How our walk-in attic turned into a walk-in closet


By ElleAbby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

Is your attic space dark and grungy, with ratty insulation hanging off the rafters? Does it send out blasts of icy air when the snow starts flying and, come July, get hotter than two coons fighting in a wool sock?

Well, ours did, but in just a few weeks we took the space from atrocious to spectacular, with two primary goals in mind:

  1. Turning it into conditioned space
  2. Making the tiny space as usable as possible

Our Cape Cod home has two walk-in attics, one at each side of the second floor.  At the end of last year, we tackled the larger of the two, mainly because we are eager to better control the temperature of the house, especially in the summer when the upstairs gets so hot you’d swear it was on fire. Plus, by renovating the attic during the winter (we actually spent New Year’s Eve up there), we could easily identify the (many) air gaps.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

This is the best “before” photo I have of the space, although it’s more like a “halfway done” photo.

We started by tearing up the floor and insulating both below and where the floor meets the roofline, remediating the lack of airflow. (Our roof is complicated, and we do have air chutes in the primary attic above this space so that the house can breathe.) This was painstaking work and honestly the hardest, dirtiest and most uncomfortable part of the job.

Once we were done with the floor, we were excited to work on the ceiling because at least then we could stand most of the time!

We installed a layer of pink foam board insulation, leaving an air gap behind it to create air flow, and R13 to the ceiling. As you can see below, we nailed 2×2 boards to the joists so that we could affix sheets of silver radiant insulation, which served to give the space an extra layer of insulation and a more finished look.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

Because we wanted to make the space as usable as possible, we installed a 2×4 across the length of the space, added some hooks and used 3/4″ electrical conduit and pipe fittings to create an industrial-style clothes rack.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

We finished the exterior side walls the same way we did the roof but left the interior wall (on the right, below) uninsulated because that wall backs up to a bathroom.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

We added a carpet remnant to the floor to give the space some “cozy,” and covered all the screw holes with silver insulation tape.

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design attic renovation

We love this new space. It’s crisp, clean and perfect for storing holiday decorations and off-season clothing. And, of course, the best part is that the attic is now cool in the summer and warm in the winter, so we did something right!

This coming winter our goal is to tackle the other side (I need a place to store my shoes).  I suspect that instead of toasting the New Year with a glass of champagne, we’ll again be waving around strips of R13. Woo hoo!

As always, if you have any questions about what we did, just leave it for us in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

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