Finishing an attic costs between $30 and $60 per square foot.
An attic should have at least 70 square feet of floor space.
Prioritize safety when it comes to attic renovations.
Attic insulation costs between $1,700 to $2,100.
Attics are no longer the drafty, messy rooms your parents told you to stay away from—they also can be repurposed into beautiful, functional spaces that serve as extra storage and spare bedrooms. However, many attics go unattended for years, and clutter can start to pile up, making it unsafe and unlivable for you and your loved ones. If you want to take full advantage of your attic, there are several things you can do to make your attic as accessible as possible.
Basic Attic Requirements
The cost to finish an attic runs between $30 and $60 per square foot, including labor and materials, so take the time to plan your budget and needs. Attic conversions come with some requirements and regulations, so check with a contractor or your municipal building department to determine what standards apply in your area before making any changes. Typically, these are some of the basic requirements:
Floor Space: Your attic should have at least 70 square feet of floor space to make it a suitable living space and provide ample room for build-out.
Ceiling: At least half of the ceiling should be 7.5 feet high to provide comfortable clearance.
1. Make the Attic Safe
No matter how many attic visits you’ll be making, it has to be safe for everyone in your family. Make attic stairs wide enough to walk through comfortably and include a railing for extra protection. Floors and steps should be even and covered with non-slip materials. When it comes to storage, keep things off the floor unless they are in easy-to-spot sealed boxes. Any clutter in an unfinished attic can be a recipe for an accident, so safety is something that you’ll need to prioritize.
2. Create an Easy Entrance
Part of the reason many people don’t use their attic more often is because it’s so difficult to get into. Often, the homeowner has a pull-down metal staircase and folds it up once they are done. To improve your attic’s entrance, head to your local hardware store to look for ready-made options that give you easier attic access.
Stairs must meet the following requirements:
At least 36 inches wide
Have a minimum of 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom through the entire length of the stairs
Include 7.25-inch-high risers
3. Keep It Insulated
The cost to insulate your attic is between $1,700 to $2,100. The upside to attic insulation is that it can save you money in the long run because you’re spending less money to cool and heat your home. Attic insulation can shave as much as 50% off your heating bill when installed properly. There are many insulation options, including roll-on, loose-fill, sprayed foam polyurethane, and panel insulation.
4. Make Sure There Is Proper Ventilation
Your attic needs 1 square foot of ventilation per 300 square feet of attic space. There are several ways to tell if your attic is getting enough insulation, like touching your ceiling on a hot summer day or noticing if your air conditioner is working extra hard to cool the house. An attic needs proper ventilation to help reduce roof rotting damage and keep a comfortable temperature in your home. The easiest way to get better ventilation is to install an attic fan which costs about $370 to $880 on average.
5. Only Store Useful Items
Attic storage is very convenient but, think about the type of items you are storing. Remember, your attic can get really hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter, so weather-sensitive items like candles, leather, delicate fabrics, and paper goods may not hold up well. When filling up your airtight containers, consider storing items like:
Small kitchen appliances that don't get much use
Travel accessories (duffel bags and suitcases)
Streamline your storage and find ways to stow away items out of walk spaces and living areas.
6. Have Proper Lighting
Whether converting an attic to a living space, home office, or storage room, you’ll need to ensure there is enough lighting. Natural light is always the best source, so installing a window or skylight can make a huge difference. Otherwise, LED bulbs are perfect for these areas because they don’t generate heat. Consider hiring an electrician to make outlets and switches easier to reach.
7. Clean It Often
If you want to maintain an accessible attic, you’ll need to clean it often, just as you would any other room in your home. Wipe away dust, vacuum the floors and windows, donate things you are no longer using, make sure boxes are put away, and keep the things you need readily handy. A good paint job will also brighten up the room and keep things fresh.
8. Fix Any Damage or Problem Areas
Routinely check every corner for mold or water damage as it can lead to respiratory health issues. Peeling paint can also indicate that water is getting through the roof. Call an attic cleaning service immediately and get it fixed if you find mold. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for any cracks or air escapes in the windows or doors and seal them to avoid air getting out. Look into hiring a local HVAC professional to make all the necessary adjustments and installments needed to keep your space temperature controlled.
If your home was built before 1980, you’ll also want to have a contractor check for asbestos before starting any build-outs. Because of the nature of this type of insulation and its possible health hazards, it must only be addressed by a trained asbestos remediation professional near you.