Converting Your Attic into Living Space: A Guide to Insulation and Energy Efficiency

Attic insulation
There’s a lot to consider when converting an attic into a comfortable living space in your home. Whether it’s getting the right builder involved, overcoming regulatory barriers, or choosing the right insulation, knowing where to start can be difficult.  Just like the rest of your home, installing the right insulation for your attic is essential. And if you’re considering converting unused space in your attic into a comfortable and liveable room, knowing how to choose the right insulation will be essential.  In this blog, we discuss how to convert an attic into living space, while making it comfortable and energy efficient.

Why convert your attic?

Converting an attic (or even an unfinished attic) into a liveable space in your home can be a highly rewarding experience that can benefit the whole family. Here are four benefits of converting your attic into an energy-efficient and comfortable space upstairs:
  1. Increased living space

    Attics aren’t exactly known for their comfort and liveability. But there’s no reason why your attic can’t be turned into a comfortable space to relax, read a book or even create a studio space or home office. Adding square meterage by making your attic a habitable space can revolutionise the way you live upstairs and can benefit the entire family.
  2. Adds value to your home

    Square meterage equals value – and adding usable living space to your home will only increase your property’s value. For many homeowners, converting an attic or loft space from mere storage space into a comfortable room can be a worthwhile short and long-term investment.
  3. It’s relatively affordable

    Compared to traditional renovations, attic conversions involve fewer resources and time to complete. With work usually being concentrated on a specific location, and with most of the structure already being in place – it’s more about filling in the blanks and ensuring the space is well insulated and protected.
  4. Improved insulation in your home

    When you convert an attic into additional living space, you automatically help insulate the rest of your house by providing an added layer of protection to the lower levels. More details on this to come.

Attic insulation is essential 

Insulation is important when converting an attic, but just how essential is it to get the right one? Given that over a quarter of heat is lost through your ceiling in an uninsulated home, and the same amount (up to 35%) of heat gain comes from the roof makes your attic a prime hotspot for heat loss during winter and heat gain in the summer. Attic Insulation is Essential   Source: 

R-value, air sealing, and moisture resistance 

When converting your attic into a liveable and energy-efficient space, it is important to consider your insulation’s ability to resist heat flow (R-value), leaks, and moisture resistance.  Choosing insulation with a high R-value can significantly improve the energy efficiency of your attic, while air sealing is essential to prevent air leaks, which can compromise your insulation and result in energy wastage. Moisture resistance also helps prevent condensation and mould growth, which can lead to structural damage and health issues. 

Maintain proper ventilation 

Just like the rest of your home, maintaining proper ventilation is essential in achieving energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Poor ventilation can result in mould growth and can also negatively affect the building structure. When designing your new attic space, pay attention to airflow and how this will impact your space. This could include adding skylights that may be opened to let in a fresh breeze, or ensuring that airflow from fans or air-conditioning units reaches your attic space.  The R-value, ventilation and moisture resistance work together to ensure your space is properly protected and represent critical attic living space requirements for your home. 

Know what attic insulation to use

Purchasing the right insulation is essential to ensuring that your home is properly insulated and able to maintain comfortable temperatures all year round.  If you’re just looking to make your attic dust proof, then products such as Kingspan Air-Cell Insulwhite or Kingspan Air-Cell Insuliner are popular options. If you are plastering the ceiling of your attic, then a cost effective solution is to install high-density insulation batts between the rafters. We recommend Earthwool Sound Shield Insulation, as it is only 140mm thick and can fit in narrow spaces. It is important that the insulation batts don’t touch the roof, as they can become moist due to the condensation forming on the back of your roof tiles. Installing a breathable foil layer between your rafters prior to installing the insulation batts could help to mitigate this issue. As long as the foil is facing outwards and there is a 20mm air space between the foil and the roof tiles, then this will also help to increase the overall thermal performance of the foil insulation.  An alternative is Kingspan Kooltherm K12 or Kingspan Kooltherm K17, which is already lined with plasterboard. These products help achieve high R-values where space is limited. For more attic insulation ideas, check out this blog, where we break down the best types of attic insulation on the market. 

Think about sound and acoustics 

When you create a living space above the rest of the home, you want to make sure noises from upstairs don’t become an issue in the downstairs living areas. Without acoustic insulation in the ceiling (i.e. your attic floor), footsteps, appliances and voices can easily travel into the rooms below. Acoustic insulation batts are thicker and denser than thermal insulation batts. Installed in between the ceiling rafters, they will help prevent sound transfer while still offering all of the thermal benefits too. The acoustic insulation products we recommend are the R4.0 HD Earthwool SoundShield, the R3.1 Bradford SoundScreen, and the R3.1 Pink Soundbreak

Energy efficiency and costs

Given the important role ceilings and roofs play in preserving the temperatures in your home throughout the year, it’s important to consider how converting your attic will impact the rest of your home – including your overall energy efficiency and potential costs that come with it.  Improving your attic and making it a comfortable interior space doesn’t have to be energy intensive, nor does it have to reduce your overall energy efficiency. By choosing the right insulation and with proper installation techniques, you can even boost your energy efficiency and create a more usable space in your home. 

Building codes 

As with any type of home renovation, you will need to make sure the attic conversion complies with all building regulations outlined in the Building Code of Australia, as well as any local council regulations. Converting an attic means you will (most likely) avoid adding additional height to your existing building. Nevertheless, if you plan on making any serious alterations to your existing structure, the appropriate building permits should be obtained. Be sure to speak with your builder to make sure your plans don’t violate any building codes.

Get started with your attic conversion today 

Whether you’re looking at how to convert your attic into living space, or require professional advice on how to properly insulate your home, the team at Pricewise are here to help.  Contact us today, or get started right now by visiting our dedicated online shop where you can find a range of selected insulation products ideal for your attic renovation project.

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