By Stefanie Zinchiak M. Ed 01-13-2022
Why Attics Get a Bad Rep
Attics get a bad rep. Hot, unfinished, dark spaces, often hard to access, filled with insulation, ductwork, and old family heirlooms make attics an undesirable space. And scary movies like The Grudge certainly don’t make attics any more appealing. What a shame. Perhaps if more people understood the potential that is just waiting to be unveiled, we’d have a very different viewpoint on these underserved spaces.
Of course, attics come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which may make renovations a bit more challenging – but all the more rewarding as well. Some are accessed using a standard staircase, while others have pull down ladders (or no ladders at all!). Some attics have furnaces, ductwork and HVAC equipment. And some attics come partially finished with flooring, while others require you to step from beam to beam or plunge to your demise through sheetrock – yikes! Nonetheless, there are limitless possibilities to renovate your attic; you just need a little imagination and inspiration.
The Objective at Hand
Most homeowners associate attics with storage space, yet an unfinished attic and improper ventilation can wreak havoc on those precious heirlooms, childhood memories and holiday decorations. And, it’s a dreaded task for most homeowners to drag themselves into the cluttered, dark attic space to search through an unending array of boxes only to find their most precious memories deteriorating from harsh conditions. So when it comes to attic renovations for optimal storage there are two objectives: (1) An aesthetically pleasing, clutter-free space that maximizes every nook and cranny and, (2) a properly ventilated space that will help ensure those long loved treasures (and your home!) stay in proper condition.
Laying the Groundwork
Sure, you’re eager to scroll down to the inspirational images (we don’t blame you!), but to achieve your ideal storage haven, it’s imperative we address the harsh reality about your attic: it may be lacking proper ventilation. And whether or not you care about salvaging the castaways you store in the attic, ventilation plays an even larger role in the functionality and longevity of your roof system- and everyone cares about the roof over their head.
So what is attic ventilation, exactly?
Roof ventilation is about finding the proper balance of intake air vents and an exhaust system. The intake vents at the bottom of the roof allow external, cooler air in while pushing out the superheated air from the exhaust vents at the top of the roof. Notice in the diagrams, the blue arrows representing different locations for intake vents and the red arrows indicating the various exhaust vents that allow for heat and moisture to escape at the top. And while this is the general concept, it’s wise to learn more about attic ventilation.
Why do I need attic ventilation?
When you shower, cook, or even just breathe you generate moisture within your home, and that moisture can find its way up to your attic. Moisture generated by both your daily routines as well as elements from the weather (i.e. humidity; rain), will accumulate in the attic if there isn’t proper ventilation. This can cause a series of problems, including mold and mildew, not only in your attic but also in the interior of the home and eventually the heart-wrenching deterioration of your stored items -and even health issues. In addition, poor attic ventilation can cause an increased air conditioning bill during the warmer months due to your HVAC having to work harder, while also causing a higher heating bill in the cooler months, because of deteriorated insulation. Moreover, improper or nonexistent attic ventilation can cause costly roofing and structural problems. . With so many reasons why proper ventilation matters, it’s important to check on yours.
If you’re looking to discuss attic ventilation in your home, you can reach out to a contractor certified by GAF*.
Creating an Aesthetically Pleasing, Clutter-Free Space
Once you have addressed any ventilation issues and the attic is properly ventilated, it’s time to get creative.
A first step is getting rid of unnecessary clutter. Becoming clutter free doesn’t necessarily mean throwing things away. After all, that’s why you’re looking to optimize your attic space, right? And while you’ll surely want to toss items that are damaged, deteriorating or no longer used, with the proper steps you can create an aesthetically pleasing, clutter-free space with simple solutions. Of course before we jump into those inspirational ideas we need to do a bit of housekeeping – literally.
Step 1. Remove everything from the attic. This will allow you to assess your belongings, discard what you no longer need and organize your remaining assets.
Step 2. Label everything – or at least the boxes. Once everything is organized and in its own boxes, put a label on the boxes that clearly spell out what’s inside: think ‘Christmas ornaments’, ‘Winter jackets’, ‘Billy’s toys’ and the list goes on. See ‘Organization Tip #1’ below for which boxes you’ll want to use (hint: not cardboard boxes).
Organization Tip #1:
For optimal organization, use either clear plastic bins with different color lids or different color storage bins that have labels (i.e. Red for Christmas; Orange for Halloween; Pink for Heirlooms; Blue for Winter Coats; Green for Crafts; and so on). Unlike organic cardboard boxes which can grow mold and mildew from moisture, plastic bins will help protect your belongings from the elements. And, if you choose clear bins you will be able to peruse the contents of each box at a glance.
Step 3. Assess the attic space. Now the fun and creative ideas can begin as you assess the space and create your ideal clutter free storage space. Begin with the flooring. If you only have beams filled with insulation in between, you’ll want to consider flooring. You’ll need about ¾” thickness of plywood to be nailed into the beams, covering the floors for adequate safety and storage purposes. Then look around your attic to determine the highest points of your attic and areas that are most accessible, which will help you outline your master plan. Overcoming those sloped walls and tricky corners is going to be your forte. See ‘Organization Tip #2’ below for ideas on how to create shelving and storage areas
Organization Tip #2:
Either purchase or create DIY custom shelving to fit in those awkward attic spaces. Get inspiration from the images below showing how one woman created her own very own shelving using OSB board (you can also use plywood) and 2x4s, or an example of store bought shelving that fits snugly along sloped attic walls.
Surely you’ve seen renovations that completely transform dingy attic spaces into gorgeous bedrooms or office spaces, but for most of us renovating our attics to achieve an optimal storage space that is a bit more aesthetically pleasing is a realistic and attainable aspiration we can get excited about.
This setup is created in more of a finished attic space, but you can see that with just a few creative pieces of white shelving, files, baskets and cabinetry the space was optimized with a clean look.
Who doesn’t love before and after photos? See how this savvy organizer transformed her unfinished attic into a holiday storage haven using metal shelves, wooden rods and clear storage bins.
If you have an attic with lots of trusses and rafters (those sloped beams that provide support for your roof), then here are 3 great options to utilize storage space between them.
- Option #1: A 2-tier shelving system that can be built with a few 2x4s and plywood.
- Option #2: Place wire shelving directly through the trusses and secure to the beams. It doesn’t get any easier than this and will keep your storage items off the insulation and floor beams.
- Option #3: Using metal brackets and shelving, you can maximize the space between the trusses while keeping your boxes off the insulation and beams.
- To utilize space alongside vertical beams, use vertical shelving tracks that allow you to hang shelves and rods to create a custom storage space.
- If you’re fortunate to have a wide-open space, then secure plywood along the beams for support and create wide shelves along the perimeter of your attic.
Once you’ve transformed your attic into a storage haven, you may decide to expand its capabilities to accommodate the more frequently used items in your life – without the dread and worry. And, you’ll feel great about the functionality of your home when you’ve assessed and addressed any ventilation issues. After all, it’s important to feel your best inside and out…so why shouldn’t your home reflect that as well.
And with GAF having earned the Women’s Choice Award as a 9 out of 10 customer recommended roofing product, you can feel more confident when your contractor uses GAF materials for your roofing and ventilation needs.
*Photo courtesy of Angi