Building an Attic Storage Space – Tips and Pointers

I’ve heard it said that a house can never have too much storage space. Of course, the more storage spaces you have, the more you tend to hoard and store. But assuming we’re operating under “the more the better” paradigm, aside from the usual walk-in closet or closet per bedroom and maybe a general utilities room in the hallway, there’s a limit to how much space you can allot to storage.

Attic Fold-down Staircase

This is where converting all that “dead space” up in the attic into usable storage space comes into play. There are a few things to watch out for and requirements to meet for this to even be a possibility:

– this is pretty much common sense, but your house has to have an attic that’s suitable for this purpose; ie, a hipped or gabled roof with adequate height and depth.

– proper structural support for the kind of weight you’ll be dealing with. For example, a fold-down staircase like the one pictured must be supported adequately by fairly large structural beams.

– make sure you don’t block or otherwise inhibit the attic air circulation. Leave a path around the perimeter of the house, as well as an air pocket between the attic room and the underside of the roof above. This is extremely important, as the attic serves as a delicate system of insulation and temperature regulation for your home. See Roof Insulation and Proper Air Circulation for more information on this.

– don’t forget to install a vent. Being that most attics are sealed and windowless, vents are a must!

– adding a light or 2, as well as a power socket might be useful too, although not absolutely necessary. You can always just use a flashlight. (Personally, I would install a light ;-))

– If you wanna get real fancy you can install an air conditioner. That way, it doesn’t have to be limited to just storage, but can be used for other activities as well.

Attic Framework

– insulate the attic well on all sides. What “well” means for you is anyone’s guess, but as an example, this attic has 2 layers of 45 millimeter thick foam board on the walls, and 2 layers of 100 millimeter rock wool insulation in the ceiling.

– while building your attic, take special care to not damage or puncture both the roof above you, as well as the interior ceiling below you. I don’t think I need to explain why this is important. Depending on the house, there may not be a whole lot of material between you and the actual roofing; maybe just a layer of 12 millimeter plywood. Interior ceilings are often nothing more than a 9 millimeter sheet of drywall. Your foot will go right through that if you misstep! For this reason, the attic floor — even a temporary one — should be the first thing you put down.

As far as building it goes, it’s easier said than done. This is especially true for the kind I have pictured. Square or rectangular shaped rooms are relatively simple, but it gets tricky if you want it to be triangular to match the underside of the roof.

And if you do decide to build one, do NOT for the life of you, build it during the summer months. In fact, you should plan it for the winter. The place is like a furnace during the summer.

Finished Attic Room

This (images above) is an attic I built for a client recently. Being that it’s for storage purposes, it won’t be wallpapered or have additional flooring. The walls will remain the drywall finish, and the floor the plywood. It does however, have 2 down-lights, a wall socket, and a fan-vent.


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