Often, the attic is left unfinished with rafters and insulation exposed. In most cases, this is fine—most people rarely venture into the area, preferring instead to use it as long-term storage. For families who are pressed for space, however, finishing the attic may be a great way to add an extra room. An attic bedroom will require time and planning to complete, but it will add more space and value to your home.
Is an Attic Bedroom Right for Your House?
Before starting into an attic conversion, you’ll want to make sure your project will comply with local zoning laws while staying within your budget.
One major consideration is the support you’ll need for the room. The attic’s floor joists—beams that support the flooring—should be strong enough to bear the weight of the flooring materials you’ll be adding. In addition, the rafters should be able to support drywall, heating and cooling, electrical, and plumbing.
Ceiling height is also key. Most local codes for living areas require you to have at least seven and a half feet of height over a 70 square foot area. If you don’t have that much space, you’ll have to raise to roof if you want to convert your attic into a bedroom, and that will probably cost far more than the extra space would be worth.
Local egress codes typically require two exits from any room. In the case of an attic bedroom, those will include the staircase and a window. If you need to add a window to the attic to convert it, it will add to the cost, so keep that in mind.
If your attic conversion will change your home’s outside appearance, odds are you’ll need a permit. This will be the case if you need to add windows or change the roof line at all.
Elements of Attic Conversion
When you get started with your attic conversion plans, there are several elements you’ll have to take into account, including:
The flooring in your attic bedroom will need to be sturdy enough to handle the weight of those rooming there. In addition, you’ll want to account for noise—people moving around will definitely be heard on lower floors if the attic is not well insulated.
Sub-flooring materials, insulation, and carpeting help to solve this problem. If you want a hardwood floor, make sure you have good sub-flooring below it to cut down on the noise.
When finishing the walls, simple paneling with some molding can make an attractive space that isn’t overwhelming. Keeping colors light and simple helps create a more spacious effect for the small area. If you’re pressed for storage space, in-wall storage shelves can be a great addition.
The angled ceiling in your attic bedroom will present one of the tougher design challenges, but it can be used to create an interesting visual effect. As with the walls, keep things simple so you don’t overwhelm the space. Molding at the angles can help, as can lighter colors.
Adding a window or two will help expand the space further by allowing natural light into the room. Note that at least one window needs to be accessible enough to serve as an emergency exit, so make sure its size and placement allow for that.
If you’re pressed for space and don’t mind some modifications to your home’s outside appearance, installing dormer windows can help. These stand out from the roof, and they can provide some extra interior space as well.
Most attics have a simple ladder as an access point, and while that may have been sufficient before, you’ll want something more substantial for your attic bedroom. The challenge is you won’t want to take up too much space on the floor below.
A spiral staircase makes a minimal impact on your lower floor while providing a sturdy access point to the attic room. If you have more space to play with, a traditional staircase is a common solution as well.
The final component of your converted attic will be utilities, including lighting, heating, cooling, and (if you want to add a bathroom) plumbing.
Wiring the bedroom should be fairly straightforward since you’ll likely already have some electrical elements present. Building off of existing wiring and using recessed lights keeps the room bright without too much work.
Heating and cooling depend largely on your home’s location and layout. For instance, a house in Lubbock, Texas will require far more cooling than one way up north. An in-window AC could be the solution here, especially if your HVAC system’s blower isn’t built to reach your attic space. If you’re in a cooler climate, a ceiling fan will often be sufficient.
During the winter, in-floor heating elements may be a good way to go. If you’re in an area with milder winters, this may not even be necessary—keeping the walls well insulated may be enough to trap heat rising from lower floors.
An attic bedroom can be a great addition to your home, but it takes planning. Getting a home inspection will help you solidify your plans and keep up to code, as will showing your plans to your local municipality. Getting expert technicians to help with the utilities installation is also a good idea.
When protecting the systems in your new attic, a home warranty can also be a good idea. This way, you’ll keep the electrical and heating systems covered while saving on repair costs.