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Convert an unused attic into valuable living space

Have you ever wished you would have just a little bit more living space? Maybe you've thought about a home addition but then didn't move forward because of cost or space limitations? Converting your attic into usable living space is a great way to maximize your home and increase home value. When contemplating an attic remodel, however, it is important to have a few pieces of key information before you get started. Here're my ten tips for a successful attic conversion.

1. Codes and Safety First

Every attic is different, but a few established norms and practices will guide your remodel.

Follow the "rule of seven". Enforcement varies, but codes typically say that at least half of a finished attic must be at least seven feet high, and that this area must be a minimum of seven feet wide and 70 square feet. A general contractor or a local building official can help you assess how the rule will apply to your attic and how modifications like a Dorma window can resolve height shortcomings.

2. Have A Pro Check The Structural Framework

A finished attic weighs a lot more than boxes of off-season home decorations or other storage items. Hire a structural engineer to inspect whether your home's foundation and framing can handle the extra load. At a minimum, you may need to strengthen the attic's floor joists, which are often too shallow or spaced too far apart for the job. A structural engineer will tell you what's needed and provide adequate calculations and drawings.

3. A Word About Noise Reduction

Attic activity can cause disruptions in the rooms below. Additional floor joists might quiet things down, as will filling the bays with blown-in dense-pack insulation. And it's probably a good idea to install carpet in the attic or at least use area rugs to minimize noise.

4. Add A Dormer Window or Skylight

In addition to adding more headroom and bringing in natural light, a dormer window can shelter a miniature room of its own within an open floor plan. Skylights are a great solution to let light into an otherwise dark attic space as well, but it's important to know where you'll be placing them before remodeling. Think about how you want to use the finished attic and place a Dormer or skylights accordingly.

5. Select Attic Lighting

Recessed LED fixtures tuck completely out of the way, don't generate unwanted heat, and can have insulation installed snugly, and safely, around them.

6. Splurge on Spray-Foam Roof Insulation

Spray-foam insulation costs two to three times more than fiberglass batt insulation. But the roof is a major pathway to heat loss—and gain—so it's worth to pay extra for spray foam. It forms a much tighter air barrier, and you'll get the same R-value with fewer inches of the stuff, so you'll have extra room overhead.

7. Put The Attic on Its Own Thermostat

Your attic has a climate of its own, warmer in both summer and winter, if it’s well insulated. For maximum comfort, create a separate zone within your HVAC system for the finished space. There’s a chance you’ll need to enlarge the system if your attic wasn’t heated or cooled previously, so call in a pro to evaluate your setup.

8. Create storage wisely

Recess storage into knee walls is a great way to use the space with reduced headroom. The only limit to knee wall storage ideas is your creativity. Insert bookshelves, small closets with sliding doors, cabinets with hinged doors, a dresser unit, a hatch door for further access into the attic and more.

9. Put in a Ceiling Fan for Better Climate Control

If you've got headroom, a fan will make a finished attic more comfortable in warmer months by circulating air throughout and providing you with a cool breeze. Flip the reverse switch in wintertime and it will push warmer air down into the house instead of letting it escape through the roof.

10. Use a Cohesive Color Scheme

Painting walls, ceilings, floors, and even furnishings in a light hue ties together disparate materials, making even the tiniest attic feel larger and airier. You can’t fail if you opt for warm whites, like ivory or cream. I love the ocean. So, when we finished our attic I used white and ocean blue as a color inspiration. Maybe you prefer the mountains and would love to have your attic space in shades of cream and a moss green accent wall.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you when you decide to finish your attic space. If you'd like further assistance or have questions, schedule a complimentary 'Discovery Call' to see how I can help you.


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