If you intend to expand your space to add an extra bedroom, home office or playroom, you don't need to build an expensive extension. You can take advantage of your existing attic space and convert it into a bonus room. If your attic is finished, this will be as simple as taking out all your boxes and putting in your new furniture. If your attic is not finished, getting it ready will require the right tools and a little elbow grease -- and maybe the assistance of a contractor.
1. Ensure Adequate Electrical Coverage
Your attic may or may not have enough electric outlets and switches to power your needs in your new bonus room. Take stock of all the outlets currently there, also paying attention to whether they are located appropriately for your needs. If you must install new outlets or to move outlets that are already there, it is best to hire a licensed electrician to do the work. Not only will it be safer, but your city code may require it.
2. Create an Access Point
Some attics have staircases leading up from below to a traditional door. Some have little more than a hole cut in the ceiling with a board covering it. If you don't have a staircase and doorway, you will need to create an access point. The easiest way to do this if you have only a cutout opening is to install a pull-down staircase. This staircase folds up and rests on top of the wooden covering, which can pivot on a hinge. You open the "doorway" and then pull down the stairs. This may require consulting with a contractor to ensure that the opening, the support structure and the staircase are safe and meet local code requirements. If you have the room, you also can have a traditional staircase built leading up to the attic, which will certainly require the help of a contractor.
3. Finish the Walls
Most attics are unfinished spaces. That means there are likely to be studs and supporting beams but no drywall. To create your bonus room, you will need to install drywall and perhaps additional insulation. You can hang drywall yourself, but it will be a time-consuming and exhausting job. Make sure you're up for the challenge before you get started, or call a contractor to do the job for you. Once the drywall is hung and all the joint compound is dry, you can finish your walls by painting them and installing baseboard and decorative trim.
4. Install Flooring
Many attics have only rudimentary floors -- or just insulation placed on top of interior ceilings. To finish your bonus room, you will need to install flooring. If the attic has a floor, you will simply need to install a laminate or hardwood floor treatment or carpet. Installing these types of flooring is relatively simple, and kits are available at most home improvement stores to make the job even easier. If you need to build a foundation in the attic, it is worth hiring a contractor to ensure that the job is done right and meets local code requirements.
5. Regulate the Temperature
Attics are prone to be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. When you are installing drywall and flooring, using good insulation can address many of the temperature issues. Then you will need to hire a contractor to run new vents from your heating and cooling system into the attic, or you will need to invest in a portable air conditioning and heating unit. Fans and space heaters might also solve the problem.
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