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What is an Attic?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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An attic is the indoor space under the roof at the top of a house. There are two types: finished and unfinished. Unfinished attics are often used for storage spaces, while finished attics are livable spaces such as a master bedroom.

An unfinished attic that is considered possible to be made into living space is called an expansion attic. This expands the square footage of livable space in a home and is often very desirable to home owners. However, the conversion can be costly as air and heat vents are needed as well as proper flooring. The ceiling height must also be considered, and in many cases, the roof must be raised which is a major renovation. Walls and windows are also needed additions in most attic conversions.

A finished attic can provide great extra space if the renovations are worth the cost. For example, the space can be transformed into a special master bedroom retreat. If possible, a bathroom is a nice addition to a bedroom in a finished attic. However, if not used as livable space, it can make a good storage area for seldom used or seasonal items. Cupboards, drawers or other built-in storage can be installed under a slanted roof or elsewhere.

Problems occur in attics when heat or moisture accumulates. Air rises to the top, so if the heat and moisture in the air can't escape through proper air and heat vents, it can build up and cause damage to the insulation. An attic that is properly ventilated and properly insulated will work more efficiently to keep the home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

In unfinished and unheated attics, it's often considered best to place the insulation on the floor. No matter whether the space is finished or unfinished, however, the insulation has to be thick enough to do a good job. Before insulation is installed, most experts recommend that any air leaks from the attic to the rest of the home be sealed since insulation does not adequately prevent airflow.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Telsyst — On Mar 17, 2014

@Glasis - You're right, most people can make a basic bedroom work in an attic without changing the roof line.

However, there are a few things to consider when turning attic space into living space.

First of all, running plumbing to the area for a master suite, for example, is next to impossible unless you are ready to spend major money and have the walls in other parts of your home torn out and redone to run pipes.

Also, although it's a minor thing in comparison to installing plumbing and heating in an attic, transforming an attic means eliminating a good amount of storage space in your home.

By Glasis — On Mar 16, 2014

If you have a normal sized attic space and plan to renovate it into a bedroom, you probably won't need to make any adjustments to the roof.

In most cases, attics have dormers. Although these limit the height of furniture that can be placed under them, the room itself is usually large enough to accommodate taller furniture in places where the ceiling is higher.

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