Turn your empty attic into new living space with 3 smart moves
When your family outgrows your home’s available space, moving to bigger digs isn’t always the best option. Maybe you really love your current home. Perhaps you can’t find a bigger home in your price range in the area of your choice. Whatever your reason for staying in place, expanding the home you already have can be a cost-effective option when your family needs more room.
Converting an unused attic into a usable living area is a reliable, cost-effective way to gain more space in a home. It’s also a good investment; when you add an attic bedroom, you can expect to recoup about 77 percent of the construction cost when you resell the house, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.
Three time-tested techniques can help you turn an empty attic into the extra space you dream of:
1. Rely on natural light for beauty, visibility and cost savings.
Attics don’t usually have many windows, and adding them can be difficult if the ceiling is sloped. Adding dormers — a typical solution — can be costly and time-consuming, and eat up wall space that is often at a premium in attics.
Skylights or roof windows can be a better, more cost-effective way to bring natural light and fresh air into an attic. Installation is faster and cheaper than adding dormers, and they work well on slanted ceilings. Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights like those from Velux America make it easy and affordable to bring natural light and fresh air into an attic space.
Add solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns, and the skylight becomes an even more valuable piece of the room’s overall decor. Solar-powered skylights close automatically in case of rain. They, and the blinds, are operated by programmable remote control, making it easy to adjust the amount of sunlight that enters the space. Both products, plus the installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit to the homeowner. Learn more at www.whyskylights.com.
2. Pay close attention to insulation.
In any home, the attic is often the hottest spot in the summer and the coldest in the winter. The amount and quality of insulation in the attic directly affects the comfort level in the space — and the overall energy efficiency of your home.
Have an insulation pro evaluate the insulation in your home’s attic before you begin planning your conversion. You may need to add insulation or even replace older, inefficient types — a move well worth the investment since insulation is so important to your home’s overall comfort and energy efficiency. Many insulation pros will recommend spray insulation for attics because it goes easily between existing joists. Plus, it can create a tight air barrier without losing the inches of space required for thick fiberglass batt insulation.
3. Get smart about plumbing.
If your attic conversion will incorporate a bathroom, good for you! Bathroom additions return more than 56 percent of your initial investment when you resell, according to the Cost vs. Value Report.
If pipes are already present in your attic, adding a bathroom can be simple. If no plumbing exists, consider cost-effective alternatives that will have less impact on the space, like up-flush plumbing. Because it fits into the kind of tight spaces that often occur in attics, up-flush plumbing can be an easy, cheaper way to plumb a sink, toilet or shower stall in an attic space.
Converting an unused attic into living area can be a great way to expand your space without moving. Plus, when you finally are ready to move one day, that attic renovation may end up paying for itself by boosting the sale price of your home.