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How do I Finish an Attic?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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If you plan to finish an attic, the first step is to make sure that the climate of the attic is habitable, which may require installing insulation and outfitting the space with proper ventilation. If an attic is already insulated and properly ventilated, then the finishing process may be mostly cosmetic. Another important consideration for anyone who wants to finish an attic is how the attic is accessed. Some attics, while quite spacious, can only be accessed by a collapsible staircase that drops down out of the ceiling. In these cases, the process of finishing an attic may require the moderately complicated task of replacing the collapsible staircase with a stationary staircase, especially if the room is going to be used on a daily basis as a bedroom or home office.

Many attics have unfinished walls and ceilings. The beams may be exposed and, in some cases, the insulation may be exposed as well. In order to properly finish an attic, one must finish the walls and the ceiling. The most common materials that are used in this process are plywood and drywall. Once the walls have been installed, they can be painted or covered in wall paper.

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Attics, even those that are rather roughly hewn, often have sufficient floors. There are some, however, that are outfitted only with beams and insulation in the area where the floor should be. In these cases, it will be necessary to install a sturdy floor. Many people choose wood for this purpose, but there are many wood options. If the wood is meant to be left bare, then it is best to choose a nice quality of lumber that will take a finish well. If the floor will be carpeted, then the visual quality of the wood is less important.

One of the last steps is to choose lighting. This is usually a necessary step as unfinished attics are normally outfitted with only a hanging bare lightbulb or two. Those who want to finish an attic and add multiple light fixtures to the room, or to move the location of light fixtures, should consult with an electrician before installing the walls. For more complicated lighting installations, such as recessed lighting, it may be necessary to have professionals install the lighting as well as the walls or ceiling in which the fixtures will be installed. Finally, to finish an attic, outfit it with furniture and a few items such as art and rugs to tie the whole thing together.

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