Transforming Your Attic Into A Functional Living Space

06/30/2023 | By Pamela Vargas-Touchard |

If your attic is large enough, it may feel an empty wasteland better served by transforming it into a functional living space. Bay Area attics often have plenty of room to create living spaces that are recreational or that become a source of income.

How To Convert An Attic Into A Functional Living Space

However, you can’t just lay down flooring, install drywall, and call it a room. There are several steps homeowners must take before investing any money in an attic conversion to ensure it’s safe, efficient, comfortable, and built to current code standards.

Schedule an inspection with an attic or insulation professional

Scheduling an inspection with a licensed insulation professional is the first step when planning an attic conversion. During that inspection, you’ll learn:

  • Whether the attic joists (which will become the floor joists in a conversion) are in good shape and ready to become a solid floor.
  • Which updates may need to happen ahead of time, such as air sealing, replacing or updating insulation, enhancing attic ventilation, etc.
  • About any replumbing, wiring, or relocating of air ducts that must occur before you proceed.
  • The insect/pest status. Any evidence of current or historical pest infestations should be addressed before the start of construction.

We may also suggest thorough attic cleaning or sanitation so the renovation moves forward with a “fresh slate.” Once we’re done preparing your attic, you’ll be ready to move on to the next steps.

Schedule an appointment with the building department OR licensed contractors

Attic conversions must be built to current code standards to be considered a legal addition to your home. This includes scheduling specific inspections with the local building department, which puts the conversion on record. The investment you spend on these inspection permits is well worth it.

Firstly, they mean you can advertise that space when listing the house in the future, notably increasing its sales potential. Second, if the renovation isn’t correctly permitted, you face the prospect of penalty fees and fines AND will have to rip out and re-do work for all those inspections to be done after the fact anyway.

If you don’t plan to do the work yourself or with a knowledgeable friend/tradesperson, we recommend interviewing at least three different licensed contractors. From these meetings, you’ll know who you want to partner with for the attic renovation. If you go the professional contractor route, they do all the work with the building department for you.

Think about comfort and efficiency when it comes to a functional living space

Attics tend to be the hottest spaces in the house due to their construction and the fact that roofs transmit a significant amount of solar heat (called solar heat gain). Heat rises in the winter, so the attic can become hot and stuffy if you haven’t prepared for that.

Things to think about when it comes to attic comfort are:

  • Roofing Materials. If your roof is near the end of its lifespan, this might be a good time to think about a replacement. Speak to your attic contractor about existing roofing materials and how to minimize solar heat gain through the roof.
  • Adequate Insulation. If you schedule a roof inspection with an attic professional beforehand, you’ll already have this information. Otherwise, you might learn that the attic needs updated or augmented insulation to keep the interior space comfortable. You may need extra insulation on the roof line and on exterior walls, especially those that are south/west-facing, to further minimize solar heat gain during the spring, summer, and fall months.
  • Soundproofing. If your attic conversion will become a music room, a band practice space, or a recreational area for teenagers or young adults, we recommend considering extra soundproofing. The right soundproofing materials ensure heavy steps, loud voices, loud music, etc., don’t disrupt peace and quiet for the rest of the household. Installing soundproofing during the attic conversion build-out is much easier than retrofitting a finished attic. Soundproofing is also a wise idea if you plan to rent the attic space to vacation or permanent renters because it provides extra privacy in both directions.
  • HVAC Updates. It’s also worth scheduling an HVAC inspection if you haven’t had one yet this year. Mention that you’re converting your attic into a living space and hear their recommendations. They may help you with duct redesign and layout, duct repair and insulation, or have specific recommendations regarding air purifying and humidity control on that upper level. Your HVAC tech may also suggest using a separate zone for the attic conversion so occupants can maintain comfortable, year-round temperatures in that area. Then, when/if the attic space isn’t in use, you can shut heating/cooling off altogether to save money and increase overall energy efficiency.
  • Efficient Windows. Installing efficient, dual-paned windows is another way to increase attic comfort, energy efficiency, and daylighting. A few well-placed windows mean attic occupants won’t need to use any electricity to light the rooms most days.

Attic Access

Finally, your transformed attic needs a safe entrance and exit. Some homes may already have a pull-down stairway or ladder. If that’s not the case, speak to your contractor about the best way to safely enter and exit the attic space once it’s finished. 

If the attic is going to be used as a regular bedroom, hangout space, or as an income rental, it’s probably worth considering the attic “the top story of the house” and finding a way to build a designated stairway to the space. If it’s going to serve as a more occasional recreational space, fabricated attic stairs are an option

Schedule A Pre-Attic Conversion Inspection With Attic Solutions

The team at Attic Solutions has provided expert attic and insulation services to Bay Area homeowners for more than a decade. Contact us to schedule an attic inspection before getting started on transforming an attic into a functional living space. We’ll leave you with a checklist of things to think about and will get your attic into perfect shape before the contractors arrive. 

phone-handsetmap-markercrossmenuchevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram