How to Make Your Attic More Than an Attic

With a little elbow grease, this attic could be a home office, game room or even a guest suite.­
With a little elbow grease, this attic could be a home office, game room or even a guest suite.­
­ Sarjeant

­If your home's attic is nothing more than wasted space, you may want to remod­el it. Perhaps you're considering major reconstruction or just trying to gain some office space. Before you rush out to the local building supply store, take a few moments to read this article and consider your needs.

Your attic must conform to some basic structural necessities for this project to work. Consider these four factors:

  • Can the foundation support extra weight of an addition or even added gables on the roof? Most building codes now require a floor to support 30 pounds per square inch (2.1 kg per square cm).
  • Are your ceilings at least seven to eight feet (2.13 - 2.43 m) high? Unless you've got a family of hobbits, seven feet is the minimum height for comfort. Your neighborhood may have height restrictions, so be sure to check local building codes before adding dormers that may violate the code. And when you measure, consider how thick the added materials will be, and thus calculate headroom accurately.
  • Insulation framed for the rest of the house, which is in a 2x6 foot (0.6 x 1.8-meter) frame, isn't deep enough for the attic. You'll need to reframe for the attic's 2x8s, or add 2x2s to the existing frames.
  • The structure of a house's ceiling is not the same as that of a living space. The ceiling may need to be reframed or reinforced to provide the extra support needed [source: Remodeling Center, Editors of Mother Earth News].

­Gather the tools and materials you'll need before you begin and make sure they're clean and ready to use. Depending on your project, you'll likely need a protractor for calculating angles. You'll need other measuring tools as well, such as a measuring tape or stick and a level. The work you do may require a jigsaw, table saw and/or a hand saw. If you're using boards, you'll want to have a good sander on hand. If ceilings are high, you may need to use scaffolding [source: Clement].

Once you have drawn your plans and obtained your tools and materials, you're ready to go! Check out the next section for some general tips.