So you’ve identified your unfinished attic space as a prime target for new living space in your home. Maybe you have a growing family and need an extra bedroom? Maybe you’d like to turn that attic space into something really impressive like a reading nook, kids play room, or a walk-in closet. The hunt for more square footage never stops!

Whatever you have in mind - whether it’s to stay in the home long term - or you’re dropping some cash for renovation for resale, there are endless possibilities for how to finish your attic space.

Converting An Attic to Living Space

Legal Considerations Before You Begin

You’ll need to understand local building codes before you begin this project to better advise your contractor to your needs. Contractors will, surely, be up to date on all these rules and regulations - but it’s helpful if you can speak the language too. Simply put, your attic needs to “qualify” for conversion based on local ordinances. 

Make sure the space meets local building codes. The room will need 7 feet of vertical clearance, and 70 square feet available among other rules like a safe way of egress.

Find out who will get the permit. Reach out to your local permitting office to find out if you need a permit for your attic conversion. A permit is usually only needed if you are adding electrical wiring or ventilation, or if you plan to change the structure of your home in the process, such as knocking down an existing wall or adding a dormer.

Consider heating and ventilation needs. It will be an extra cost for duct work if your heating system doesn’t incorporate the attic space. HVAC pros can help figure out this issue. There are higher and lower cost options for this. Building code requires that your attic can maintain a temperature of 68°F. This is normally not a problem between your current heating and cooling system and attic insulation.

Understand fire codes. Fire prevention, and a way of egress for anyone inside the room, are both critical to receiving a permit to build.

New staircase. For those turning the attic into a bedroom, a staircase will need to be added as a way of entry. No drop ladder or otherwise unsafe entry will be permitted. A popular option is a wood or steel spiral staircase which is much more flexible than a traditional staircase and takes up less space in your home.

 

How much does it cost to convert an attic?

The average cost of an attic conversion is $49,438, according to HomeAdvisor. The cost of the project will depend on the elements your project includes.

For guidelines on spend limit, Porch.com also suggests investing a proportionate amount to your home’s current value, saying it should be no more than 15%. For instance, if your home is valued at $150,000, you won't want to spend above 15% of that or $22,500.

These figures are all assuming that you won’t have extra work needed to bring the room up to code in order to start the project. Plus, don’t forget there should be a bit of furnishing costs built in for furniture and decor! 

Most homeowners who undertook an attic conversion have no regrets -- the project gets a Joy Score of 9.5, a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

More Attic Conversion Costs By Projects

  • Installing Decks & Vents: $1,100
  • New HVAC System: $3,900
  • Add new dormer: $10,000
  • Adding stairs: $3,000
  • Electrical wiring: $1,500

 

bedroom attic conversion

Attic Conversion ROI

After the conversion, you’ll have a wonderful new living space in your home. But what about at resale? The 2019 national average for the return on investment of an attic conversion was 56% according to Remodeling.com. If you spent $40,000 on your renovation, you can expect $22,400 to be added to your home's resale value. It's a great way to add to the home’s living space without the complexity that comes with an addition.

Other figures are similar to the ones provided by Remodeling.com According to "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS®, an attic bedroom conversion that includes a small bath has a national median cost of $75,000 and retains 53% of its value if you should decide to sell your house.

Adding extra living space is key for homeowners who want to improve interior appeal, but don’t have the go-ahead from the city for exterior expansion. 

Lastly, if the attic is converted into a bedroom, you now have the option of renting out the room on a long-term basis, or on a short-term basis through websites like Airbnb.

Further Project Considerations

So your attic is up to code and you’ve hired a contractor and secured a permit. Depending on what time of room you’re converting the attic into, here are some things to consider and discuss with your contractor:

Wiring the attic. Hire a licensed electrician to wire the room to spec (there should be one outlet every 12 feet on average.)

Cleaning the attic. Obviously before a contractor begins the attic conversion you’ll need to clean out any storage currently taking up space. If there’s currently insulation in your attic, you’ll need to vacuum it up or replace it.

Building a subfloor. If joists are visible on the floor of your attic, you will need to build a subfloor. To reduce sound traveling from your finished attic through the floor to the rest of the house, you can add insulation under the subfloor paneling or choose a thicker subfloor panel.

Insulating the attic. Determine what type of insulation is needed for the project. You’ll want to prevent heat loss so the room is comfortable.

Install drywall & ceiling. Once the drywall goes up, you’ll feel like the project is almost complete. Decide what color you want to paint the drywall (typically white or another light color) and if you have space for a drop ceiling, or if the drywall will meet at a peak. 

Will you be using beadboard or drop ceiling? How about wood paneling to give a rusic charm?

Finish with flooring or carpet. Many homeowners choose carpet for an attic space as it adds insulation, comfort, and noise reduction. Though hardwood is a nice second choice.

Storage and seating. With shorter walls typically accompanying an attic conversion, speak to your contractor about built-ins for storage (like toys or clothing), as well as possible bench areas for more comfortable spacing.

Windows & lighting. When renovating your attic, windows and natural light are a huge consideration. By allowing a lot of natural light into the room, it not only looks bigger, but it’s also a more enjoyable space. There are two windows that are most common in attics: dormer windows and skylights.

 

a library in an attic

 

Types of Attic Conversions

Attic to bedroom conversion. This is a classic attic conversion for a growing family. Attic bedrooms are great for little kids since the ceiling heights tend to be lower. Also a nice upgrade for a teen who wants more privacy and space than being crammed in with younger siblings.

Attic to playroom conversion. Buy brightly colored decor and make the attic into a playroom for kids with a soft carpet and plenty of natural light. Slanted ceilings can help inspire you to draw, play and paint (you can even try chalkboard walls.) 

Attic to office conversion. In 2020, more businesses are embracing the value of at-home work, rather than long commutes and disgruntled employees. With that said, employees need a quiet, comfortable place to work at home. Consider converting your attic space into a home office with a desk, monitors and more.

Attic to closet conversion. Finally, that walk-in closet you always dreamed of! Enjoy unparalleled luxury with a walk-in closet with shelves for all your shoes, scarves, socks, and everything in between. Fashion lovers rejoice!

 

Ready to convert your attic to a living space? Contact HireHaven’s experts today at 888.392.4236 or start here by giving us your project details.