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Finishing Your Attic? 6 Ways To Rise Above The Challenges

If you want to increase the value as well as the square footage of your home, consider finishing your attic. Depending on your type of attic, you may have space for a cozy play room or a private home office. An attic possesses its own unique set of challenges, so start with some careful planning before tearing into this lofty project.

Get Your Construction Permit

You don't want your attic collapsing into your home, and a construction permit is there to make sure your home is safe. It helps insure the work done to finish the attic is in line with local zoning requirements and is up to code. So, if there is a substantial change to even the aesthetic of your home, like finishing the attic, you are required to have a construction permit. This is a good selling point if you ever sell your home in the future. Buyers will shy away from a home that is not up to code or within zoning requirements. For example:

  • Ceilings should be at least 7 feet high, with a floor at least 7 feet in width and a minimum area of 70 square feet.
  • Floor joists in the attic must be able to support the added weight of the finished area.

Finishing the Ceiling

Because attic ceilings often feature many unusual angles and dormer windows, there are some considerations to be made regarding finishing the ceiling. Plain, smooth painted sheetrock clearly show dings and marks easily, so why not opt for other surfacing?

  • V-groove wood paneling makes a low ceiling feel warm and snug. The wood can be stained or left natural, and there are varying widths to choose.
  • Bead board panels are tongue-and-groove, and therefore easy to install. You can go with classic white, or paint it another color.
  • Ceiling frames are simply wall paneling, except placed on the ceiling instead. With a little molding, a small attic space will look more elegant.

Climate Control

Because it is situated at the top of the house, all the heat will gather in the attic room throughout the year. Create a separate zone within your HVAC system devoted for the attic, and put in a separate thermostat.  This way, you can control the unique climate of the attic room without affecting the rest of the house.

If there is available headroom, a ceiling fan will make the attic room even more comfortable.

Insulate It

Although more expensive, opt for spray foam insulation rather than fiberglass. A tighter barrier is created, lessening the heat gain and loss in your new room. Plus, spray foam only takes up a few inches, leaving more room overhead.

And speaking of insulation, spray a dense-pack insulation in the bays between the floor joists. This will cut down on the noise the excitement that a new attic room creates. Your downstairs will thank you.

Light It Up

How to light your new space? Recessed LED fixtures tuck out of the way into the ceiling. They don't generate extra heat, which helps the climate of the room and is safer for the surrounding insulation.

Since it is cut into the rafters, a skylight adds a few inches to your ceiling, giving you extra headroom as well as providing natural light. Even better, check out these skylight upgrades:

  • Remote control operation lets you open and close a skylight
  • Insect screens keep out bugs and leaves, then roll up and away when not in use

In Case Of Fire…

Building code requires two exits to the finished attic in case of emergency– the door and a window. To safely exit the window of an attic, install an in-wall rope ladder beneath it. This contraption can be the difference between life and death in case there is a fire, and can be hidden by a cabinet door.


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