How to Convert an Attic into a Beautiful New Room
There are plenty of great reasons to convert your attic into an additional room within your home. For many of us, we’ve outgrown our current space. This could be due to a growing family and our kids needing their own space as they get older. Naturally, as your family grows, so does the sheer amount of stuff that seems to pile up, so converting your attic as a place to store it all is a sound solution.
Similarly, an attic conversion is an ideal way to create extra space for a home office, study, or studio. It’s an excellent alternative to renting the space required for a budding business or something similar. Plus, if the prospect of extra space wasn’t exciting enough, attic conversions can significantly increase the value of your property – and will make your home easier to sell if you ever decide to up sticks and move.
Now, for all the benefits it offers? Converting an attic is a serious undertaking because it can impact major structural aspects of your house. There are several calculations to make and factors to consider before you get started. So, with that in mind, this article looks at all the different aspects of converting your attic into a beautiful new room.
Is My Attic Suitable to be Converted?
When it comes to suitability for an attic conversion, there are three main factors to consider:
- The height of your attic
- The size (floor space) you have available
- Structural support: what you have now and what you might need for your conversion plan.
What Is The Minimum Ceiling Height for an Attic Conversion?
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) generally requires that at least 2/3, or roughly 60% of your attic is 2.2 metres (7.2 feet) high for a habitable space. This ensures you can stand upright and move around the space comfortably.
However, for a non-habitable space, i.e., if you plan on converting your attic for extra storage space, then it can be below 2.2 metres.
How Much Space Do You Need for an Attic Conversion
There’s no minimum floor space requirement in terms of length and width, only that it’s 2.2 metres high for a habitable area. When it comes to size, it comes down to your expectations for the living space. As far as habitable spaces go, a spare room that will only be used occasionally for storage can be smaller than an additional room that will be constantly occupied by a family member.
Depending on the nature of the roof, attic conversions can range in size from 10 m2 to 60 m2, for something as simple as a retreat or study.
Will My Ceiling Be Strong Enough to Support a New Attic Conversion?
If you’re planning on converting your attic into an extra room, the ceiling or, more accurately, the attic floor has to be strong enough to handle the weight of an extra person and their furniture. When you consider that this could include a bed, desk, chair, wardrobe, and drawers, this extra weight could prove to be significant. Alternatively, if you intend for the attic conversion to provide storage space, then it needs to be able to support all the items you intend to store. Again, especially in the long run, this could prove significant so you need to plan with that in mind.
In any case, a structural engineer, or an experienced attic builder, will need to examine your attic, roof, and home in general for their load-bearing capacities and potential vulnerabilities.
Do You Need Council Approval for an Attic Conversion?
It depends on what you are converting your attic into. If you plan to create the extra space for storage purposes, and for it to have ladder access, then you won’t need council approval. On the other hand, if you intend to use your converted attic as an additional living space, such as an extra bedroom or a study, then you will have to get your local council’s permission.
The council approval process typically takes one to three months, depending on the proposed scale of your attic conversion.
Should I Install an Attic Ladder or Permanent Stairs in My Attic Conversion?
If your converted attic is going to be an inhabited living area, or if you intend to use it regularly, then you should install permanent stairs. If someone will regularly go to and from the attic, a fixed staircase is both safer and more convenient. If you’re only planning on using it as a storage space, then a pull-down attic ladder, or steps, would be best.
If permanent stairs aren’t absolutely necessary and you’re on the fence about them, consider the fact fixed steps may require council approval. Also, carefully consider where the stairs will be placed and how big they’re likely to be. They can end up requiring more space than you first realise.
How Can I Maximise Storage Space in My New Attic Room?
There are several things you can do to maximise storage space in your newly converted attic. First, get a thorough understanding of the layout of the room and think how you can make use of the space. Think about what you intend to store and the storage furniture you could potentially fit into the attic. If necessary, draw a rough sketch or top-down plan of the attic, so you have a clear picture of how much space you have to play with. Secondly, maximise organisation with the proper use of storage furniture, such as light wardrobes, cabinets, chest of drawers, boxes and bins, shelves, etc.
Thirdly, make use of every hard-to-reach space in your attic, including trusses, rafters, and eaves. This can be achieved with the installation of custom joinery that will allow you to attach additional surfaces and panelling on which items can be stored. You could, for example, place wooden panels between the rafters to create a series of makeshift cabinets.
Also, consider how likely it is that you’re going to need the different items you’re planning to store away. If you’re keeping something for sentimental reasons, such as baby clothing or a family heirloom, then it’s a prime candidate to be tucked away in a harder to reach place. However, if you’ll need an item somewhat frequently, such as a tool or Christmas decorations, for example, then you should store it in a place that’s easier to reach.
Lastly, consult a renovation company. They’ll have the experience of completing many previous attic conversions and will have seen how their different clients made the best use of their storage space. Share your vision for what you want your converted attic to look like and any ideas you have for maximising the space. Ask their opinion and they’ll let you know if what you have in mind could work – and maybe improve on it. Better still, they might give you additional ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
How Can I Get Maximum Natural Light into My Attic?
There are a number of ways to maximise the natural light that enters your attic. First of all, you could install a skylight or roof window. Depending on the type of roof you have, as well as your budget, this could be anything from a basic, fixed skylight to one that can be opened and closed. It could also have additional features like solar-powered blinds and rain sensors. Similarly, you could install a light tunnel (also known as a sun tunnel or round skylight). These can often an option when a more traditional skylight isn’t feasible.
Another option is installing a dormer window. However, these tend to cost more and require the attic to have a certain amount of height – which could require a roof extension. Lastly, if budget is a consideration, you could paint your attic in neutral or white tones, such as cream or beige. This will allow for light to reflect off the surface, making the room brighter – as well as larger.
What Measures Do I Need to Take to Protect My Attic from Fire?
First and foremost, you must ensure that your attic has a second exit. This could simply be a window and is another reason to have one installed if your roof doesn’t already have one. This provides an alternative exit, in the event that the stairway leading to the attic becomes engulfed in flames.
Secondly, on the subject of the staircase, you might need to reinforce with additional plastering to better protect it from a potential fire.
Thirdly, you should also protect your attic from the fire in the same you’d protect any other room, such as fitting a smoke detector and having a fire extinguisher within reach. As with the other fire prevention equipment in your home, you should check them frequently to make sure they still work.
Additionally, as well as taking preventive measures inside your house, take precautions outside too. This mainly includes assessing fire risks in the area immediately surrounding your home, such as bushes and trees which could potentially be set alight. Pay particular attention to trees that actually make contact with your roof.