Maybe you need a separate play room for your kids; maybe a surly teen is demanding their own private space to sleep or hang with friends. In any case, your home needs another room, and you simply don’t have anywhere around your house where you can expand. Fortunately, there is a place in your home that is ready and waiting to be transformed into livable space: your attic.
Not all attics can function as living spaces, but many can. Here is a step-by-step guide for helping you determine whether you can upgrade your attic, add square footage to your home and allow your family to enjoy some much-needed space.
Measure the Space
Before you take any other steps, you need to be certain that your attic is of a suitable size to function as a real room. At its highest point, your attic living space should be at least 7 feet high, and there should be at least 70 square feet of usable floor space. Of course, you will almost certainly cover up the roof rafters with drywall and ceiling joists with a subfloor, and you should remember this while making your measurements.
Research Local Building Codes
Not all municipalities allow attics to become livable space, and those that do typically require you to file permits to transform the attic into a room to ensure that you aren’t compromising the rest of your home during your demolition and construction. If you are attempting to manage this project on your own, you need to know the local building codes backwards and forwards before you begin, so you don’t cause yourself unnecessary trouble.
Clean Everything Thoroughly
You probably don’t visit your attic often, and you certainly never clean it, which means it is almost certainly a dreadfully dingy place. Before you can start renovations, you need to clean out the insulation, cobwebs, dust and any other debris that might be cluttering the space. An industrial vacuum can make this step of the process go much faster, though you might also want to wipe down the ceiling and walls with a damp cloth, as well.
Install Electrical Wiring
To be livable space — especially in the 21st century — your attic room needs power. Fortunately, most homes run some of their electrical wiring through the attic, which means it should be relatively easy to connect your new room to an existing circuit. The small attic space shouldn’t require too much energy; you likely only need to run a few outlets and light fixtures. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable messing with your home’s electrical system, you can hire an electrician to manage this task.
Add Heating, Cooling and Ventilation
Many homes push the ductwork for their HVAC systems into the attic, but the attic itself does not benefit from heating, cooling or ventilation. Therefore, you may need to reconfigure your ducts to ensure that your attic living space is properly temperature controlled throughout the year. After the space is finished with drywall, you might install additional fixtures like flush-mount ceiling fans to improve air circulation and reduce energy expenditure.
Build a Subfloor
Most unfinished attics will have visible ceiling joists, which you need to cover with a subfloor to make your attic walkable. If your attic insulation was in good condition, you may be able to build your subfloor over the existing insulation; otherwise, you should add new insulation below your subfloor. Depending on building codes in your area, you may need to attach risers to your joists before you install the subfloor to ensure there is enough space for insulation. Then, you should secure your subfloor to the joists with screws every 16 inches.
The floor of the attic isn’t the only place that needs insulation. While unlivable attics might not have insulation in the walls, your livable space needs additional protection from the heat and cold of the exterior, which means you need to line the spaces between rafters with batt insulation, which is the easiest type of insulation for homeowners to work with.
Hang Walls and Ceiling
Finished space requires drywall. You may need to cut your drywall pieces smaller to fit them up and into your attic space, but you should try to hang the walls and ceiling as straight as possible, which will make your job of taping and mudding much easier. Once the drywall is hung, you have the option of applying a texture to the walls and ceiling, which could help to hide any imperfections in the drywall seams.
Apply Finishing Touches
Once drywall is up, your attic room is like any other space in your home. You can paint or apply paneling or wallpaper; you can install the flooring of your choice; you can put up fans and light fixtures; and you can fill the space with furniture and decorations.
Your attic is already a part of your home, so why shouldn’t you take full advantage of the space? Though transforming your attic into a real room is a major project, it can be immensely rewarding once its completed.