Best Practices When Finishing Your Attic

Finishing your attic helps to add utility and space, increasing your home’s value, if you do it properly. If you don’t plan it properly or adhere to local building codes, you could end up reducing the value of your house or even stall a sale. Below are some best practices when you’re finishing your attic.

  1. Ensure Your Attic Meets all Local Building Codes

When turning your attic into a living space, you need to meet the same building codes as any other room in your home. To meet these codes and requirements, your attic should:

Be reachable by a full-size staircase
Have a minimum of seven feet of vertical clearance in most of the room, be at least seven feet wide and have a minimum of 70 sq. ft. of space available
Have another emergency exit, usually an easily accessible window

If you can only get to your attic by a pull-down staircase or ladder, you’ll have to build a permanent staircase prior to using it as anything other than a storage area.

  1. Inquire About a Building Permit

Contact your local permitting office to learn if you require a permit to convert your attic. A permit is typically only required if you’re adding ventilation or electrical wiring or if you are planning on changing your home’s structure in the process like adding a dormer or knocking down a wall.

  1. Make Sure you Budget for It

List all the items you’ll need and how much they cost, including:

Plumbing materials

Give yourself a 10% leeway on your budget and make sure you don’t spend more than the amount set.

  1. Call in a Professional for a Structural Analysis

While the floor of your attic might be strong enough for storing Christmas decorations, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be strong enough for supporting the weight of people and furniture. Don’t just assume you can add flooring, walls and drywall and refer to it as an attic expansion. First hire a professional to come in and conduct a structural analysis. The professional will detail any roof and floor structural modifications needed and give you suggestions for placement of any bump outs.

  1. Install an Attic Fan

Since heat rises and your attic is the highest area in your home, it is typically the hottest area in your home as well, potentially reaching 100+ degrees even on a moderately warm, 80-degree day. This means potential damage to essential house components often stored in the attic space. Installing an attic fan can make a huge difference in your energy bill and in the lifespan of essential components like:

Electrical wiring

This is why more homes today are being constructed with built-in whole house fan systems. According to, ventilation is the most energy-efficient and least expensive way of cooling buildings.

Attic fans today use very little energy and are integrated with the roof shingles. Because your attic works like a “buffer zone” between the outside world and your home’s interior, it’s important you regulate this zone’s temperature to keep a consistent temperature in your living area.

Finishing your attic can be exciting, depending on what you’re doing with it. But, you must go about it properly to avoid any future problems.