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Attic Storage Ideas To Make The Most of Your Unfinished Space

Lauren Nowacki8-Minute Read
July 31, 2020

We’re always looking for new ways to reduce clutter in our home, but we often forget about storage solutions that we already have, like our attics.

An attic is a space just below the roof of your home. The room often gets a bad rap, typically portrayed as dusty, pest-infested or filled with spirits of owners past.

Your attic doesn’t have to be the setting of a spooky haunting. With these organization tips, this seldom-used space can solve your home storage problems for good.

Make Sure Your Attic Is A Hospitable Storage Space

Proper attic storage first starts with ensuring it’s the best environment for you and your possessions. Moisture, extreme temperatures and poor structural integrity can pose a risk to your valuables and your own safety. Before you make your attic your storage solution, you should assess the space from top to bottom. Here’s how.

Inspect The Roof

As the first room below the roof, the attic (and anything stored in it) may bear the brunt of leaks and other roof damage. To help keep the elements from infiltrating your attic and your belongings, inspect the roof and ceiling of the attic and look for the following:

  • Look for leaks by inspecting the ceiling and the underside of roof sheathing for water stains, rot, mildew or mold. If there are fixtures, like chimneys or vent pipes, that penetrate the roof, look for signs of water damage around them.
  • If your attic is the final destination for some of the vents in your home, be wary of storing anything near them – especially if those vents are from your bathroom. These vents can direct warm, moist air – like steam from your shower – into your attic.
  • Your roof is constantly battered with sunlight, high winds, hail and rain. Damage from the weather can cause problems for your attic if they aren’t taken care of. If it’s safe to do so, walk around your roof and look for things like broken or missing shingles, holes in the shingles, standing water, cracked flashing and damage to other roofing materials.
grey attic shingles

Examine The Floors

Checking the floors for their ability to hold weight could save you from injury or damage to your ceiling, should you step in the wrong spot or place too much weight on a floorboard. When assessing your attic storage abilities, check the floor for leaks, rot or other damage.

You’ll also want to inspect the attic joists. Not all joists are created equal – and some aren’t designed to hold any weight at all. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow when it comes to these floor components.

  • Attic joists are typically 2 feet by 8 feet or larger. These boards can generally hold light storage or the weight of one person.
  • Smaller attic joists will not support heavy items, including the weight of a human. For 2-foot by 6-foot joists, you may be able to store containers filled with light stuff. Joists that are 2 feet by 4 feet may be OK for very light storage only, like empty containers and luggage.
  • The space between the floor joists won’t support your weight. Don’t step on or store anything between your floor joists.

If there are no floorboards or joists, don’t step into the attic, as you could fall through the floor or, essentially, the ceiling of the room below.

When determining whether the attic floor is strong and safe enough to hold your items or your own weight or trying to reinforce the floor for heavier storage abilities, it may be best to consult a structural engineer or contractor.

Look For Excess Moisture

Check for condensation through the attic, especially on hot, muggy, humid or rainy days. This condensation could be in the form of:

  • Water collecting or beading on surfaces
  • Strong musty smells
  • Damp insulation
  • Traces of water trickling down the walls
  • Damp wood, rot or mold
attic water damage

If there aren’t any leaks, correcting the issue of excess moisture may be as easy as creating additional ventilation in your attic.

Check The Temperature

Attics are often uninsulated and unheated, leading to extremes in heat and cold. This can damage temperature-sensitive goods. Insulation, ventilators and electric fans can help regulate temperature, but it may be best to only store items that are impervious to extreme temperatures in the attic and avoid storing belongings that can be could be compromised by these conditions, such as:

  • Books
  • Photographs
  • DVDs, CDs and records
  • Artwork
  • Music instruments
  • Electronics

High heat or sub-zero temps could cause items to warp, crack, deteriorate, discolor and malfunction. Anything that could be compromised in this way should be kept in a controlled environment.

Check For Pests

There’s a reason bugs and rodents are called pests. They can chew your belongings or soil them with their fur, droppings, odor and traces from the outdoors.

To find out if you have a pest problem, look for these telltale signs:

 

  • Scratching, scurrying or squeaking noises
  • Droppings
  • Nests or nest remnants
  • Missing shingles or screens
  • Strong animal odors
  • Disturbed insulation
  • The actual animal or bug caught in traps
  • Chewed wood
  • Wood with several small holes or other termite damage
termite damage attic

Common pests that are typically found in the attic include mice, raccoons, bats, birds and squirrels.

To prevent pests from getting into your home, make sure you seal off any possible entry points and trim any branches back from your home. To get rid of pests, you may want to set some traps or, if the problem is worse, call an exterminator or animal control.

Ensure There’s Safe Access

Once you know you can safely store items inside your attic, you’ll also want to ensure that there’s a safe and easy way to access your belongings. If there isn’t, you’ll never want to go up there and reorganize, revisit your belongings or store more.

If a room abuts the attic, consider installing a door to the space. If you have a pull-down ladder or stairs, add a railing to the climbing device, if possible, at the top of the entrance of the attic. To get large or heavy storage containers up to the attic, consider a pulley system so boxes can be lifted without the risk of falling down those rickety stairs.

5 Creative Attic Storage Ideas

Take a look at the items you need to store in your attic, then use these ideas to organize it all in a way that’s attractive, convenient and accessible and makes the best use of your attic space.

Create More Attic Space

The joists don’t have to be the only place to store your items in the attic. You can convert unusable floor areas and empty spaces into useable storage options with plywood, shelving, hooks and rods. Here’s how:

  • For joists that can bear enough weight for light storage, you can rest a ½-inch plywood board or attic decking panels over the joists, creating a platform to rest such containers. This storage solution isn’t ideal for applying your own weight.
  • Install hooks into the rafters for vertical storage. You may choose to hang light materials like old keys or jewelry or heavier items like winter outerwear or even bicycles.
  • Mount shelves or rods between the trusses to hang clothing or store boxes without having to put weight on the flooring.

Strategize Your Storage

There will be some items you store in your attic that you’ll likely never touch again and others that you’ll need to use more routinely. To save time and frustration, strategize the order in which you’ll store your belongings. Put old documents you need to keep but may never revisit farther away from the attic’s entrance. Place items you may access every couple of years in front of those, and place items you’ll use once per year (like seasonal items) even closer to the entrance. Finally, any items you will use more than once per year should be closest to the entrance and the most accessible.

Have Visibility Into Every Container

Knowing what containers you need to access and what’s inside each one will help you save time and avoid stress. There are a few ways to accomplish this.

  • Use clear bins that allow a view inside.
  • Be very specific on how you label your boxes. Instead of writing “kitchen supplies,” consider listing each item.
  • Take a picture of the interior of the filled box, print it out and tape it to the outside.
  • Put holiday decorations in bins with colors associated with each holiday (orange for Halloween, red for Valentine’s Day, etc.).
  • Hang your clothes instead of tossing them in a box or garbage bag. That way, they won’t be “out of sight, out of mind” and you won’t have to sift through a bunch of clothes to find what you’re looking for.

Create Separate Containers For Each Kid

It can be hard to toss the birthday cards, macaroni artwork, outfits and baby blankets from your kids. And so you store these things away instead, hoping one day you or your child will reminisce over them or even use them again. To save you or a loved one from having to sort through the items to try to figure out what was this person’s or that person’s, create separate containers for each person in the family and make sure each one is clearly labeled.

Document Your Storage

Attics can often be one of the least visited rooms in the home. It’s no surprise, then, that you may forget exactly what you’ve stored up there. Once you put these storage ideas to use and strategically fill your attic with your belongings, make sure you list everything you’ve stored. To make it even easier to find what you’ve stored, create a layout of your attic, marking where each item – or category of items – is located.

Summary: With A Little Creativity Comes A Lot Of Storage

Your attic doesn’t have to be an empty, neglected room in your home that collects dust and cobwebs. With a little creativity, you can transform it into a storage space for several belongings. This, in turn, can free up more living space in other rooms of your home.

For more storage inspiration, decorating ideas or home improvement tricks, check out our tips for homeowners section on the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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Lauren Nowacki

The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.