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Attic Conversions Make Smart Remodeling Projects

If you’re looking to expand your living area, look up. Without the cost of adding on, an attic conversion gives you a master bedroom, a man cave, or a cozy guest retreat.

Adding a dormer window to your attic dramatically increases natural light, air circulation, and even gains some headroom. Dormers are good places for snuggly built-in beds and storage.

Image: Birdseye Design


Attics are usually right over somebody’s bedroom, so noise from music and overzealous Wii competitors can be an issue. To block sound transmission, add insulation to the attic floor joists and install a thick carpet with a foam pad.

Image: Robert Bliss, Bliss Home Theaters & Automation, Inc.


Can you add a top-floor bath? Sure, but locate new plumbing near existing vent and waste stacks to save money on plumbing installation costs. Also, make sure your floors can’t leak water; ceramic tile and seamless vinyl flooring are good choices.

Image: Felhandler/Steeneken Architects


You’ll need a staircase if one doesn’t exist, and you’ll have to find room for it. If you’re stumped, consult an architect. A pre-built spiral staircase saves space in both the attic and the room below. Prices for a kit range from $2,000 to $6,000; figure another $600 to $1,200 for basic installation.

Image: Fulcrum Structural Engineering


Not every attic space is ripe for conversion. Building codes specify that finished ceilings be a certain height — 7 feet 6 inches over a minimum of 70 square feet of floor area is a typical requirement. Also, have your floor joists inspected by a structural engineer to make sure they’ll support added weight.

Image: Mary Thompson


Attics windows are not only beautiful — they’re safety measures, too. Most building codes require that an attic bedroom have two exits, or egress openings, one of which may be a window large enough for a person to escape through. It’s a good idea to have an escape ladder near your emergency window, too.

Image: VELUX Cabrio balcony roof window


An attic space is ideal for a relaxing retreat, but who says you have to unwind by sitting down? Turn your attic in a climbing den and your treadmill may become a full-time clothes rack. Climbing walls are relatively easy to build.

Image: Luke Laeser


Attics have naturally fun shapes that kids find irresistible. An oil-filled heater is a good way to add heat to your attic space without having to extend your existing system. Oil-filled heaters have a low surface temperature that makes them safe for kids.

Image: Anki


Stumped on how to add storage to those big sloped walls (or are they ceilings)? The answer is in your knees — your knee walls, that is. Those short, vertical walls are ideal spots for cabinets, shelves, and drawers. In colder climates, you’ll want to insulate behind your storage.

Image: Robert Kiejdan Architecture & Construction


Men have been known to stake out some private territory in the garage or behind the water heater, but what about a getaway space for the woman of the house? Bright, airy, and cheerful, attics are the perfect place for work, meditation, and to cozy up with a good book.

Image: Shaunna West @ Perfectly Imperfect