Your home's attic supports the roof and your living space ceilings, is instrumental in insulating and ventilating the house, and offers a convenient place to run electrical and HVAC equipment. But it can do even more by becoming a storage area or even a living space. To do that, it'll need a floor, which can be costly to install. However, if you want to do it on a budget, you can install an inexpensive floor yourself. Here are the cheapest ways to put flooring in an attic.
Framing for an Attic
Before adding any type of floor to your attic, consider how the structure was built. Traditional stick-framed attics use relatively large lumber for the rafters (roof supports) and the ceiling joists that make up the attic floor. This means they are often — but not always — suitable for supporting flooring for storage or living space.
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The other type of attic construction is truss-framed. Trusses are designed for specific applications and may or may not be suitable for supporting storage areas. There are special trusses designed for supporting a finished attic space, but these are much less common than standard trusses. The important thing is to find out how much additional weight the trusses can handle before you add flooring for any purpose. Consult your home's builder or another qualified building professional for advice.
Raise the Floor for Storage
Regardless of your attic's framing or truss construction, the insulation is likely higher than the ceiling joists' width. You'll need to address this issue to avoid crushing the insulation and making your cheap floor more expensive by raising your energy bills (compressing insulation greatly reduces its effectiveness).
The cheapest solution to this problem is to build a frame of 2x4 or 2x6 joists running across the top of, and perpendicular to, the existing joists. Add insulation in the spaces of the new frame; then cover the frame with plywood or a similar material to create a storage platform.
Add Attic Flooring for Storage
To add a floor to your attic for storage, the cheapest material to use is 4x8 sheets of 1/2-inch-thick oriented strandboard (OSB). Installing wood thinner than that can create an unsafe situation. Your attic likely has a pull-down ladder or an access panel to get into it, meaning a full 4 x 8-foot sheet of OSB won't fit through it. To overcome this obstacle, rip each sheet in half the long way so they fit though the access opening. Typical costs for OSB hover between $15 and $20 per sheet or around $0.55 per square foot.
Install a Finished Attic Floor
Framing an attic to add living space is an extensive home remodeling project. If you've already done the work and have a subfloor in place, there are several cheap finished flooring materials you can install to keep the project within its budget. The least costly flooring materials will only set you back between $1 and $3 per square foot for everything you'll need. Look to sheet vinyl and laminate plank flooring materials to save the most cash.