How to Convert an Attic into Living Space

Friday, October 11, 2013 8:18:00 AM Categories: Green Living Home Decorating Home Improvement Tips Home Renovation

In this how-to, you'll learn

  • How to determine if the unused square footage in your attic is able to be converted into additional living space.
  • Ideas for how to use your newly renovated attic such as an entertainment room or a needed extra bedroom.
  • Why insulation is so important when converting an attic into living space.


Converting Your Attic

remodeling your atticLooking for a way to expand your home’s square footage without building an entire new addition? Look up!

If the space above your head stands empty, chances are good you can transform your blank attic canvas into an entertainment area, play room, craft room or man cave. The benefit of utilizing this already-existing space is, of course, the cost.  Since you can use the already existing framework and roof, the financial investment can come in much smaller than it would if you needed to add a new addition.

There are a few things you need to look for prior to starting the project. These include:

  1. The 7s. Codes vary from place to place, but the Rule of 7 for using an attic as an actual room typically applies. At least half of your attic space must be 7 feet high by 7 feet wide, with a total of 70 square feet.
  2. Climbing up.  Pull-down stairs won’t work for an attic room, so you must add a permanent staircase. This brings up the question of what remains below, where the stairs begin. Is there a good spot for them to start on the floor below? How much of that living space will be lost upon building the staircase? Is there a place to create the staircase that will not interrupt the rest of the room’s flow? If your attic pull down space is in the hallway, you might have a great option for remodeling upstairs. If they begin in the master bedroom, though, creating a staircase will require a bit more work.
  3. Insulation. Because this room is next to the roof, you’ll find it feels cooler and warmer than the rest of the house depending on the weather outside. For this reason, it’s important to properly insulate the space.

Now that you’ve done the preliminary research, here are a few ideas for converting your attic into usable living space.

  1. Media/Entertainment Room. Watch HGTV these days and chances are you’ll hear the potential homeowner request a media room. Attics make great entertainment spaces, as they are removed from the rest of the house and, in most cases, don’t contain multiple or large windows.
  2. attic play roomPlay Room. Looking for a spot the kids can go to play without messing up the rest of the house? An attic conversion might be just the place! The odd angles and lines of an attic can make a fun, creative space for your little ones. Imagine a play space built around nooks and crannies: small closets can become cozy hideaways for reading and shadow puppets; a wall featuring a small round window can be painted to look like the interior of a train; the short space spanning the length of A-shaped roofs where they meet the floors can become bookshelves or storage areas for Barbies, blocks and other kid’s supplies.
  3. Office Space. Need a retreat to use for work, paying bills and other tasks? Attics make great office spaces, since they are separated from the highly-trafficked areas and generally do not need to be large rooms to work well. If the space seems a bit dark for office use, consider a dormer window. These windows, which are generally smaller than other windows in the home, can offer light in your smaller space while improving the curb appeal on the outside. (For ideas, check out this photographic collection - Great Day Improvements offers Stanek windows and can provide a free consultation for adding additional windows to your attic space.
  4. Bedroom. Looking for a new place to slumber? Consider turning your attic into a bedroom. Remembering the advice above, you must have a closet and window to call it a bedroom if you want to sell your home. Otherwise, anything goes to create a sleeping space that will have you counting down until counting sheep time. For specific ideas for turning your attic into a bedroom, check out our article on renovating an attic to a bedroom.