Unused or disorganised attic storage space is opportunity knocking. If you need extra room, even the crawl-space under a trussed roof can be turned into a storage-boon with basic, low-cost preparation, potentially saving you thousands on expensive renovation or self-storage. Preparing the attic properly is crucial to optimising the space, and importantly, to ensuring your prized possessions are safe and protected. The cost need not run to anything like the expense of a full conversion though, which averages a staggering £20,000 to £30,000 in the UK. There are three key issues when re-claiming an attic as effective storage space: good organisation, adequate ventilation, and effective insulation.
De-cluttering the space is a top priority. Clear out the entire area and par down to the minimum, then take time to itemise what you want to keep. This makes carrying out ventilation and insulation upgrades easier, and gives and indication of what fittings need to be installed: a basic platform, simple [or elaborate] shelving, or even a floor. For larger items and bigger quantities of things to store, resist the urge to put down plywood directly on the joists. The underlying insulation can be damaged by restricted airflow. Raised platforms are a quick and inexpensive solution that will keep the insulation, and the ceiling below, in pristine condition. To maximise storage options, suspended shelves can be custom fitted to the rafters, which dramatically increases usable space as well as making it easier to find those Christmas decorations.
A rubbish removal service is worth considering for dealing with the inevitable stacks of unwanted junk that will pile up. Skip hire outfits are a dime a dozen, but it pays to be discerning and do some checking: one skip hire firm boss recently made huge profits from illegally dumping waste in vacant lots and protected areas.
A company called Anyjunk offers a good alternative to skip hire. They promote themselves as an “eco friendly dumping service” and have even won a number of environmental awards. If the cute and highly visible red trucks are anything to go by, Anyjunk is also one of the friendlier and more accessible disposal services in the UK.
Unless it is properly ventilated and insulated, an attic cannot be safely used for storage. Proper ventilation prevents mildew and other problems that cause damage to furniture, books and other items by preventing excessive heat and humidity from building up, and reducing condensation. Well-placed vents take advantage of natural air circulation, but mechanical fans that are triggered by heat and humidity sensors can also be installed at low cost.
Why should an attic be insulated if it is only used for storage? Large fluctuations in temperature are detrimental many materials: books and photographs degrade, wood dries out, and fabrics and upholstery fade when exposed to very hot or cold temperatures. Unconverted attic spaces tend to have insulation only between the ceiling joists of the room below. When using the attic for storage, insulation should be installed between the rafters. Faced batting in combination with baffles–to maintain good air circulation–can be quickly and easily installed with just a few basic tools.
The end result
Whatever the current state of your attic space, low-cost measures can optimise it for safe storage. One final note: once your attic is fitted and all of your photos and winter clothes are neatly organised and inventoried, don’t forget to make regular checks for any signs of leakage or unwelcome visitors, both of which are likely to cause damage.