When you realize you need more living space, you normally think of the garage or the basement. The reason is that the shape is somewhat standard, and the temperature can be controlled way better than in the attic. Nevertheless, an unfinished attic has a lot of potentials, and it can easily become your brand new bedroom.
Turning an attic into a living space is not an easy process, and you have to do some serious planning to reduce the influence of structural factors. You may deal with an odd configuration and temperature challenges. There might even be local building codes that block your attic space project.
But if an attic bedroom is all you ever wanted, check our tips on how to convert an attic into a bedroom.
How to convert an attic into a bedroom?
You are right – it is not easy. But once your attic floor is all set and decorated, it will be worth it. These are the steps to consider.
Measure the attic space first
The building codes and regulations will depend foremost on the city you live in. Most of them prescribe that the finished attic needs to be 6-7 inches high and provide 70 square feet of living space.
Most attics have lower ceilings. Still, you can raise the house’s roofline and install a dormer window for some extra light. This way, you will also align with egress requirements, such as compulsory emergency exits in case of a fire.
Every attic bedroom should have at least two emergency exits – the window you install and a pathway to the staircase. In the best-case scenario, you will also have a ladder somewhere in the room to help you escape through the window.
Check if a building permit is necessary
Before you begin your project and start working on the attic ceiling, check if you need a permit. You need to consider the local building regulations during all stages of your project.
The code consists of multiple safety standards that ensure stability. Some of them are the ceiling height, room width, or total square footage for comfortable living. These are all issues you may face during the attic remodel, especially if you plan to resell the property at some point.
Check if there are roof rafters or roof trusses
The framing of the roof is vital in the process of deciding whether you can create an attic room or not. Your roof may be framed with lumber rafters (normally 2-12 inches long) which slope downwards from the peak to the roof sides. They are arranged in sets and fastened on a ridge wooden beam that expands across the roof and provides stability.
A roof with rafters is very practical for an attic conversion, as there is more space between the ceiling and the floor. Also, their cozy rustic vibe can’t be recreated. The other possibility is to deal with prefabricated roof trusses. These are smaller boards connected with webbing and cords.
Trusses reduce the floor-to-ceiling space significantly. Therefore, they will make it more difficult to convert an attic into a usable living space.
Enable electrical wiring
For the finished attic, you will also need a licensed electrician. His task would be to either enable the proper wiring or confirm it meets all code requirements. You may need to install electrical wiring across the ceiling and the walls, so don’t turn this into a DIY project.
Even if you have experience and know the place well, you till may cause electrical hazards and health damage. The rule of thumb dictates 12 feet distance between the outlets and an outlet on each wall.
In terms of lighting, go for solutions and fixtures that don’t create excess heat. You can even improve the atmosphere of the attic space with dimmed and recessed lighting. The same as in your current bedroom, opt for pending lights and bedside lamps.
Think about what to do with the angled ceilings
Angled ceilings can be real pain points during an attic remodel, but we like to think that they have their charm. They limit the attic space and cause common head injuries. Angled ceilings can enhance the additional living space. Therefore, you should observe them as unique architectural additions.
Use some design ceiling treatments to make the most of the attic conversion. You will end up with a unique and very comfortable bedroom, that’s for sure!
Install some drywall on the ceiling
You can shape up the attic bedroom by hanging drywall on the ceiling. You can even paint the drywall to give the ceiling height an artistic vibe. If you do that, please also prime it in advance for a finished attic appearance. Once done, you can continue adding drywall to the walls.
If the ceiling is very tall and you have issues matching the angles, this could affect the furniture choices. We recommend some extra storage space in vertical or unconditional closets. Get some additional shelves too, as these will free space on the attic floor for the bed and other bulky pieces. The bonus point here is that the finished attic will look way larger.
As for the color palette, go for subtle and light options. The living space is challenging enough as it is, and you don’t want to block the little natural light that comes inside.
Install additional windows
The main reason why homeowners avoid attic conversion is the lack of natural light. There is usually only one small window, and a dormer would not be that comfortable.
What you can do here is to install skylights. We often see amazing skylight ideas on slanted ceilings, so why not get one for ourselves?
If you live in a warmer area, you can control the temperature with solar-powered shades that are remote-controlled. This way, the dormer will be ready even before you go inside.
We also recommend the so-called Dormer windows. These extend from the sloped roofline to the floor and offer a majestic view over the home’s exterior.
Consider replacing the flooring
One of the most important aspects of a finished attic is proper flooring. If you want the perfect attic room, you need to enhance the floor space and lay down a sub-floor layer. The sub-floor should be installed perpendicular to the floor joists to ensure maximum stability. This way, it will eliminate the chance of falling through the ceiling. The sub-floor panels should only be installed when the ventilation and electrical systems are in place.
Another great benefit of the enhanced floor space is soundproofing. When it comes to flooring choices, however, certain limitations apply.
The best attic flooring option for the floor joists is a carpet. Hardwood works well for all other parts of the house, but it won’t work for the attic. It can’t provide the same level of soundproofing or softness as carpets can.
Think of accessibility
If your attic is only a usable space for boxes and old furniture, accessibility isn’t that much of a concern. And yet, when you decide to convert your attic with storage space, there are some accessibility issues you must consider.
An unfinished attic doesn’t have a landing wide enough for you to bring the furniture inside, so some construction work may be needed. You may also need to expand steep stairs for certain attic conversions so that you won’t have any troubles going in and out.
If there is no staircase at all and you are about to build one, look for solutions that save space. For instance, you can get a switchback layer with a straight run (50 square feet at the most). Whatever you choose, make sure there is enough landing space to bring items inside safely. Also, check the building codes to see what you are allowed to do.
Take the appropriate temperature control measures
Odds are good that you will need to thermally optimize your unfinished attic. Building codes also prescribe the appropriate ventilation installments. We recommend you consult a specialist on the matter.
Your task is to prevent heat loss during winter and keep the attic bedroom cool during summer. For best results, leave at least one-inch air space between the roof’s underlayment and the insulation. This is also a task you may not want to do alone, as heat build-up can eventually damage the roof.
The attic will by default be the warmest of all your rooms, as it is high and collects warmth directly from the sun’s rays. You need to install an effective air conditioner suitable to the room’s size and add the necessary vents to keep the attic space fresh.
In doing so, you will need to take care of bath fan vents and plumbing vents running through the attic. If there is no way around them, you may need to move them to another place. Check the building code for more information on pipes and insulation.
Use spray foam insulation
Another challenge in a converted attic is secure insulation. The lack of it is what causes the temperature swings, none of which allows comfortable sleeping. You need to pay serious attention to insulation in all living spaces, the attic in particular.
Insulation prevents sudden temperature fluctuations and makes the attic-turned bedroom much more livable. Insulation stabilizes the temperature and stops changes from affecting your entire home.
The best insulation option for a room’s interior is foam insulation. It costs a bit more, but it creates tight air barriers even through the smallest cracks. Better yet, it takes up less space, and it prevents insects and rodents from reaching the room.
Does a finished attic add value to your property?
The answer is simple – yes! Any buyer will appreciate extra living space. They will be particularly happy if there is natural light and all building codes are taken into consideration. If you decide to resell, the value of your property will be bigger.
Now that you know how to convert an attic into a bedroom, you are looking at a larger return on investment. This room is a functional living space, and you can even rent it out to earn some extra cash. If this is the case, optimize the finished space with a nice bathroom and an exterior entrance.
If you enjoyed reading this article about how to convert an attic into a bedroom, you should check out these on how to keep an attic bedroom cool in the summer, how to divide a bedroom into two rooms, how to turn a living room into a bedroom, and how to build a small closet in a bedroom.
We also wrote about similar topics like how to add a walk-in closet to a bedroom, how to turn a basement into a bedroom, how to stage a bedroom, how to fill the empty space in a bedroom, and how to convert a garage into a bedroom.