Loft Utilisation

converting your attic with stira

Benefits of

Quality stairs gives peace of mind

The key to making any loft storage space work effectively is your access. You will most likely be carrying items in your hands when entering or exiting this space, so it is essential to have a safe and sturdy access ladder system in place. It’s worth investing in a quality timber loft ladder system that is safe and strong under foot as well as being easy to use, and best to avoid the cheap, low quality systems. Once you start utilising the space more, you will appreciate investing in a quality loft ladder that doesn’t flex, and guarantees your safety.

Benefits of storage

Having access to your attic comes with many benefits as it allows you to access a huge amount of unused and wasted space with lots of potential. 

FAST

Installation is fast and unobtrusive. A stira can be installed in 90 minutes while you can have a fully floored and accessible attic space in a matter of days.

COST EFFECTIVE

For less than €2000 you can convert the attic into an easily accessible space by installing a folding ladder and some flooring.

STORAGE SPACE

Outside of the attic there are very few other places to store our belongings there is limited space in rooms and having to much in our closets can easily lead to clutter throughout the home.

CLEANER HOME

With the extra room around the house and easy access to the attic when you need something the overall house will look a lot cleaner with the reclaimed space.

Upgrade your space

Lighting

Lights. There are two ways of doing this, installing a plug in the attic or using battery LED lights. LED lights can be installed by anyone and work straight away. However, as you start to use the space more you may see the value of getting an electrician to install additional lighting and power sockets.

Shelving

This is the next stage in creating your modern storage space. It turns your bare bones space into an organised storage room. It will make everything look tidier and prevent any crushing from stacking boxes.

utilising your attic as a Bedroom?

Converting the attic space into a spare room is an often-touted home upgrade that is supposed to add value to a home. If you’re planning on selling your home, then maybe it’s worth investing €15,000 in an upgrade if it will create a return on that investment. But if you’re not planning on selling, do you really need that extra room and the hassles that come with it?

Expensive

Prices can start as low as €12,000 and go up as much as your willing to spend. Attic conversions can seem simple on the face of it but because attics are unusually shaped rooms you will find that some simple tasks become a real headache.

intrusive

Converting the attic is a big expense and can be a lot of intrusive work, there are planning issues to deal with, floors may need to be reinforced, extra insulation may need to be installed.

maintenance

If there won’t be someone living in the room full time it will be left vacant until guests come over, in dryer parts of the world that may not be an issue, but in colder climates a room that doesn’t have someone living in it full time may start to suffer from mould and you will have to maintain that room even when it’s not being used.

Attic queries

The attic is a fantastic storage space, but it can be all too easy to forget you’re in a room with a big hole in the ground, you might see old photos of friends not seen in years, school books and little clothes of now grown children, the shoes you wore on that holiday, your mothers old collection of.. now, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, don’t get distracted while in the attic. It’s not just about the safety of the person in the attic either, but also the safety of people down below, pushing boxes around could push something into the hole falling on whoever is below.

Photos left for a long time are going to be at the mercy of the elements. Light, heat, moisture and critters can all damage a photo. Unfortunately using the wrong storage container can also damage photos as acids and other chemicals used in the manufacturing process could react badly with the photos. Generally containers made specifically to avoid these problems can be expensive, but there is an Irish company supplying archival boxes that are Lignin free and have a neutral PH. These kind of containers are ideal for the storage of not only photographs but any important paper document as they won’t react with the contents and slow the decay process.

Place the box in the darkest part of the attic away from any windows, sunlight will bleach the colours out of photos and just about anything else given enough time (even photos hanging on your wall). So avoid transparent boxes as they do nothing to stop the light getting at the photos. Even if the photos are in a good opaque container the heat generated by the sun hitting the box could damage the photos within causing curling or inks to become tacky.

NB: Many professionals will tell you that the attic isn’t the ideal place to store photos due to temperature variations and the fact that many attics are outside of the insulation bubble of the house. Many of those people live in America where they get hot summers and cold winters. This article isn’t about the right or wrong of storing photos in your attic. This article is for people who have already decided to store photos in the attic and how to protect those photos from the environment of the attic space.

The next way to reduce the risks in attics is to install a railing around the opening. This at the very least highlights the position of the attic hatch, a proper railing will allow people to hold onto it in the attic and stop them walking into the hole. It will also prevent larger items from falling into the hole if it has additional railing halfway down.

Most manufacturers of loft ladders/attic stairs provide an optional railing that can be purchased when buying the loft ladder. The advantage of these railings is that they are often very close to the size of the frame size of the loft ladder they came with, this means you won’t lose any additional attic floor space. The disadvantage can depend on the manufacturer, the railings can seem somewhat expensive, or sometimes a bit flimsy. At the very least check that the railings have an additional railing half way down. The higher the bar is the easier it would be to have a foot get in under it and slip into the hole.

There are also grabrails that attach to the floor of the attic but are solely intended to be used as a handrail to aid using the ladder. They do not surround the opening. However sometimes a full railing isn’t an option, the structure of an attic and its utilitarian uses means compromises have to be made. When using these types of grabrails some extra caution needs to be practiced and I will talk about keeping cleared walkways and landing areas as a safety measure later.

The final option is a custom-made railing. If you are making the railing yourself it can be an economical option and provide the best railing for your attic. The one thing to ensure is that any posts that will be pulled on as a handrail or could be leaned on should be fixed to the joists, not just to the chipboard floor. The chipboard floor will not provide a solid fixture for a railing and it’s likely that screws could rip through the relatively weak chipboard.

Attic shelving will not only make your attic space easier to use but also safer to use. Without some sort of organisation a pile is created at the far end of the attic and it grows until it reaches the trapdoor. The stuff is left in the middle of the attic space, the area under eaves is underutilised because it’s hard to access.

The good thing about attic storage is it doesn’t need to look pretty, it just needs to be practical. Although an organised attic is going to look aesthetically pleasing compared to a messy one.

We will start with storage and shelving products on the market that are specifically for attic spaces or suited for attic spaces, but later we will talk about DIY options. The shape of the attic space rules out a lot of standard shelving that’s available in any store. To properly utilise the attic space we need something that fits into the eaves.

Boxes
The most basic step to take is to buy some plastic boxes and containers. Go for plastic over cardboard, they’re going to be more expensive but they will last longer and protect whatever goes into them from dampness and other weathering effects they might suffer in the attic. Plastic boxes are also stackable for easy organisation.

There is only major thing you need to look out for when buying boxes, make sure they fit in the space between your rafters. Most modern roof rafters are spaced every 22 or 24 inches (55cm or 60cm) so make sure any box you buy has a width or length dimension smaller than this so you can push the box right into the eaves out of the way. Note: Same rafters have narrower gaps like 18”, so make sure to measure the distance between your rafters before buying anything.

Why shelving?
Now that you’ve got your boxes you may run into the first problem trying to utilise that space under the eaves. No floor! If there is no floor and you see just the insulation you can’t leave a box on it, it could fall through to the room below. Even people who have got they’re attic floored when fitting their loft ladder may have only got the useable space in the middle floored so it could be walked on. It makes sense to do this, there isn’t a huge advantage to use expensive flooring in an area you can’t walk on. But we don’t need to use expensive flooring in this area, we just need to support a box.

Vacuum storage Bags help preserve clothing and other vulnerable items from any damp and cold in the attic space and also compress the items so they take up less space.

Vacuum bags are water and air tight so clothes, blankets and pillow cases will be as fresh as they were when they were packed into the bags. When visitors call round to stay the items can simply be taken out of the attic without the need to re-wash them due to a worry of a mouldy smell.

Vacuum bags also allow a better use of the space available in the attic, as the air is sucked out of the bag anything put into the bag is squashed down, sometimes up to 70% of their original size.

This can be the difficult part and will require some organisation, we have another article on ways to organise your attic and get neater ways to store what’s in the attic that you can find here. It is vitally important that the landing space (where you step off the ladder into the attic) is kept clear, you can’t enter or exit the attic safely without this area being clear. It would also be a good idea to generally keep the area around the opening clear. This means not leaving boxes and items next to the opening (even at the side of the opening) as moving items in the attic, could push those items into the opening.

If possible, you should keep the centre of the attic free to allow you to move up and down the attic space. Try to get as much stuff off to the side under the slanting roof as possible. This can be awkward because of the sloping roof so ideally a sliding shelf system should be used to utilise the space efficiently. 

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Take the step into the attic.