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August 29, 2022 | home-buying

Expand Your House with an Attic Remodel

Katie Duncan

Finance Writer

Is more living space in your home on top of your wish list?

If so, you’re far from alone. Many of us could use some extra square footage to use as a playroom, guest bedroom, or home office. You may think buying a new home is the only option to get the extra space, but the answer could be right in front of you— or above you.

Right now, your attic is probably sitting dark and dusty with a few old boxes, several creepy crawlers, and a whole lot of potential. Though it’s no small project to take on, remodeling your attic may just be the answer to your problem.

Is an attic remodel worth it?

Attic renovations can be a great way to add space, value, and enjoyment to a house.

Compared to other remodeling projects, attic conversions have a decent ROI. But you still likely won’t recoup 100% of what you put into it.

According to the National Association of Realtors, it’s one of the most expensive projects to take on, and homeowners typically recoup around 75% of their investment.

Of course, you can’t put a price on the enjoyment and benefit of extra space, which is why many homeowners feel that the investment is money well spent. If it gives you that one thing your lovely home is missing, the price tag may be worth it.

How to Know If an Attic Conversion Is Right for You

This project makes the most sense when the goal is to add usable square footage without expanding the home’s exterior footprint. When determining whether or not this project is for you, ask yourself these questions.

1. Is the lack of space the main pain point of your current home?

Other than the lack of space, think about how you feel about your house. Do you love the location, neighborhood, school districts, etc.? Do you see yourself staying in the house for years to come? If so, an attic remodel may be a great way to keep all the things you love and eliminate the things that you don’t.

On the other hand, if there are other aspects of your home that you also don’t like, an attic renovation likely won’t solve all the issues. You might be better off looking for a new home that better fits your needs. (Check out our article on remodeling or moving for some decision-making questions.)

2. Are there other, more cost-effective options for adding space to your home?

An attic renovation can cost a pretty penny if it requires structural changes. Are there easier options— like purchasing a prefabricated studio shed— that also make sense for your space? Be sure to consider all your options before committing to a major project.

3. Are you prepared for a major renovation project to take place in your home?

A conversion may take weeks to complete. Are you prepared to take on all the inconveniences that come with that, such as loud construction noises, contractors in and out of the house, temporary loss of power or water, etc.?

Attic Remodel Tips

We won’t give you a complete how-to on remodeling your attic, but we do have a few tips and things to keep in mind as you embark on the project.

1. Start with a budget.

Any home remodel project can quickly get out of hand if you don’t start with a budget. Sit down and determine what you need for the space and what you want for the space.

From there, contact a local general contractor who can draw up an estimate for the project. This will give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay for the room that you want.

2. Make sure you’re up to code.

Getting all the right permits and building everything up to code not only ensures your and your family’s safety but can also save you from trouble down the road.

For one, homes with illegal additions may be uninsurable or void a policy if you ever need to file a claim.

Secondly, when it comes time to sell your home, an inspector will be able to identify additions and renovations that don’t meet code requirements. Illegal additions may prevent you from being able to sell your house.

Your local building inspector can offer a list of codes and inspections enforced in your municipality, and your general contractor should be able to outline this process for you as well.

3. Hire the right pros.

An attic conversion isn’t a DIY project. You’ll want to be sure to hire the right professionals to get the job done.

  • Engineer: An engineer will be able to determine whether or not the structure will be sturdy enough. For instance, your floor joists must be able to handle the weight of any added materials, while your rafters must be strong enough to support added drywall, lighting, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC elements.
  • Electrician: A licensed electrician can fill you in on whether your existing electric panel can handle the added demand; if so, the wiring process should be relatively simple.
  • Plumbing: Planning to add a bathroom to the new room? A plumber can ensure everything is piped and hooked up correctly.
  • HVAC: The attic may not be as well insulated as the rest of your home, meaning it’s more susceptible to temperature fluctuations. An HVAC pro can ensure you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

A general contractor can coordinate all these pros to ensure the project is completed in a timely manner.

4. Don’t forget design and décor.

Make choices that will firmly establish your new space as a cozy, finished living area instead of a cramped, dimly lit space that scares people away. Here are a few helpful decor tips:

  • Keep color schemes light
  • Cover ceilings with beadboard or V-groove wood panels
  • Choose recessed LED lighting and/or skylights that provide brightness without getting in the way
  • Soundproof floors with dense insulation and thick carpeting or rugs
  • Screen windows and make them easy to open for fresh air
  • Strategically optimize nooks and crannies for storage and other purposes

5. Don’t drain your savings.

A home improvement project like an attic conversion may be at the top of your wants list, but it’s not worth draining your savings for. If you have the money set aside for a project like this, that’s great! But don’t dip into your retirement account or emergency fund to cover the cost of this remodel.

If you need access to more funds, consider financing the project with a loan. Homeowners have several unique options available to them, including:

Always be sure to do your research before taking out a loan— especially one that uses your home as equity.

Make the Most of Your Attic

Taking time to do an attic renovation right could really pay off when it comes to optimizing the full potential of your home. If more space could make your home even more comfortable or functional, this investment could be right for you.

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