Planning an Attic Renovation? Where to Start

An attic that has recently undergone renovation to make it a beautiful living space.

Do you currently have an attic space that you only use to collect unwanted junk? Turning your attic into a functional and livable space rather than a dark and dusty storage area is a great way to add value to your home and expand your living space. It may seem like a large undertaking if you’re starting with bare bones, but your project will go much smoother if you start with a solid plan.

Read on to learn about the steps you should take before tackling your attic renovation.

Inspect the Area

The first step in planning your attic renovation is to go through the space before making any updates. You might have to spend some time taking out stored objects to get a good look at the area you will renovate.

Next, take notes of how structurally sound essential elements are. Some major structural elements to examine closely include:

  • The support beams
  • The flooring
  • The entrance area (whether it be a stairwell, or an access hatch and ladder)

You should also check to see if you have electrical or plumbing availability in the attic, as that will determine what you can do with the space.

Some of the structural elements that are necessary for your attic to be a livable space might need to be added or replaced. For example, attics are commonly left with exposed beams, insulation, and subflooring. You will need to add drywall and, if your home was built before the 1980s, you will likely need to replace the insulation.

Insulation was commonly made with asbestos before the 1980s, and it can be dangerous to your health if it’s been disturbed. A rare yet devastating cancer known as mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of airborne asbestos fibers. If your home was built before 1980, it’s best to have an abatement professional test your attic for asbestos so you don’t risk exposure to the cancer-causing element.

If you have substrate for flooring, you need to make sure that it’s stable and secure before adding the padding and surface layers to make a solid floor.

An attic renovation can add value to your home, so make sure you prioritize the inspection step and examine the area carefully to ensure a safe and successful job.

Decide on a Floor Plan

Once you have done a thorough inspection of the attic, you’ll need to design a floor plan. Within this step is one of the most exciting parts: deciding how you intend to use the space. Depending on your current home needs and the size of the attic space, you might want to add a spare bedroom, make it an office, or convert it to a playroom for your kids. In properties with ample square footage, you may be able to create a full apartment space or suite.

After you’ve decided how to use your attic, it’s time to draw out the floor plan. If you’re working with a contractor, they’ll likely do this for you, but if you’re doing a DIY renovation, you can do this by hand or with an online floor plan creator. The purpose of a floor plan is to visualize your project before it begins. A floor plan should include any walls, doors, and windows. It should also include plans for any cabinets, closets, shelving, and larger furniture and appliances. Be prepared to go through a few versions of your floor plan as your budget may change your plans.

Create a Budget

The next step in planning your attic renovation is to create a budget. Deciding on how much you’re able to spend is a determining factor in what you use the space for. The first step to creating a budget is prioritizing the individual projects. For example, if you need to replace any beams, or add drywall, those will need to be taken care of before you can add a ceiling fan. You also need to estimate the cost of building materials. Factor in everything you possibly can, from walls and flooring to doorknobs and outlet coverings.

You’ll need to add labor to your budget. Your labor costs will be higher if you use a professional renovation team, so ask for a quote that includes an hourly rate and an estimated length of the project before you commit. You might decide on partially or fully renovating yourself, based on your capabilities. However, an often-overlooked item is the labor cost of doing it yourself. If you need to take time off work, purchase safety equipment for yourself, or incur injury, it can significantly add to your expenses.

After you price out the necessary expenses, you can focus on the decorative items. Pick out what you think you would want for furniture, paint, wall décor, and anything else that will add to the aesthetic of the area. After you add all the items to your existing material and labor costs, you can begin to compare them with what you can afford and start to adjust.

Source Your Materials

The last piece of your planning puzzle relates to logistics and procuring materials. With recent supply chain struggles, it may take some time for certain items to be delivered. The sooner you can get things ordered, the better.

There are a few options available when it comes to sourcing materials for your attic renovation. You can order directly through your contractor, a big box hardware store, or local businesses like lumber yards and specialty remodeling stores. You could also consider scrap yards to see if you can find salvaged materials at a more cost-effective price.

There are a few things to consider when deciding where to source your materials from. Reliability, quality, value, and sustainability are all aspects to consider. Your contractor likely has a reliable source that they use regularly, so ask for recommendations.  Alternatively, ask friends and neighbors that have renovated their home to see who they would recommend. Check online reviews learn about customers’ experiences with the longevity of certain materials. Just remember that your materials still need to fit into your renovation budget!

Get Started!

Now that all the preplanning is out of the way, it’s time to begin the attic renovation! Begin this phase by making sure your attic is clean. Grab some safe cleaning products for the home, dust, and vacuum so there aren’t any particles to get in the way.

Whether you’ve hired a contractor or you’re doing the work yourself, it’s a good idea to create a timeline for when you’d like to have certain projects completed. This will give you an idea of when you’ll be finished and will hold you accountable for staying on track.

Remember to take before and after photos so you can appreciate the work you made to your attic space. Renovating an attic isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the end for all the extra living space you’ll have. Enjoy the process and enjoy the journey!

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