8 Effective Attic Renovation Tips


You need more space for an extra bedroom, an office or a home theatre, but your home’s square footage is working against you. If an addition in the backyard is not an option, the only way to go is up. Adapting the attic for more living space is an excellent way to make the most out of your house on a minimal budget. Of course, if you want the renovation project to run smoothly all the way, make sure you follow these tips.

Codes and safety

Building codes and permits vary from area to area, but for attics it’s usually said that at least half of the finished attic needs to be not less than 7 feet high, with the entire area being a minimum of 7 feet wide and 70 square feet. Also, before you do anything, hire an engineer who will inspect your house foundations and supports to see if they can withstand the extra load

Don’t save on insulation

Without any argument – spray foam roof insulation costs two to three times more than fiberglass batt insulation which is normally used for walls. However, the roof is a major highway for heat loss and gain, so splurging a bit more on spray foam is a justified expense. Unlike some inferior materials, it enters all the nooks and crevices, forming a tighter air barrier. And the best part is that you’ll get the same R-value with fewer inches of foam, which leaves you with more room above.

Go with independent plumbing

If you’re adapting the attic space as an additional living area with all the amenities, make sure you minimize the distance between the bathroom and kitchen fixtures and those below. You can use the same pipes that supply the bathroom and kitchen downstairs, but if you want to make sure your pressure and drainage are always consistent, you better bring up the supply and drain lines directly from the basement.

Set up a separate HVAC zone

Your main thermostat probably wouldn’t work well with the attic addition. Increase both comfort and convenience by creating a separate zone for the renovated area, with its own thermostat. This way you can avoid big temperature differences between the attic and the rest of the house. If you’re using a central HVAC system, you may need to power it up a bit to compensate for the enlarged space it needs to heat or cool down.

Install a ceiling fan

If you have room above, consider installing a ceiling fan. It was proven that it can reduce energy costs by improving the efficiency of your AC and heating system. While it doesn’t make the room any cooler, the draft it creates improves the mixing of hot and cold air, making the space more pleasant in the summer. In the winter, reverse the blade action and the warm air will be pushed down from the ceiling without creating a draft.

Maximize storage

Maybe you won’t be able to use every inch of the attic for living, but there’ll definitely be plenty of storage space. Recessed knee walls with perimeter drawers, cabinets and cubbies can take all your extras. However, if you plan on using the attic as storage, make sure your attic flooring is sturdy enough for the task. Even awkward niches and crawlspaces along chimneys and pipe chutes offer plenty of room for DIY shelves.

Build proper access

If you plan on using the attic as a bedroom, the building standard requires a regular staircase to meet the regulations. A simple ladder won’t cut it. However, a regular staircase will take up space in the room below. You can solve this by either repurposing an existing closet as a staircase, or using the space gained under the new staircase for storage. Alternatively, if the zoning regulations allow it, you can add an external staircase with a direct access from the outside. In some areas, though, an external stairwell is interpreted as a sign of a multi-unit dwelling, which may not be allowed in your neighbourhood.

Use natural light

The unique position of the attic allows you to explore all the options for maximizing natural light. The size and purpose of the space you’re renovating will determine whether you’ll go with skylights, dormers or regular gable or wall windows. Dormers are probably the best way to increase natural light while saving useful space, but they are also more expensive than the other listed options.

When compared to other home renovation projects and upgrades, converting an attic into a living space doesn’t yield a grand return on investment. Still, the versatility of the newly obtained space makes attic conversions popular with homeowners.

Recommended Posts: