3 Ways to Build Attic Storage With Optimal Insulation

3 Ways to Build Attic Storage With Optimal Insulation

When we perform attic inspections, we ask the homeowner how often they go in the attic. 95% of the time the answer is I have only once or twice.

In the rare case where space is hard to come by an attic is the most cost effective way to add usable square footage, for storage, to the home. But, how is this done without compromising the intended R-Value of the insulation.

There are several considerations I discuss with homeowners when determining whether or not storage is possible.

  • In Chicago, we experience temperatures from -20°F to 95°F
  • Most attics are vented, meaning they are intended to be the same or as close to the same as the outside temperature as possible
  • Many of the stored items may be difficult to access if the attic opening is small
  • Additionally, the storage area must be accessible by ladder or have a built in pull-down ladder
  • Stored Items should be kept in a sealed weatherproof container such as a Rubbermaid Box
  • What will be the accessibility and safety of the stored items

Additional Factors Include

  • Lighting –  Example: Loft Light which makes other potentially useful products for attic storage
  • Roof pitch determines ceiling height and therefore usable storage space
  • HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Low Voltage Cables and More that may be blocking a true pathway or storage deck particularly we struggle with electrical conduit  pipes running horizontally across the attic floor.
  • Temperature and humidity control of the attic space as it relates to the contents of stored items.
  • Storage Deck or Storage Platform interference with Intended R-Value of Existing and Retrofitted Insulation Project Improvements.

While there are some potentially useful DIY ideas on the market, we will focus entirely on the intended performance of the attic insulation and ventilation as it relates to a healthy comfortable home. Let's take a look at what's available and what may work or not work in the Chicago Area.

Rubbermaid Boxes Stored Between Trusses

One of the most common ways you may find online is LoftLedge. This is actually a great way to gain additional storage in the event there is proper truss construction as shown in the photo, and it meets safety and weight requirements. Keep in mind accessibility. This truss pattern is not always common.

Every Bit Of Space Helps

In the Chicagoland area, we can experience extreme fluctuating temperatures, so weather is a consideration for stored items, particularly the potential for mold growth on organic substances such as cardboard boxes. One client declined the solar fan active ventilation, and after mold treatment. After putting the items he had removed, prior to mold treatment, to the attic, the mold returned to the attic sheathing ( roof deck.)

Raised Storage Platforms

Another solution would be to add a raised platform to the existing attic floor joists. This method would also be subject to several variables mentioned above but is more viable and practical then Loftledge. As pictured it creates a problem for R-Value, thermal bridging and unintentional warm or cold air movement between framing members when used with fiberglass.

The simple obvious problem with this method is the gaps between insulation. Green Attic has a far better method that does not compromise intended R-Value. Insulation gaps between studs may result in approximately 20-30% reduction in the surface area of the cooling or heating source ( at a minimum.)

Finally, let’s look at the Green Attic Insulation method currently used during attic improvement projects. Green Attic typically adds 2×6 or 2×8 Studs secured over the top of existing framing ( taking into account the mechanicals, pipes, conduit, and other landmines on the attic floor, a raised platform provides a smooth surface for storage. This method like some of the above methods reduces head clearance and storage space but does not compromise the insulation. This method is superior in performance. Loose Fill Cellulose dense packed reduces air movement and retains far superior R-Value than fiberglass.

The simple obvious problem with this method is the gaps between insulation. Green Attic has a far better method that does not compromise intended R-Value. Insulation gaps between studs may result in approximately 20-30% reduction in the surface area of the cooling or heating source ( at a minimum.)

This photo shows the storage deck stops short of the edges of the attic to allow for optimal insulation.  Ventilation is active and un-compromised. The storage deck is extremely solid. The sidewalls of the storage deck are fitted with a rail secured to the framing to prevent loose fill insulation from making content with the deck and stored items.

Our final two considerations are lighting and safety / accessibility. The attic storage space must be safely accessible to the homeowner so in some cases we are able to create a larger opening to the attic hatch and install a pulldown ladder such as the rainbow attic stair.  This is possible when the attic framing is designed for modification and load. When lights are installed in the attic, they should meet current electrical code. A headlight or flashlight will work as well, but keep in mind you may need free hands, so if no electrical is available, a battery powered light should be placed in the areas of accessibility.

Rainbow attic staircase has several options, visit their website for more info.

Final Note

We perform hundreds attic retrofits per month and we see several types of attics ranging from late 1800’s to 2021, each with its own set of variables for storage considerations. Our expert insulation consultants perform free in home visits and will listen to your needs and discuss possibilities for storage, sometimes creating a storage deck is  not possible based on the current attic conditions such as structural load or space. Consider using 2×4 framing between studs, what a difference just a little bit of space makes.

  • Contact us today to see if we can create an affordable storage solution for your home.
  • We will measure and examine the conditions of the attic space
  • Provide you with a free quote based on sq footage.
  • Ensure it meets the needs of your families storage goals.

Conclusion

There are multiple factors for adding storage to an attic including accessibility, safety, temperature control, sq sq footage, and more. While some ideas may seem possible, once the work begins, unforeseen variables can halt the project.

Get a free consultation from Green Attic Insulation by filling out our contact form on our main page.

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