Turning Attic Into Storage Space: a How-to Guide

For many families, the space inside their home gets smaller and smaller every year. In truth, the amount of space doesn’t change, but instead, the amount of stuff you own. More stuff takes up more space, crowding bedrooms, kitchens, dens, and garages until they’re full to the brim. That’s the bad news that you can’t make extra space in your home. The good news is that, just over your head, there’s an ample space that you’re probably not using; your attic. Considering turning your attic into storage space? In many homes across the United States, the attic, an excellent place for storing many things, goes completely unused. In others, the attic is used but severely underutilized. A few things are up there, but there could be so much more!

The truth is, some attics are so big you can quickly turn them into storage space and living space. No problem. That solves two problems with one solution. It gives you extra space to store stuff and extra room for, say, an older child (or a stray relative). Turning your attic into storage space also increases the value of your home. (It might not increase it significantly, but every extra dollar counts these days.) If you’re looking to convert your attic into storage or turn it into a living area, you’re in luck! We’ve put together a How-To guide with helpful tips and advice to do just that! Before you grab your tool belt and goggles, please take a few minutes to check them out! Enjoy!

Turning attic into storage space

Preparing For Turning Attic Into Storage Space and Living Space

Before converting your attic into a living and storage space, you need to consider a few factors. The truth is, to meet local building codes, the attic must meet the same requirements as the rest of your home. They include:

  • The need for a full-scale staircase. (It can’t be a pull-down attic or loft ladder.)
  • There must be 7 feet of clearance from the floor to the beams.
  • The area in the attic must be at least 7 feet wide.
  • The attic must have at least 70 square feet of space (or more, of course).

Keep in mind that if you only want to use it for storage, a pull-down staircase is fine, But if you’re going to use it for a living space, you’ll need a permanent staircase.

Check With Your Local Permit Office to See If You Need a Permit.

Although it’s inside your home, you may need a permit to convert your attic into a living area. In most instances, it will be necessary if you add electrical wiring or ventilation (which are both usually needed). If the attic conversion changes the actual structure of your home, you’ll also need a permit. Are you knocking down a wall to convert the attic? You’ll likely need a license to do that too.

Keep in mind that, while you could likely get away with not getting a permit, it’s not a good idea. If someone ever got hurt and didn’t get a permit first, you could be liable. Same for the contractors doing the work. Besides that, permits usually are easy to obtain and cost very little. It’s simply not worth the risk that you take not getting one.

What About Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation?

Some attics have ductwork already installed, but most aren’t. (You’ll need to check or have a contractor check if you’re not sure.) If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to have ductwork put in for the A/C and heating. You’ll also need to check your HVAC system and make sure it can handle the extra load. In some situations, you may need to upgrade your HVAC or add more ductwork. That way, the attic will be liveable all year long. 

Now, adding ductwork or replacing your HVAC can be rather expensive. If you need it but don’t have the budget, there are alternatives to hearing and cooling the attic. For example, you can have a baseboard heating system installed. There are several mini-split systems on the market also that will likely work quite well.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider ventilation. That’s even more important in the attic, where it can get scorching in summer. You want air to be able to move around, so it doesn’t get too hot and ‘stuffy.’

Consider Hiring a Pro for Turning Your Attic Into Storage Space

Here’s the thing; even if you’re ‘big’ into DIY projects, turning the attic into storage space is a BIG project. If you have the skill, time, and tools, go for it! If you don’t or lack some needed skills, consider hiring a professional contractor or handyman. For example, you may be able to install the new floor yourself with no problem. On the other hand, you might want to leave the electrical wiring to an electrician. If you’re planning on putting in a bathroom and you’re not a plumber, you should consider hiring one. The last thing you want is to do something wrong and someone gets hurt. (Or, heaven forbid, a fire starts.) In short, whatever you can do yourself, go for it. Everything else, call in a pro to get it done right.

How Much Does It Cost To Finish An Attic?

For a large project, it helps to have a budget in mind, which means knowing what things cost. For example, how much is a new staircase? How about sheetrocking and painting? Putting in running water for a sink and toilet? You need to consider all of these things before you get started (or call a contractor). Below are some of the average costs for everything you’ll need to convert attic to storage and living space:

  • Adding a Staircase- Between $2500.00 and $3500.00.
  • Putting in new electrical wiring- Between $50 and $100 an hour for an electrician. (Likely 12 to 15 hours of work unless your attic is massive.)
  • Putting in a new HVAC system- Between $4000.00 and $6000.00.
  • Installing new ducts and vents- Between $1000.00 and $2000.00.
  • Putting in a floor- Between $1000.00 and $2000 depending on the number of square feet of space you have.
  • Putting in running water, a toilet, and a sink- Between $5000.00 and $10,000.
  • Adding a window or dormer- Between $2500.00 and $5000.00 depending on size and quality.
  • If your attic doesn’t have drywall, you’ll need to install it before putting up walls. You can expect to pay $375 – $1,500 for drywall.

What Are the Basic Steps Needed For Turning Attic Into Storage Space and Living Space?

Whether you convert your attic into living and storage space yourself or hire a contractor, there are steps to follow. These will help you get the best results with the least stress and the lowest risk of accidents. They include: Cleaning out the attic

You should get anything that you don’t need out of the attic (unlikely tossed in the garbage). Also, if your attic insulation is in good shape, keep it. However, if it’s in bad shape, it should be taken out so you can replace it.

Wiring in the attic for electricity

Whether you do this yourself or hire an electrician, the second step is to put in all the wiring used for powering lights and other devices.

Building a new subfloor

Once the electrical wiring has is installed, it’s time to put in a new subfloor. If there isn’t insulation already installed, consider installing it to reduce the noise heard below.

Insulating your attic well

An attic can get very hot in summer and very cold in winter, depending on where you live. That means you should insulate it as well as possible. Batt insulation is the easiest as it’s cut to fit between standard wall joists in an 8-foot high wall.

Installing sheetrock (drywall) on the walls and ceiling

Once you’ve got the insulation, it’s time to hang sheetrock or drywall. This is where you’ll start to see your new attic living and storage space take shape.

Painting the walls and ceiling

By now, you should have chosen the paint colors that you want for your ceiling and walls. The good news is that it’s time to use that paint (something that most people can easily do themselves).

Installing your new attic flooring

You can use hardwood flooring, linoleum, or carpeting; it’s your choice. (Be sure to answer the question ‘can my attic support a floor’ before you get started!)

Enjoying your newly finished attic

Sit back and relax while you enjoy the fruits of your labor in your new attic storage and living space! 

Renting a Storage Space During Turning Your Attic Into a Storage Space

What many people do when converting their attic into storage and living space is rent a storage unit. That way, you can store everything in the attic (and it is still valuable and wanted) during construction. You can also keep some of the useful materials in your storage space so that they don’t “walk off” on their own. (i.e., get stolen). Renting a storage space is easy, convenient, and quite affordable. They’re straightforward to get in and out of, very secure, and have 24/7 video monitors in place. Most have hours in the early morning and late-ish evening also to allow for convenient access.

Best Of Luck With Turning Your Attic Into a Storage Space!

Whatever your plans might be for your new attic space, we wish you the best of luck with the conversion. Hopefully, your new attic will be a wonderful space for someone you love and add lots of convenient, useful storage. One thing’s for sure; you’ll make the most of all that extra space!