Before + After: Attic Renovation

When we first bought our house, it was listed on the MLS as a 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath, which in theory sounds like a great starter home. “Room for us, office, guests – perfect!” we thought. Cut to reality, this actually meant 3 tiny bedrooms, a poorly finished attic space, 1 small main bathroom and a creepy half bath in the basement. Add in the hasty (but best) decision to open the wall between two bedrooms to make for 1 master suite, the fact that the attic wasn’t livable due to the terrible insulation, and reserving our basement “pedestal” toilet only for desperate brave souls during parties, we were really dealing with a 2 bed, 1 bath home.

We knew that for both our sanity and resale, we would need to renovate the attic properly. Cue to some impromptu weekend demo (how it always happens), and we were off.

Here are some before photos to set the scene :


Sorry for the terrible photo pulled from the MLS before we bought the house. Notice the wavy plaster, shag carpet. It didn’t seem that bad until we were actually freezing up there in the winter and unable to breathe in summer!5491379J


A dark photo of the space looking toward the back of the house

Attic Before - Mid DemoThis shot is looking toward the front of the house – the boys got a little demo happy very quickly!

Project Priorities:
Add second heating/cooling zone
Raise ceiling height
Add recessed and accent lighting

This attic needed some lovin’ and I think the most exciting part was the thought of adding value with an additional full bath upstairs. See that nook on the right? That’s where we were able to squeeze in a little 3-piece bathroom.


We debated adding a wall to define a true bedroom upstairs, but decided agains it for a couple reasons. First, we wanted to maintain as much natural light as possible. Adding walls would mean making the space much darker. Second, we didn’t have exact plans for how we would use the space (guest room? master? play room? office?), so we figured keeping it open left us with the most options.

It only took a little Monster to get the demo-party started.


I (gladly) got out of the way for most of that.

Demo Instagram

My handy-man extraordinaire, Vito would like to add some technical insight to this post:

Deciding how to insulate the space was a bit tricky.  At first, we were hoping to simply raise the collar ties to get the extra ceiling height and save what we could of the existing plaster. We hoped to then use spray foam from the top and from the knee wall and fill in behind the plaster. Quickly, that was no longer an option when spray foam quotes ranged from $6,000 to over $13,000!  Because the plaster was wavy and would need tons of patching anyway, we decided to bite the bullet and demo it all.  Removing all the plaster allowed us to install baffle vents so the roofing could breathe properly, and install fiberglass batt insulation. But we were concerned about the massive heat gain from the roof because fiberglass has a much lower R-value than spray foam. Being that our rafters are only 2×6’s we could only get about an R-13 batt to fit, but using a Manual J Heating and Cooling Load Calc showed that the second zone of heating and cooling would produce enough to keep it comfortable. By insulating the attic ourselves for under $700 in material, we were able put the rest of the savings toward hiring a drywall crew – what a relief. Two guys had put up over 60 boards of sheetrock in under 7 hours, including odd sizing and angles galore! After a couple more days for taping, mudding, and sanding, it was on to primer and paint.


Uhhh, thank goodness for Home Depot delivery service.


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This was such a great moment, when we finally had walls!IMG_20141119_134843

Aside from hanging drywall, taping + mudding, and carpet, Vito and Bob handled this whole job on their own. #impressive. They were also able to raise the center of the ceiling by about a foot, which made a huge difference in the overall feel.

Once we had walls, it was on to paint, carpet, a new railing and final touches. Honestly, all of this furniture are things we already had since there wasn’t a budget for pretty new stuff. It’ll do for now! I’ll spare you any more word vomit and get onto the after photos:


In a perfect world, that carpeting would be hardwood. But I will say, the carpet is great under foot and helps big time with the sound. Also, Vito did an amazing job building the new railing.


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I love these little sconces in the dormer. They only ended up costing $15 each! Post on that coming soon.


The bamboo shades were a steal at around $3 each (discontinued because of the cords). We did, however, need to cut them to the correct width and length.


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I’ll leave you with a little teaser of the bathroom – I’ll save those after photos for the next post! It will be worth it, the bathroom is my favorite part! I love the black tub so much.


This whole setup will probably be 100% different once I move my office up here, but that how it goes around here. Poor Vito, he deals with my mind shifts every damn day 🙂

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