9 key things to consider before converting storage into living space
The attic in most homes is a repository of unused treasures. And for the homeowner who wants more space, space is the greatest treasure the attic holds. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average home size in this country grew almost 160 percent from 1973 to 2017. But if you live in an older home in the perfect neighborhood, reclaiming space with an attic renovation is the perfect way to go bigger.
Most homeowners look into a home addition when their family wants more room to roam. But a full-blown home addition isn’t in everyone’s budget. That’s what makes other options, like an attic renovation, attractive. When you remodel your attic, the space is already dried in, it’s close to existing power, plumbing, and HVAC, and going up retains the size of your home’s footprint—saving your yard space for outdoor living features.
If you think an attic renovation is your best option, here are a few things to consider.
Local Codes and Safety Issues
To ensure your attic conversion is safe and code-compliant, consult with a building contractor or engineer about the following key elements.
- Determine if your home can hold the added weight. If the attic trusses are spaced too far apart or are too shallow, they may require reinforcing.
- Make sure you have enough headroom. To satisfy building codes, your new space will need at least 70 square feet with ceilings at least 7-feet high.
- Check for a point of egress, or way of escape in case of an emergency. Your consultant should be able to tell if your gables or dormers are large enough to install adequately-sized windows for this.
- See if you have enough room to add a secure staircase.
Everyone knows that heat rises, making the attic the hottest part of the home. To ensure you can use your new space year-round, you’ll want to do the following.
- Consult with an HVAC specialist to see if your current system will support an additional room. If not, consider installing a mini-split system. If your current system is adequate, install a separate thermostat for the attic.
- Ask the contractor to install rafter vents, if you don’t already have them. Placed in the soffit, these vents will keep the space cooler by moving warm air behind the insulation along the roof and out the ridge vent.
- If space allows, install a ceiling fan to force the warm air down.
Carrying off-season clothes and boxes of Christmas decorations while climbing a set of pull-down stairs in the middle of your laundry room is one thing. But for a room you plan to furnish and use every day, you’ll need a permanent staircase and landing. Designing an adequate stairway is a job for a professional design-builder.
Once you clean out your attic, you may find the floor consists of nothing more than a few sheets of plywood laid over the trusses. If that’s the case, you’ll need to install a proper floor for your new expansion. Once all the electrical and ventilation installations are complete, and insulation is blown in between the joists, it’s time to lay a subfloor. The subfloor consists of plywood panels, secured to the joists, and caulked. Once in place, you’ll install the flooring product of your choice. However, carpeting will improve insulation and sound quality.
Creative Uses of Dormer Space
If your attic doesn’t already include dormers—bump-outs to hold windows—your design-builder will probably recommend one or two. Dormers add usable square footage and headroom to the space. But, since they create small nooks, some homeowners struggle with what to do with the area. Here are a few ideas for the creative use of dormer space.
- Add a desk for a home office.
- For the playroom, use the dormer space for a game table.
- Create a reading nook with a window seat or comfy chair and floor lamp.
- For the bathroom dormer, use this space for a soaking tub.
- Add built-in shelves or a dresser.
Add a Bathroom
A bathroom in your attic space will save you steps, make the space more livable, and increase your home’s value. According to Remodeling magazines’ 2021 Cost vs. Value report, a mid-range bathroom addition brings a 53 percent return on investment come sale time. A few things to remember when designing your attic bathroom include:
- Locate it over the kitchen or an existing bath where plumbing lines already exist.
- Fiberglass tubs weigh less and are easier to carry up the stairs than cast iron.
- Save space with a shower.
- If you’re not placing your bathroom in a dormer, add skylights for natural lighting.
- Utilize awkward spaces, like under the eaves, for storage cubbies.
Illuminate with Skylights
Attics have limited window options. To better illuminate your attic space, add a few skylights. Because they’re installed in the roof floor, and the ceiling is framed around them, skylights also can add a few extra inches of headspace above a sink or game table.
Skylights have come a long way in the last few years, too. Instead of a permanent piece of plexiglass, they come with the following options:
- Remote control—Yes, you can open skylights for air flow.
- Retractable screens—To keep out flying insects and possibly a squirrel or two.
- Solar shades—To reduce overheating during periods of direct sunlight.
Maximizing Storage Potential
Attics have a lot of unusable space that is perfect for built-in storage. Cabinets built into knee walls are ideal for storing the things you had in the attic in the first place–seasonal clothing, holiday decorations, keepsakes from childhood, and old financial records. Build shelving into this space for books or to hold bins full of toys and gaming equipment.
Creative Ways to Use Your Attic
The sky is literally the limit when it comes to attic renovation. When deciding how to tap the potential of this space, consider these possibilities.
Home theater—According to the film industry experts at GowerStreet, nearly a fourth of all movie theaters in the U.S. have remained closed since March 2020. If you’re tired of waiting for theaters to open near you, why not bring the big screen home with a home theater? The perfect part of this idea is you won’t need to add windows or skylights for additional lighting.
Home office—There’s nothing like quiet in an attic. Move your home office up a flight to get away from the hustle and bustle of family life and the distractions it brings to your nine-to-five.
Playroom—Whether you have small children or grandchildren who need a place to play, the attic is a room where imagination can take flight. Use the space under the eaves for toy storage and add a game table in the dormer space. Throw about a few bean bag chairs and cover the floor with a shag rug to up the cozy factor.
Hobby or craft room—If you neglect your crafts because you don’t have the place to leave a project mid-stream, turn your attic into a hobby room. From sewing and beading to woodcarving and leatherwork, no one will mind the creative clutter when it’s hidden away in the attic.
Guest room—Overnight guests will want to return after experiencing a night under the stars in your attic. Add a bathroom for the perfect getaway.
An attic renovation does more than increase the value of your home. It provides added space without the expense of a full-blown addition. To find out if an attic renovation is the best way to add living space to your home, contact the design-build remodeling team at Blackline Renovations in Dallas. They know how to assess your home and recommend the best options for your family. Browse their portfolio and then call to schedule a consultation. They’re ready to offer friendly and expert advice either virtually or in person.
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