That unused space in your attic can become a beautiful addition of living space to your home with a little time, work, and know-how.
The first thing you need to do is decide what you want to do with the attic space. The options include things such as rental space, an art studio, a craft/sewing room, a dance studio, a home gym, a meditation room, a study/den, a mini observatory, a game room, a home office, and another bedroom/a guest room.
As part of the decision process you will need to explore your attic. Take notes of what work is already done in the space such as electrical wiring, flooring, insulation and sheetrock, light fixtures, and ceiling panels. How many electrical outlets and switches are already installed, and where are they located? Check to ensure they each work. Check the lighting and windows. You want to ensure you have adequate lighting in the right places.
Remember to check for plumbing, heating, cooling, and ventilation. Heat rises, so in the summer your attic may become sweltering hot. Finally, check carefully for any sign of pests like mice/rats, spiders, termites, and bees/wasps; mold; asbestos; wood rot; and similar problems. You will want to resolve all of those issues before you begin renovation.
Once you have decided what you want to use the attic space for, you will need to check into local laws and ordinances regarding permits, licenses, fees, and regulations regarding your project, especially if it involves construction, renting the space, or running a business from home.
When determining your project budget, get free information from a local realtor regarding property values in your neighborhood. For re-sell purposes, you do not want your project to put the value of your home above that of neighboring homes. You want to stay within the same price range as the results of the realtor’s findings.
Another thing to consider with your budget is what you have to have now or what you have to do now with construction/remodeling versus what can be done or added later. If you have the time and skills, doing it yourself can add up significantly in savings. If you need to hire help, be sure to ask about references and licensing.
Be sure to get bids from more than one contractor and to have them put in writing everything their bid entails. Compare estimated time line along with costs and reputation. It may save you money and headaches in the long run to go with the more experienced and reputable contractor that costs a little bit more than with the questionable but cheap contractor.
Some contractors will give you a discount if you allow them to advertise their work on your home. Ask about this option and consider it in the bid selection process. Be sure to ask about clean up and disposal. Every contractor will have their own way of dealing with the mess. Be sure their way fits into your lifestyle and preferences.
Attics can be very dark. When considering lighting options, adding skylights and windows is a great way to increase natural light and to give a small space a more roomy feeling. Another way to increase light is to add recessed lights and task lighting. This will light up work areas and the dark nooks and crannies, giving the room a more cheerful feeling. Adding tall plants with uplighting is a way to add soft lighting in corners that is decorative and warm.
Attics can be a bit drafty. Be sure to caulk around all the windows, install high R-value windows wherever possible, and to insulate your attic space well.
About Decorating Dilemmas
Attics are notorious for low, sloped ceilings; odd angles; and having multiple nooks and crannies. Use these features to your advantage when designing your room and decorating it. Odd-shaped spaces can become functional space for storage, display shelves, and seating.
Use color to create optical illusions in your space to make it feel larger or smaller, taller or shorter. Lines created with paint, wallpaper, decorative trim, and wainscoting all help with optical illusions in decorating. A couple of other optical illusion tips revolve around the size of the furniture you put in your room, and the length and width of the window coverings.
Remember when planning furnishings for your new space that you have to get them into the attic, possibly via narrow stairways and doorways.
When planning your attic space, keep in mind the practical use of the room over the long-term. Having a special space for yourself in the attic when you are age 30 may sound great, but once you hit age 50, it may not be as appealing to have to climb the stairs every time you want to enjoy your attic room.
If sleeping accommodations will be put in the attic space, consider adding plumbing for at least a toilet and sink to the room. It may not be safe or convenient to have to leave the attic every time use of the restroom is needed. An art studio would also benefit from having at least a sink in the space.
If the attic space will become a room for children, keep in mind their safety and how much their needs will change as they grow up. Also, consider soundproofing if there will be a lot of walking around, dancing, loud sounds, or music in the new room. The new room should add to the joy in your home – not increase stress levels.