If you’re need of some extra space — a new bedroom, office or playroom — look first to the square footage already in your house. Renovating an attic is a common and smart way to renovate your home without the expense and energy of an addition. But before you do, make sure to read these great tips to ensure your renovation is safe, efficient and a pleasing place to live.
- Account for Codes and Safety: Enforcement varies, but codes typically say that at least half of a finished attic must be at least 7 feet high, and that this area must be a minimum of 7 feet wide and 70 square feet. Also, hire an engineer to inspect your house’s foundation and framing to ensure they can carry the extra load.
- 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 giving you a cool breeze indoors. Flip the reverse switch in wintertime and it will push warmer air down to keep you cozy.
- Hush Up the Floors: Attic activity can cause a racket in the rooms below. Beefier floor joists will quiet things down, as will filling the bays with blown-in dense-pack insulation. And don’t forget the low-tech fix: carpet or area rugs.
- Splurge on Spray-Foam Roof Insulation: It 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 shelling out the extra bucks 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.
- If You’re Installing a New Bathroom, Site it Above a Bath or Kitchen Below: Minimize the distance between new and existing plumbing to reduce costs and limit wall damage as pipes are installed. You can sometimes tie new pipes to old ones, but it’s often preferable to run the attic’s supply and drain lines all the way to the basement, for optimal water pressure and proper venting of sewer gases.
- Use Every Nook and Cranny For Storage: Perimeter drawers, cabinets, and cubbies save space when recessed into knee walls. Even awkward niches—alongside chimneys and pipe chases, or near low walls—offer an opportunity for installing DIY open shelving.
- Put It on Its Own Thermostat: 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 make sure it’s up to snuff.