Portland Attic Remodeling Ideas: All Budgets

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Updated 05/2024.

How Attic Renovations Can Benefit Any Budget

●       Place sheets of plywood or wide planks across the floor joists so that you can walk around your attic safely. It doesn’t have to be brand new. Check Portland Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for material left over from other peoples’ home improvement projects. Use screws to attach the wood to the floor joists.

●       Use the space to install basic shelving. Avoid storing heavy objects on attic joists unless they have been reinforced.

●       If you want to install HVAC but find it cost-prohibitive, try other heating strategies, such as a mini-split AC or baseboard heating.

●       Add wall and ceiling insulation. You will need a minimum of R-19, but the higher the R-value, the more energy efficiency improvement you’ll see. Be sure to use proper barriers around can lights, ducts, chimneys, and other heat sources, and check the requirements to ensure you maintain adequate ventilation.

●   Insulate the attic hatch. Seal it up tightly to prevent loss of heated and cooled air from the home into the attic.

Do you have the funds for a full conversion? The City of Portland has put together a handy guide on converting garages, basements, and attics to living spaces. (For more information on basements, check out our Portland real estate guide to turning your basement into a living space. Many of these tips also apply to garages!)

■   Existing stairways to the attic must meet width and clearance minimums, and new stairways must be built to an even more generous code.

■   If your attic does not have a window large enough to use as an emergency escape (also known as an egress window), you’ll need to put one in.

■   In addition to the attic space and ceiling height requirements mentioned before, there are additional requirements for bathrooms in attics.

■   If your attic upgrades include a bathroom, your life will be much easier if you can site it over an existing bathroom or kitchen (water/sewer lines).

■   If your attic doesn’t have them now, you’ll be required to add wall and ceiling insulation as part of the upgrade. From an energy efficiency point of view, you’ll save money in the long run. You will also score better in the Portland home energy assessment that’s required when listing your home. Check out this helpful article to learn more about the energy score process and requirements.

■   Attic joists may not be adequate to support a floor and a “live load” (as opposed to a few sheets of plywood and some storage boxes). Consult with a contractor to see if you need to reinforce floor joists before converting your attic.

■       If you are thinking about raising the roof of your home to increase your attic space, you’ll need to check the zoning requirements for maximum building height in your area.

Converting Your Attic into an ADU

If you want to convert their attics into an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), be aware that there are a number of rules to consider first. In addition to the above basics, legalities, and tips, there are also some hoops you may need to jump through to monetize your attic as a separate ADU.

We outline all of the updated information you need to know about ADUs in our new article. Portland’s Permit Page also provides a good jumping off point for an ADU build or remodel.

The first decision to make when considering an attic remodel is whether you will be using the ADU to generate income or simply provide housing for a family member. You will need to meet all permitting requirements regardless, but depending on your immediate or long-term plans, you will have to decide whether you are adding an official ADU or an additional room in your house before beginning the renovation.

Four Must-Do Attic Design Tips

            Make the attic soundproof. If your attic does not have flooring, this is a great opportunity to think about acoustics before you start adding any hardwood. Sound made there will reverberate though your home. Carpet is the best option, along with good floor insulation and a soundproof underlayment.

            Use dormers for storage. Short walls under a slanted roof do not offer much usable floor space, but they’re great for built-in shelves and drawers. If there’s a dormer window, a built-in window seat is a nice touch, with storage underneath.

            Use skylights for added light and more headspace. Not only do they bring in needed daylight, but skylights can also add precious feet to your headspace in key areas, such as over sinks, toilets, and entryways. Don’t skimp on added features like shades and a remote to open and close the skylight.

            Don’t forget about closets. Even if you’re not shooting for fourth-bedroom status, a closet is handy for supplies you don’t want to haul upstairs every time, like an extra vacuum cleaner.

But you probably already knew those were good places to check. Another excellent idea is to hire a local building and / or interior designer. You can easily find them (and examples of their work) on Houzz.

Do you have additional questions about current codes or the resale value of your attic remodel? Reach out to our top-ranked Portland real estate agents today. Our buyer’s and seller’s agents are experts on the Portland housing market and helping homeowners to maximize their home’s resale potential. Chat with the bot on this site, or give us a call at 503-714-1111 today!

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