The longer you live in your house, the more obvious it may become that you need more living space — perhaps for a guest bedroom when your family expands or as a home office where you can work remotely in a telecommuting society. Your first thought might be to build an addition, but the sticker shock may cause you to shelve that idea and instead consider an attic conversion.
Fortunately, an attic conversion is an idea that may be more economical than a complete home addition. Read on for a full breakdown of the cost to finish an attic.
Should You Convert Your Attic Space?
There are many benefits of converting an attic into usable space, including:
• The space already exists in your home, making this choice both cost- and time-effective.
• You don’t need to pour a foundation, again making it a more viable and economical option.
• Wiring is likely already in place and can be modified to suit your needs.
An attic conversion also allows you to use the entire envelope of your home, rather than wasting potential living space.
Before you fully commit to your attic remodel, though, it’s crucial to make sure your attic has the potential to become a usable living space. Better Homes & Gardens provides a litmus test to determine whether your attic is worth remodeling .
Recommended: Renovation vs. Remodel
Tips on Converting an Attic, Plus Associated Costs
One of the first things you might do before converting your attic is to 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’s enough open space beneath the rafters, then you can potentially convert your attic into usable space.
Other considerations that Better Homes & Gardens recommend include to:
• Check your local building codes to make sure your remodel will fit. As just one example, a typical requirement is that the attic space must be at least 7.5 feet high and over 50 percent of the floor area. The thickness of the material will also factor into the final headroom and ceiling height. The quickest way to add significant costs to your attic remodel is to be forced to change course mid-project because of a code violation (though this is an example of personal loan use that could come in handy).
• Determine how you’ll get into 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. Or perhaps your only option is a pull-down access point; this will limit what furniture and materials you can fit into your attic conversion and how utilitarian the new living space might be.
• Consider whether you’ll need to add windows. If you’re creating an additional bedroom, codes may require an egress window in case of fires. But even if they aren’t required, you might consider adding windows or punching skylights that open to brighten the space with natural light.
• Decide how much flooring needs to be reinforced, along with any electrical or plumbing issues. If you ultimately decide that your attic has what’s needed for a successful conversion, it’s time to think both practically and creatively to shape what may well become the most interesting — and potentially challenging — room in your house.
• Prioritize what’s most important to you. Maybe it’s crucial that the attic is fully plumbed for a bathroom because you want this space to serve as a guest suite. To make that happen, perhaps you’d be willing to give up your specialty flooring idea if your budget doesn’t accommodate both or if it could make it harder to get your personal loan approved for the project.
• Consult with a professional unless you’re already an experienced builder. Ask friends, family members, and building associations for recommendations and referrals, then request quotes from at least three contractors to understand both possibilities and associated costs. When you contact contractors, ask them for credentials. Compare bids and, tempting as it may be, don’t automatically choose the lowest one. Make sure the contractor describes what will be provided as well as the estimated time frame.
Want to know how much value your attic conversion will bring to the table? Check out SoFi’s Home Project Value Estimator.
Recommended: How to Find a Contractor for Home Renovations & Remodeling
How Much Does It Cost to Finish an Attic per Square Foot?
On average, you can expect to pay between $4,600 to $16,000 — or $30 to $60 per square foot — to refinish your attic. Most high-end attic conversions can cost as much as $200 per square foot.
Overall, costs vary depending on the overall square footage and the materials you use.
How Much Does It Cost to Finish an Attic per Task?
If you hire individual contractors for each aspect of your attic remodel, then it’s easy to see what each portion of the remodel is costing you. However, if you hire a contractor to manage the entire project, you likely won’t receive the project broken down into great detail.
Here are some estimates you might expect to pay for various components of your attic renovation:
Cost of Walls and Ceilings
New walls and ceilings can effectively transform an unfinished attic into a space that’s both comfortable and livable. Although prices vary by where you live, attic drywall can cost an average of $1,000 to $2,600 to install, with ceilings costing $120 to $25,000.
Other aspects to consider: Will you paint the walls and ceilings? Add wallpaper? Do you need trim and crown molding? All of these features will be additional costs and can quickly cause your project budget to skyrocket.
Cost of Flooring
Flooring is another important consideration, so first think about what’s located directly below the attic space. Do you need soundproofing? If a bedroom is located below the attic space, you’ll likely want some sound control. Insulation provides that to some degree, and carpeting adds even more dampening.
The cost of attic flooring will depend on the current state of the attic and what materials you choose. Replacing floor joists to beef up the strength will cost anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000, while installing subfloor will run between $500 and $800. Installing the flooring itself averages between $200 and $6,400, depending on material and square footage.
Cost of Windows and Skylights
If there currently are no windows in your attic, you may want to add an egress window, which will run you between around $2,500 and $5,300, as a safety precaution. You also might want windows or skylights to brighten the space with natural light. Expect to pay an average of $200 to $10,000 to install an attic window, and $1,000 to $2,400 to add a skylight.
Cost of Heating and Cooling
Your attic conversion might require additional heating and cooling. The price to install an attic fan is around $400 to $900, and a window air conditioner averages $298. A skillful contractor could also potentially tie in your current climate control system.
For heat, baseboard heaters run $780 on average. Electricians charge $75 to $200 per hour in labor, and installing duct plumbing might cost you between $454 and $2,051 on average.
If your attic is difficult to access during the renovation period, contractors may tack on a surcharge. To get an idea of how much your attic renovation will cost, use our Home Improvement Cost Calculator.
How Much Does It Cost to Finish an Attic Yourself?
It’s generally cheaper to go the DIY route than to hire a professional — though you will need some know-how. If you’re making minor improvements to your attic space, you may be looking at an attic remodel cost as low as $300. However, if you’re looking to make a total transformation, your costs for materials could run as high as $50,000.
Though you’ll certainly save on labor costs, make sure to take into account the time involved if you decide to do it yourself as opposed to bringing in a professional.
How Much Does It Cost to Finish an Attic by Type?
How much it costs to finish an attic will also vary depending on the type of attic space you’re creating. Here’s a look at how much an attic remodel costs by attic type.
Cost of Finishing a Walk-Up Attic
The cost of finishing a walk-up attic generally ranges anywhere from $8,100 and $26,000. Large portions of the costs are typically adding a staircase and installing flooring.
Finishing an Attic as a Storage Space
If you’re finishing an attic to serve as a storage space, your costs are generally a little lower as there isn’t as much polishing involved. Generally, the attic remodel cost for a storage space runs from $4,600 for a simpler setup to $18,900 if the space is larger and you opt for more elaborate storage systems.
Cost to Finish an Attic With a Dormer
Installing a dormer — a window that juts out vertically on a sloped roof — can add in some ceiling height and natural sunlight into an attic. However, it will set you back. On average, the cost to add in a dormer ranges anywhere from $2,500-$20,000, plus the additional costs of other attic remodeling work.
Cost to Finish an Attic Above a Garage
The cost to finish an attic above a garage can vary widely depending on what’s involved, such as the installation of heating, insulation, or ventilation. You can typically expect to pay anywhere from $4,600 up to $24,000.
What Factors Influence the Cost of Finishing an Attic?
As you may have guessed from the wide-ranging estimates above, the cost of finishing an attic can vary a lot depending on what’s involved and what materials you use. Here are some major factors that can affect how much it costs to finish an attic:
• Square footage: How large your attic is will play a big role in the total costs involved in remodeling. The bigger an attic is, the more materials required and the more time it will take to finish it, which translates to additional labor costs.
• Need for structural changes: You’ll also pay extra if your attic is an odd shape or difficult to access. These challenges could call for structural updates, such as the addition of height, the expansion of space, or the creation of a staircase.
• Intended use: Your planned purpose for your attic will also influence cost. If you just want to add in some additional storage space, you’ll pay a lot less than if you plan to install a full suite complete with a bedroom, bathroom, and closet.
• Extra features desired: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more features you want in your newly remodeled attic, the more it will cost you. Big-ticket items include windows, electricity, plumbing, and heating and cooling.
Of course, another factor that influences your cost is whether you need to get financing for the project and, if so, what terms you’re able to secure. Keep in mind that you can always use our personal loan calculator to see how your current loan stacks up.
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An attic conversion can be one way to create a unique room through adding more usable space to your home. It’s also a more economical home renovation project than an addition to your house. There are a lot of technical aspects to consider, and before getting started, it’s best to check with your local codes office so you know any building or permit requirements upfront, then come up with a project wishlist before soliciting bids from at least three contractors.
Figuring out how to finance your attic conversion is the last step of the project before getting started. If you’re looking for help with some or even the whole cost of your attic conversion, a home improvement loan is one way to finance virtually any home project. These are essentially one of the types of personal loans used to pay for renovations, additions, or updates to your home or property.
SoFi offers personal loans online 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 a 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 with a home equity line of credit.
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