How to Convert an Attic into a Living Space

attic apartment with bright window

The attic just sits above your home, doing very little except perhaps, sometimes, harboring wayward insects and more cobwebs than you want to think about. Why not put all your DIY skills to use and turn this into something more? Learn how to convert an attic into a living space and add more residential space to your home.


Does your attic follow the "rule of seven?" As a general rule, your attic space should be at least seven feet high and seven feet wide. Ultimately, you should have at least 70 square feet of usable space. Anything smaller will be too small for a living space.


Can the weight be supported? It seems like a great idea to create a gorgeous new attic space and suddenly get a whole lot more out of your home. But can your foundation support this weight?

Boxes in storage weigh less than a room with drywall and other features of finished space. You may want to consult with a professional before you start a major project. This person will check floor joists, the home's foundation, and other key elements that will determine whether or not you can create a new, finished attic room.


How is your attic accessed? Is this safe? What sort of physical strength or ability does it take? Does the access need to be upgraded and how would that be done?

Think about all of these things and you'll start to get more of an idea of the scope of your project. You might need to upgrade or replace a ladder or even add stairs. If you’re adding stairs, consider spiral stairs. This may be a good option for some tighter spaces.


Is there a window? As scary as it is to think about, many home fires start in the attic. If a fire does occur anywhere in the home, the attic acts like a chimney that causes the flames to spread.

Your attic must have at least one window for the sake of fire safety and ventilation. Check local building codes to find the minimum size for the window. These requirements are known as egress codes. Fire safety is nothing to ignore.


If the space is truly going to be livable, it will need electricity and HVAC access at a minimum, and possibly, plumbing too.

Any plumbing in the attic should be installed above existing plumbing, such as a bathroom or kitchen on the floor below. This way, the attic plumbing can share the same poping and venting system.

Adding on to existing plumbing will make it much more affordable to finish the attic. Adding a half or full bath will greatly increase the home’s value. Even a sink can add a lot of value to this new space.

You may also want to provide an air conditioner and heat to the space. If running new HVAC infrastructure into the attic is too expensive, you will need to use fans to cool the space and possibly a space heater to heat the space.

Remember, attics can obscure fire hazards. Always practice extreme care when using a space heater.

Electricity is another challenge, and it's another fire hazard when installed incorrectly. Consult with a professional electrician if you're adding new wiring to the attic. You want to first ensure that the existing circuit breaker and the existing infrastructure can handle the new addition.


attic with insulation

Take the opportunity to add insulation to the attic space before you finish it and make it much more difficult to add insulation in the future. There are many insulation options out there. Consider your options and find the one that's going to work for you. Spray foam is one popular option that is very easy to DIY, but panels can be convenient, too.


Your attic might need a floor if it was never finished with one, which is quite common. You will need to add both a subfloor and a floor to the space, which could be a pretty big expense. Unless you know a flooring person or you're in the flooring game, you'll want to hire a subcontractor for this.

If you’re worried about sound, add insulation to the floor while it’s being built. Carpeting is also more sound-proofing than wood floors, so consider this option if you’re attempting to muffle sound coming into and out of the attic.


The attic really becomes a lot more like a usable space when you've got walls up. This means installing drywall. While you're here, consider framing out some areas of the attic to build recessed shelving.

This provides storage space without limiting the available living space. You'll also need to finish the ceiling of the space. You can also add recesses for lighting at this time.

Finishing Your Attic

attic with skylights

Once you take care of the basic structure of the room and put things like piping and wiring and venting in place, you will be left with a new floor and bare drywall staring at you.

Now, you can start to take the steps to truly finish your attic and turn it into an amazing, usable space. This is your canvas and it’s a bit of a dream for any DIYer. Now, it’s time to truly create.


You should have electrical wiring in place so that lighting fixtures can be installed. Space-saving options that provide a lot of light include recessed lighting, sconces, and ceiling lights. Adding lamps to the space will just take up space and it can make the room feel cluttered.


You finished with the walls while building the room but in order to get the room livable, you need to start with the walls. Now is a good time to add beadboard if you want to add something a little extra to the room and give it an even more finished look.

Beadboard paneling is easy to install and it's a great way to pull the room together. You can also paint at this time. If nothing else, prime the walls and paint them a soft white.


If anything else needs to be done to the floor, such as staining it or laying down carpet, now is the time. Unless you are using a method that is easy to DIY, such as tongue-and-groove laminate or a simple floor stian, you will probably want to consult a professional to complete this part of the project.

If nothing else, try a simple hack: place a large floor rug to fill the space.

Window Treatments

attic with glass roof

To provide fire safety, the attic room must have a window. And since it's there, dress it up! You may want to use window treatments to give the room a much more finished, lovely look.

Defining the Space

Step back and take a look at all you've done to finish your attic. What an accomplishment. Now, you have a space with practically limitless options.

What will you use this room for? It can become a nursery, a playroom for children, an office, a home gym, a media/gaming room, a yoga/meditation area, a bedroom... let your imagination run wild and create the space you've always wanted.

You can even give the space lots of different purposes so it can function as multiple spaces.

Things to Remember

There are a few things to keep in mind if you're going to design a great attic space.

Avoid fire hazards. Remember to stick to flameless candles if you want to add ambiance. Attic fires are no joke.

Use a bright color palette. Attics are usually dim and dark by nature. It can be hard to get them lit up because there are so many shadows and no little natural light. Use bright paint colors, fabrics, and furnishings. Don't use anything too dark in the space because this will make attics look smaller and much more sinister.

Avoid heavy furniture. When furnishing the room, consider wicker, metal frames, and furniture designed in minimalistic designs. You want furniture that feels light and airy, rather than heavy and ponderous. Big, thick furniture will make the room look much smaller.

Don’t clutter the space. Avoid adding items as much as you can to avoid a cluttered look. Think minimalistic when it comes to designing your space. Attics are small, close areas. If you add a bunch of items to this area and create clutter, it’s going to create a very claustrophobic feeling and the roo’s design won’t flow well at all.

Solve Storage Problems

With the attic turned into usable living space, you're going to need some serious storage solutions. The attic itself will need storage areas and then, of course, there's all the stuff that you were storing in your attic. Springtime is a good time of year to go through every closet, drawer, and cabinet in your home.

Yes, this is a big task. You might need to split it up over a few weekends. But if you do it with a mind to make some more space, you will find items that can be thrown away, given away, and donated. You might find items you can start using again and you might find stuff that can go back into the attic. Get rid of what you can and give yourself more storage space.

Now, think about adding additional storage areas as needed. Maybe a check at the foot of the bed, or some under-shelves to extend existing space where needed. get creative with your storage because you will no longer have the attic to use.

Create Attic Living Space

comfortable attic bedroom

It takes a ton of work and money to convert an attic into a usable living space. But at the end of the project, you will have added livable square feet to your home and you will have greatly increased the resale value.

You've added a whole new space and that is a pretty big deal. You can continue to enjoy your new space for many, many years to come and it will be all the sweeter because you built it for yourself.

People Also Ask

A lot goes into creating an attic space. Get the answers to the most common questions about converting attic spaces so you're better prepared for this intense project.

How Much Does Attic Conversion Cost?

The average attic conversion can be a rather pricey endeavor. Finishing an entire attic space costs several thousand dollars, up to about $75,000.

Is It Worth It to Convert an Attic?

Every bedroom you add to your home adds approximately $30,000 to $50,000 to the total sale value. If the space also has a bathroom, this adds even more resale value to the whole property.

Can You Convert Any Attic?

It isn't always possible to convert your attic. You need to have enough space for conversion to be possible and you need to have the fire safety features that are necessary for this to be a safe place that is not a fire hazard.

You may also have a structure that cannot support the additional weight. Have your attic and home inspected to determine whether or not you can safely convert your attic. Sometimes, the answer will be no.

Further Reading

How To Plan Attic Ventilation

4 Tips On Attic Rafter Insulation

How To Install Closed-Cell Foam In An Attic

How To Install Telescoping Attic Stairs

How To Turn An Attic Into A Playroom

Adding Windows To An Attic