiling fans, or installing a window AC unit and baseboard heaters. Your home’s HVAC layout will be a determining factor. Also, you’ll need a sizeable chunk of your budget if you want to have furnace runs to the attic, because sections of the downstairs walls will need to be removed to run the ductwork.
Also consider insulation. Fiberglass batt is tried and true, and will help keep your attic from temperature extremes, but you can also consider spray foam insulation, which gives you the same R-value but in fewer inches thick when compared to fiberglass batt.
6. Considering a bathroom?
If you’d like a bathroom in the attic, that’s great! But a pro tip is to locate the bathroom above others bathrooms or the kitchen. You may choose to run dedicated lines up to the attic from your basement or crawl space, but at least the lines will be run close together. Also, it may be a great time to replace some outdated kitchen or bathroom plumbing too!
7. Storage, storage, storage!
Many people use their attics exclusively for storage, but renovating your attic for other uses doesn’t mean you lose all storage space! You can build draws and cabinets into “knee walls”, where the roof is too close to the floor for you to stand.
And make use of every nook and cranny you can. It’s still a storage area – don’t forget that! But you can be smart about building your storage spaces, even if it’s simply open shelves.
8. Plan for emergencies
If your attic is a sleeping or living space, you would do well to include a smoke alarm, as well as at least one openable window. You can complete this project with a recessed rope ladder in the wall.
9. Some extra conveniences
Include storage for cleaning supplies and a vacuum cleaner in your attic build. The last thing you want to do is lug your vacuum or buckets of cleaning solution up multiple flights of stairs. Telephone and/or internet access is a nice addon, and may be essential for you. And a wireless doorbell extender will help ensure you don’t miss visitors and guests!