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Attic Remodels 101: Pulling off an Attic Conversion Project

August 28, 2018 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Attic Remodels 101: Pulling off an Attic Conversion Project

You may need more living space in your home, perhaps for a guest bedroom or your expanding family, or as home office space—something increasingly needed in today’s telecommuting society. Your first thought might be to build an addition, but then sticker shock may cause you to shelve that idea.

For some people, basement remodels are ideal, but perhaps you’re already using your basement for another purpose and still need more space, or maybe moisture in your basement makes this option less than ideal.

Fortunately, another attractive option exists: attic conversions. Benefits of transforming an attic include:

• The space already exists in your home, making this choice cost- and time-effective.

• You don’t need to pour a foundation, again making this more cost/time-effective.

• Wiring is likely to already be in place and can be modified.

• The shape of your attic is likely to be quirky, giving you the opportunity to create a unique yet functional room for your home.

This allows you to use your entire home, rather than wasting potential living space.

Here are tips on how to finish an attic, plus associated costs.

Should You Convert Your Attic Space?

Before you fully commit to your attic remodel, it’s crucial to make sure yours has the potential to become a usable living space. Better Homes and Gardens provides litmus tests that will help you to determine if yours is viable for expansion.

First, see if your roof is being supported by W-shaped trusses in your attic. If so, it’s likely that building an addition is a better choice. If your attic contains A-shaped rafters, though, that’s a plus. If there is enough open space beneath the rafters, then potential exists for this remodel. Other considerations listed in the BHG article include:

• Checking out your local building codes to make sure your remodel will fit; As just one example, a typical requirement is that the space must be “at least 7-1/2 feet high over 50% of the floor area.”

• Determining how you’ll get to the space; Will you need to add a staircase or expand the current one? Stairs that go straight up will need more floor space than, say, spiral staircases.

• Whether you’ll need to add windows; If you’re creating an additional bedroom, codes may require them in case of fire.

You’ll need to consider how much flooring needs to be reinforced, along with any electrical or plumbing issues. If you ultimately decide your attic has what’s needed for a successful remodeling project, then it’s time to think both practically and creatively to create what may well become the most interesting and attractive room in your house. Want to know how much value your attic renovation will bring? Use SoFi’s Home Project Value Estimator.

How to Finish an Attic

First, before you begin, check with your city so you are crystal clear about building codes, about what you’re able to do, and what you need to avoid. The quickest way to add significant costs to your remodel is to need to switch what you’re doing, mid-stream, because of a code violation.

Then, enjoy brainstorming, envisioning what your dream remodel would look like. There are plenty of resources online that share successful remodels of an attic to offer up inspiration, including:

10 Attic Remodels You Have to See by The Spruce .

Before-And-After Attic Remodels by HGTV .

7 Awesome Attic Renovation Ideas by Curbed .

Also have fun exploring Pinterest for even more ideas.

Getting Started on Your New Attic Space

Once you can envision your ideal remodel, prioritize what’s most important. Maybe, for example, it’s crucial that the attic is fully plumbed, because you want this space to serve as a guest retreat, where your guests can sleep and shower without needed to leave the room. To make that happen, perhaps you’d be willing to give up your specialty flooring ideas if costs dictated.

Or if you want to transform your attic into a rec room, having plenty of comfortable seating and appropriate wiring will likely be near the top of your list. If this is what you have in mind, you may be willing to skip adding a shower, and only need to add a toilet and sink.

After you’ve prioritized, consult with a remodeling professional (unless you’re already an experienced builder). Ask friends, family members, and building associations for recommendations, and then invite at least three contractors to see your attic and discuss possibilities and costs.

When you contact contractors, ask them for their credentials. What licenses do they have? And do they, for example, belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and/or the National Association of Home Builders? What references can they provide?

The quality of your remodel will depend, in large part, on choosing the right contractor(s) for your project, so don’t rush through this stage. And if something doesn’t feel right with the contractor you’re interviewing, investigate further and/or make another choice.

It’s not necessarily a bad sign if a busy contractor doesn’t get back to you immediately. This may simply indicate that he or she is in demand. Conversely, it’s not always a good sign that a contractor can start immediately, as quality ones are often booked for a couple of months in advance.

Compare bids and, tempting as it may be, don’t automatically choose the lowest one. Yes, it would be nice to save money, but if the quality isn’t what you need, you haven’t really saved anything. Often, the bid in the middle is a good choice, although each situation really is unique. Make sure the contact describes what will be provided, and on what timeframe.

Having one contractor manage the entire remodel is convenient. He or she may very well subcontract work, but you’ll have one point of contact. Having said that, if you’re willing to put in the time to find multiple experts (a specialty in flooring, for example, and another in wiring and so forth), coordinate schedules and payments, and ensure no steps are missing, it’s possible you could save some money. Just don’t undervalue your own time.

Estimating Attic Renovation Costs

If you hire individual contactors for each aspect of your attic remodel, then it’s easy to see what each portion of the remodel is costing you. If you hire a contractor to manage the entire project, then you likely won’t receive that amount of detail. If you’d like to research the cost to finish attic renovations ahead of time, or if you want to double check whether you’re being quoted a fair amount, there is information online that can help.

HomeAdvisor.com , for example, shares how new walls and ceilings effectively transform an unfinished attic into a space that’s comfortable and livable. The site also offers guidance on average prices for remodeling tasks. Although prices vary by where you live, they state that attic walls, on the average, cost $1,886 to install, with ceilings costing $1,559. Will you paint? Add wallpaper? Do you need trim and crown molding?

Flooring is another important consideration, and it’s important to think about what’s located directly below the attic space. Do you need soundproofing? If a bedroom is located below the attic space, you will likely want some sound control; insulation provides that to some degree, along with its main purpose of climate control, and carpeting (averaging $1,490) adds even more sound control.

You may or may not need additional heating and cooling in your attic, with a window air conditioner averaging $295 and baseboard heaters averaging $150 to $200. Electricians charge $50 to $100 per hour, with plumbing costs averaging $1,058. If your attic is difficult to access during the renovation period, contractors may charge more than if access is convenient. To get an idea of how much your attic renovation will cost use our Home Improvement Cost Calculator.

How to Pay for an Attic Conversion

If you are looking for help with some or even all the cost, a home improvement loan can be a smart way to finance virtually any home project. These are essentially just a personal loan used to pay for renovations, additions, updates – anything used towards your home or property.

Once you know how much your renovation will cost, determine how much of the total amount you want to borrow and how much you’ll pay out of pocket.

SoFi offers personal loans for home improvement with a fast approval process, so you can get started sooner than later. Because of SoFi’s low rates and flexible terms, it can be better choice than paying for your remodel with high-interest credit cards. And because this is an unsecured loan, you aren’t using your home as collateral, like you would be with a home equity line of credit.

Ready to start renovating your attic? Learn more about how SoFi personal loans can help.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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