Before You Turn Your Attic Into A Room…

before you turn your attic into a room

Are you thinking of turning an unused attic into a room? It’s a great way for Bay Area homeowners to gain extra living space or create an income-earning rental space. In either case, it is worth the time to read these considerations before making the space official. 

We also recommend reviewing our post, Converting Attic Space to Living Space: How It’s Done, for more specifics about the actual process. 

7 Considerations Before Turning Your Attic Into A Room

From ensuring you’re building the space to code and keeping yourself well within the law. In addition to following these guidelines, you’ll also ensure your attic room is safe for occupancy, comfortable, and energy-efficient. 

Contact your local building department

If this is a DIY project for you, you’ll be working directly with your local building department. In order to be built to meet current federal and state building codes, you’ll need to know what the current fire, earthquake, safety, and energy efficiency codes are and adhere to them. To do that, you’ll schedule regular inspections pertaining to different phases of construction – framing, electrical work, sheetrock and drywall, fire sprinklers, etc.  

If you are hiring someone else to do the work, make sure you hire a licensed contractor (you can verify their licensure, insurance, and bonding with your building department). In that case, the contractor’s job is to ensure all of the work is done to code and that each of the permit cards is signed off so your attic renovation is finalized. 

There is a basic “rule of 7s” for attics, which means the finished attic space must have at least seven feet of height from floor-to-ceiling, seven feet wide from wall-to-wall, and be at least 70 square feet. If your attic won’t accommodate that, the project may be a no-go. 

WARNING: Failure to build your attic to code can have serious consequences ranging from large fines to diminishing the resale value of your home. 

Consider a durable ceiling finish

If your attic ceiling is on the seven to eight feet high (or has pitched, A-line ceilings) speak to your contractor about using a more durable ceiling finish to protect it from dings as furniture and furnishings are moved in/out and put into place. Some ideas include: 

  • Beadboard 
  • V-groove wood paneling 
  • Ceiling tiles (these can be as simple or ornate as your design taste) 

Think about skylights or solar tubes

This is a great time to consider skylights or solar tubes. They are a smart way to have “free” daylighting and can be added to your roof to gain a lighter, brighter, and more spacious feel in your attic space. If you do choose to add them, we recommend having the work done – or approved – by a licensed roofer to eliminate any risk of leaks or moisture control issues down the road. 

Be careful about lighting selections

Even the best of daylighting ideas fade once the sunsets. Most of our clients choose to install recessed cans as a way to gain the lighting they want without impacting the air space. Any fixtures attached to the ceiling will take inches off the headspace around the fixture. That’s fine if you’re dealing with an A-line or sloped ceiling with lots of room from floor-to-ceiling at the peak, but not so pleasant for people who are 6-feet tall or taller in a 7-foot space. 

Consider alternative insulation options to increase usable space

Instead of using traditional batt insulation, consider using insulated wall panels or spray foam options to minimize interior wall space and optimize the usable square footage in the room. In a small attic space, gaining a few extra inches on each wall makes a big difference in how the room looks and feels. 

Even more importantly, using spray foam insulation in the exterior walls and roof will exponentially increase whole-space comfort, minimize energy consumption, and will also help to dampen the sound when it rains. 

Think about quiet flooring when turning an attic into a room

Your attic was built with the idea that nobody would be living up there, so there wasn’t any attention placed on soundproofing. Once somebody’s living up there, the clomp-clomp of their steps, the scrape of a chair being pushed back from a desk or table, and even the sounds emanating from stereo systems or televisions can be obnoxious for whoever lives below. 

Make sure to take this into consideration. Consider amending or shoring up the existing floor joists to make them sturdier (and less squeaky),  and be extra generous with soundproof flooring options, such as thicker, sound-resistant padding under carpets or hard surface flooring. 

Take extra precaution with toilets/sinks/baths

If you’ll be adding a bathroom and/or kitchen area, you want to be extra careful that the added plumbing is done by a professional to minimize the chance of leaks. Often, plumbing issues in attic spaces go unnoticed for too long because the water seeps into the interior wall spaces. Also, make sure the new plumbing lines drain all the way down to the ground to increase drainage pressure and to properly vent the sewage gases. 

Are you thinking about converting your little- or unused attic space into a comfortable living space? Contact us here at Attic Solutions.

When You’re Ready, We’re Ready

We can help you every step of the way, from clearing out old insulation, cleaning up and sanitizing any evidence of previous pest, mold, or mildew issues, and keeping your insulation plans on track. We are local, licensed, and come highly vetted. Our team looks forward to providing a free quote and competitive prices. 

7 Holiday Lights Safety Tips For Your Attic & Home

7 holiday lights safety tips for your attic and home

Halloween is behind us and the holidays are in front of us, which means it’s time to get up in the attic, pull out those holiday lights and decorations, and get to work. That said, there are 7 important holiday lights safety tips we want you to observe to keep yourself, your home, and your family safe. 

Holiday Lights Safety Tips: 7 Simple Rules 

These 7 simple rules will help to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe from fires or other safety hazards associated with hanging and displaying holiday lights.

Contact a licensed electrician to discuss over-the-top holiday lighting plans

There’s no need to call an electrician if all you do is string a few lights around the roofline and on a few trees or bushes. In that case, all you need to do is make sure you are using adequate, outdoor/weather-worthy lights and that you are honoring the maximum electrical load capacity for your outdoor electrical outlets. 

That segues to the theme of contacting an electrician if necessary. If you are a home that likes to go all out, you need to make sure your outdoor electrical outlets can safely handle the load. Overloading the circuits, especially if you use outdated lighting fixtures or holiday decorations/accessories can lead to sparks, fires, and circuit disruptions. 

Your electrician can work with you to ensure you have ample and safe power options, including dedicated circuits that are hidden around your landscape design and that are used exclusively to keep your holiday lighting displays and decorations as safe as possible. Never use anyone who isn’t licensed to do professional work around your home to ensure it is done to code. 

Only use GFCI circuits for outdoor lights

If your home is older, make sure to replace old exterior outlets with GFCI options. This ensures the circuits immediately cut off with any water or moisture that could cause electrical shorts or electrocution. GFCI circuits also cut off the current if there is an overload. 

If you can’t afford an electrician this year or don’t have time to consult with one, you can purchase portable, outdoor GFCI circuits at your local hardware store.

Have your fireplace cleaned and your HVAC system inspected

A toasty warm house, including a roaring fire, is part of the ambiance we associate with holidays and gift-giving. That means people crank up the heaters, fire up their fireplaces or woodburning stove, and kick back together enjoying their holiday decorations and traditional holiday foods and activities. 

Before you do all that, make sure you’ve had your fireplace and chimney cleaned by the professionals, and that you’ve scheduled your HVAC contractor for your pre-winter HVAC tune-ups and duct cleaning. While it’s great to spark a little magic inside the home, you definitely don’t want an oversight of your annual maintenance to spark anything more than that. 

Along those same lines, be extra careful with real candles that use flame for illumination or ambiance, especially around your tree or other hanging decorations. Always extinguish any flames when you leave the room or go to bed at night.

Use designated holiday lights hooks and hangers

Many people use nails or screws to hang up their lights. While this may be affordable and a seemingly good DIY way to hold lights in place, it can be dangerous. For one thing, when pounded or screwed into the wrong spots – or deeper than necessary – homeowners and renters can unknowingly penetrate waterproofing materials or other essential roofing components. That can lead to leaks and water damage that go unnoticed until you are facing expensive water damage, mold and mildew issues, and/or leak repair bills. 

If those nails or screws rust or sharp angles penetrate the lighting cords, you also risk sparks, exposed electrical wires, electrical shock, or even fire damage. Invest in approved, insulated holiday light hanging accessories designed to display your lights beautifully and without any risks to your home or safety.

Make personal safety a priority when hanging holiday lights

Hanging holiday lights means accessing high or awkward spaces, and that puts you at risk for injury. Observing best safety practices is essential for preventing unnecessary injuries or accidents. 

  • Gather all of the materials you’ll need beforehand to minimize trips up and down the ladder 
  • Have a partner help you for efficiency and safety 
  • Plug all of your lights in before ascending a ladder or trying to hang them so you can repair or replace strands/bulbs as needed on the ground 
  • Use a good, sturdy ladder that is open completely and being used as per the manufacturer’s instructions 
  • Use non-slip shoes or boots and examine all surfaces carefully before you step out on them to avoid slip and fall accidents 
  • Use UL-approved extension cords whenever you need one 
  • Make the switch to LED lights whenever possible. In addition to saving on energy consumptions/costs, they are cool burning and much less likely to cause any type of electrical or fire hazard.

Avoid overloaded electrical circuits

We mentioned consulting with a licensed electrician about safe, manageable electrical sources for your outdoor displays, but make sure you avoid overloaded electrical outlets and circuits in your interior displays as well. 

Those holiday villages can require a fair amount of electricity, as do the multiple light strands used for your tree, mantle, or around the perimeters of a room. Read, Prevent Electrical Fires with Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters, to learn more about what you can do to prevent overloaded circuits and to prevent any threat of sparks, shorts, or fires from overloaded electrical outlets. 

While any AFCIs act as the ultimate safety guard, you should also use common sense when plugging in all those lights and other mechanized holiday decorations: 

  • Keep an outlet’s total load to under 15 Amps 
  • Follow manufacturer’s safety directions/recommendations 
  • Replace any strands or accessories that have worn out cords 
  • Repair or replace decorations with loose light bulb connections 
  • Always unplug lights when you go to bed or leave the house (timers work great for this)

Inspect your attic while you’re at it

As long as you’re headed into the attic to gather holiday lights and other decorations, take the time to give the attic a once over. Is your insulation looking adequate without being matted, moved out of place, or water damaged? Is there evidence of mold or pest infestations? Do you feel any drafts indicating there may be some air sealing needed?

If so, contact your local insulation contractor and schedule a professional inspection and maintenance call.

Happy Holidays!

The team at Attic Solutions wishes you and your family a very safe and enjoyable holiday lights and decorating season.

noises in the attic

Noises in the Attic: The Most Common Attic Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Are you hearing noises in the attic?

Whether it’s scratching, scurrying, or just the sound of movement above your head, hearing any kind of noises from your attic could indicate a larger problem — pests.

Attics can be the ideal environment for squirrels, rodents, and even bats–they can damage stored items by gnawing and could even chew through your electric cabling.

They also leave droppings and other animal matter, which make your attic the ideal breeding ground for insects and diseases.

Here’s a list of some of the most common animals that could find their way into your attic–and how you can get rid of them.

Rats

Rats are some of the animals you’re most likely to find in your attic. Common roof rats love warm spaces and may seek refuge in your attic during cold or wet winter months.

Hear gnawing in the attic but you’re not sure if it’s rats?

The best way to identify them is through their droppings, which will be brown, sausage-shaped, and curved. If you happen to catch sight of them, they are usually larger than mice with a longer and thicker tail.

Rats are experts at gaining access to indoor spaces. They can squeeze through small holes and chew their way through almost any wall cavity.

They’re active day and night, but you’re more likely to hear them scurrying during the night.

You can use rat poison or traps to try and remove the rats that have already entered your house. Your best bet to keep them from coming back is to locate their entry point and seal it up.

Mice

Mice are very similar to rats, but with a few key differences. You’re more likely to find mice in your house–many of them have adapted to associate with humans rather than live in the wild.

Mice are much smaller than rats, with thinner tails. You can identify them by their feces, which will look like very small grains of brown rice.

Because of their small size, they’re likely to gain access to your attic by climbing up the wall and squeezing through small spaces.

You can use mice traps or poison, but the most effective way to get rid of mice is to find the entry holes and seal them permanently.

Squirrels

While squirrels might be cute, they’re one of the most common types of animals you’ll find gnawing through your attic.

They might be similar to mice and rats, but squirrels can be even more damaging.

They’re experts at chewing and can chew through your walls for better access to your house and attic. They can also chew through wood and electrical wires–which could become a fire hazard.

These critters are most active during the daytime. You’re likely to hear them around early morning and evening.

You can use poison, but many prefer to capture and relocate squirrels instead. Either way, be sure to remove the rodents and seal up any access holes.

Bats

If the noises in the attic don’t sound like the typical scratching and gnawing, you might be dealing with a different animal altogether.

Bats can be a serious problem to deal with in your attic. They can gain access by squeezing through small holes or flying into your roof through gaps along the roof line.

While they won’t gnaw through anything, they produce large amounts of droppings, which have a pungent odor. Their droppings look like small dark pellets, and they can accumulate quickly.

These droppings are a serious health problem. Not only does it smell bad, but contamination can lead to diseases like histoplasmosis.

Bats are nocturnal creatures. They’re most active during the night, but it can be hard to find them due to the fact that they make very little sound.

While there are items on that market that claim to be able to repel bats, none of these are scientifically proven to work. It’s best to physically remove them yourself or call somebody to help you do it.

In addition, you need to ensure that the droppings are cleaned, the area is sanitized, and all entrance holes are sealed.

Snakes

Even if you don’t live in a hot climate, snakes can get into your home without you knowing it.

Snakes are ectothermic, which means that they don’t produce much body heat and must rely on external factors to keep them warm. This means they might seek out your attic or other areas of the home in order to stay warm.

Most snakes are harmless. But some snakes have venom that could be harmful or even lethal to humans. To avoid any chance of injury, it’s best to remove any snake infestation from the home.

It can be hard to identify snakes in your attic due to the fact that they are great at hiding inside the walls and make little noise. If you notice nests, eggs, or shed skin, you may have a snake problem.

If you suspect there may be snakes in your home, you can try the flour trick. Sprinkle a small layer of flour over a hardwood floor in an area of your home.

Check the next day or after a few days to see if there are tracks in the flour.

Never attempt a snake removal yourself. You should always call a professional to help you with a snake infestation.

Noises in the Attic? Get Rid of Attic Critters For Good

If you’re hearing noises in the attic and find signs of habitation like droppings, nesting, or damage caused by gnawing, you might just be dealing with attic pests.

Don’t run the risk of bad odors, disease, or electrical hazards. If you think any of these pests may have infested your attic, reach out to a professional immediately to have them removed. 

Looking for a pest removal service? Check out our attic pest control services to see what we have to offer.