Category: Storage


Storage at a Glance

Find new storage space by planning, rearranging, or renovating.

Storage Space

Photo: Flickr

There’s more than one fit when it comes to storage space. Growing families require extra closets, retirees move to smaller quarters and look for bulk storage, heirs long for an attic to house family treasures. Even the minimalists among us require some space to stash items not in use.

Times Are Changing
Construction technology has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, and these changes have altered a home’s storage capabilities. Construction improvements begin at the base, where poured concrete foundations have taken the place of cinder block and stone. The introduction of Styrofoam® insulating forms has further enhanced the reputation of a poured foundation. Thanks to better perimeter drainage and waterproofing methods, water damage, mildew, and musty odors are under control, making basement storage ideal.

Walk-up attics, on the other hand, are now a thing of the past. Once the norm, full attics were the result of free-frame roof design and high-pitch roofs. Today’s more energy-efficient roof construction includes a series of engineered trusses spaced every 24 inches. As a result, all that’s left is crawl space storage and little else.

If you are waiting to move into a build-to-suit property, you are more likely to affect your options for storage space. If money is no object, you can request everything from a finished attic or basement to additional built-ins. If you are purchasing within a development, however, your flexibility may be limited. More often than not, your only option may be to build above the garage for increased storage. So, be sure to review the plans and take storage needs into account while in the design phase.

Places, Everyone!
You must consider two variables when assessing storage options: First, what requires storage; second, where that storage might best be located. House storage is akin to brain storage. Some represents our ties to the past, like a wedding dress to pass on, or favorite childhood toys. These items require long-term storage. The back corner of an attic, if properly controlled and pest free, might be the perfect stash for them.

Short-term storage, like short-term memory, must remain accessible. First determine whether the items are for seasonal, occasional, or daily use, as this will determine how and where you will store them. Out-of-season clothes and holiday decorations can be stowed near the front of an attic or dormer, in a cedar closet or in the basement. Corner cupboards, armoires, built-ins, or freestanding home furnishings are perfect for everyday needs. Regardless of your options, safety precautions must top your priority list. This includes everything from fire prevention to moisture control, climate control, and pests.

Renovations
A change in lifestyle often requires a change in storage space needs. The blending of two families into one, downsizing from a four bedroom Colonial to a townhouse, or temporarily housing an aging parent all require us to reconfigure our living and storage space. An established home invites you to think creatively about your existing space, so remember—there is more to storage than meets the eye! Play detective, and seek out new nooks and crannies. They may exist within walls, under eaves, and along existing spaces you have never considered.

Renovating to add storage can range from extensive to moderate. Options abound from raising the roof on a garage and refinishing the basement to adding additional closets and storage units. No matter what route you choose, a careful analysis of every room in your home is recommended so that you can make the wisest and most cost-effective decisions about revamping your space and planning for successful storage solutions.


How To: Store Your Things

Safeguard your belongings by putting them in the right place in the right way.

Ways To Store Things

An electrical inspector points out that storing clothes in this closet would be a safety code violation.

Where you store depends largely on what you are storing. Clothes will smell musty if stored in a damp basement; antique furniture won’t hold up if subjected to extreme temperature changes or high humidity. It’s important to do your homework up front to provide a safe environment for all of your possessions and furnishings.

A Holistic Approach
A house free of fire hazards is essential for the well being of its occupants and the safekeeping of family possessions. Check your home routinely from top to bottom to insure its overall health. Schedule a professional home inspection with your local fire inspector or fire department. In general, use extreme caution when storing flammable materials and never store household chemicals, paints, turpentine, and the like near a heat source. Check attics for mice because these pests can seriously damage goods and even eat through electrical wiring. Also make sure that smoke detectors are present and in good working order on every floor of the home, including your attic and storage spaces.

Water, in every form, is a huge hazard for safe storage. A leak-free roof is essential when storing in an attic; a properly graded foundation with adequate perimeter drainage is necessary for a dry basement. Even occasional water in the basement can make storage a nightmare. Humidity and condensation can cause serious problems for your home and its contents.

Long-Term Storage
When it comes to long-term storage, out of sight should never mean out of mind. Regular inventory checks are critical to ensure that your possessions are free from damage. Mice, moths, silverfish, temperature extremes, humidity, and water can damage valuables beyond repair. Organization and a master plan for storing and safeguarding are critical for responsible long-term storage: Label all boxes; post a map of your basement or attic in a visible location; maintain a regular schedule for spot checks to protect against infestation or damage.

Books and other precious documents are especially vulnerable to environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees and humidity levels between 50 and 60 percent are ideal. While a large collection of books may fare better in a metal cabinet, bear in mind that moisture can damage contents, and corrode your storage facility as well.

Storing in cardboard boxes is a risk. Silverfish, certain types of roaches, and bookworms are attracted to the starchy materials found in book bindings and can even eat their way through the boxes to get to the books themselves. Silverfish lay one to three eggs a day and can live up to three years, so an undetected infestation can result in significant damage. Preventative measures are essential, because infestations are usually discovered too late. If you must store in boxes, purchase fresh ones from a moving company. Also, inspect used and antique books thoroughly before packing to make sure that they are pest-free. Don’t pack too tightly — books need a degree of ventilation. Whenever possible, store books in a bookcase on a main living floor, and use acid-free boxes and protectors for storing documents and photographs.

On-hand Storage
Keeping items ready and on-hand requires tight organization and accessible storage. Closets, armoires, and out-of-sight landings may be perfect for guest pillows, blankets or wrapping paper. Closets can also be outfitted to maximize storage space and organization. Closet systems offer components sold in sections, which allows for a custom build and fit. In addition to closet organizers, bins on rollers, and slide-out drawers make cupboard storage and under-bed storage a snap.

Plastic tubs make excellent containers for bulk storage like clothing and holiday items. Portable wardrobe bags made of durable vinyl are ideal for hanging clothes in an attic or basement, provided the rafters or joists can bear the weight. A cedar closet is an excellent storage solution for a basement or garage. However, while cedar and mothballs prevent moths, they do not eradicate them once larvae are present. Larvae are attracted to even lightly soiled woolens, so make sure to dry clean or launder your clothing before storing.

Attic Storage
Attics are often reserved for the treasures that represent our link to the past. Whether family silver, valuable paintings, rugs, or handmade quilts are being stored, special care and attention are essential in order to assure safekeeping for generations to come. Antique furniture was crafted when homes lacked the luxury of central heating and cooling systems. As a result, the humidity level in the home was fairly stable—60 percent was typical. Today, in colder climates, humidity levels within the home can drop to as low as 30 percent. Most furniture can withstand subtle changes in humidity and temperature—but drastic changes can weaken glued joints, and cause a variety of ills ranging from cracked or split surfaces, to buckled or warped panels. Make sure that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated.

“I Need It Now”
Storing everyday items may not require as much attention in terms of packaging and protection, but organization is essential in order to save time and reduce clutter. Here convenience becomes a necessity. Store everyday items in the rooms where they are most often used. A bed with a built-in captain’s drawer neatly houses excess clothing; armoires and entertainment centers conceal video tapes and games; drawer organizers and lazy susans make the search for pots, pans, and kitchen tools a breeze. Built-ins like linen closets and food pantries should also top your list when moving into new construction. Adding one or both can fit easily into renovation plans, as well.


Basement Storage Ideas

Keep in mind some important considerations for basement storage.

Basement Storage

Basement Storage. Photo: Flickr

Poured concrete foundations, coupled with Styrofoam insulation forms and improvements in perimeter drainage and waterproofing, have made damp basements an avoidable nuisance, allowing the homeowner to use these spaces as family rooms, workshops, laundry quarters, and basement storage centers.

Basement Moisture Control
Damp basements make lousy lodgings for family possessions. High humidity causes condensation and allows mold and mildew to fester. This, in turn, damages books, documents, and furnishings, and causes musty odors to permeate clothing and upholstered furniture. While some problems may require a professional, you can do many things to identify and eradicate basement dampness.

Basement Wall Insides
Basement water woes are caused by internal forces, external forces, or a combination of the two. Gravitational pull draws heavy, humid air from the upper floors to the basement, where it settles against colder surfaces, causing condensation. Wrapping pipes in insulation and running a dehumidifier provide a quick fix to this problem, as does opening a basement window or two to promote ventilation. While running the dehumidifier, however, close the windows and the basement door for optimum efficiency. A self-draining unit is especially helpful since it won’t shut off once the system has reached capacity. These units are connected directly to the floor drain.

As for walls, insulate them by adding furring strips or studs to the wall, and insulating between the strips. A new wall can then be fastened directly to the studs. It is important to run insulation at least two feet below grade or just below the frost line. The soil that surrounds the foundation below this line has its own insular qualities, so it is not necessary to duplicate the effort. Your local building department can help you determine how far down the wall you need to insulate in your region.

Basement Wall Outsides
External water damage is usually due to poor drainage or tiny leaks in the foundation. Correcting these issues can be a bit more complicated and may result in some costly excavation; so, there are simple remedies that you may want to try first:

  • Clean rain gutters of debris and make sure that connecting downspouts empty at least five feet away from the home’s foundation. Keeping water away from your home will help to keep it out.
  • Check the grading surrounding your basement to assess drainage capabilities. The soil should gradually slope away from the home at a distance of two inches for every horizontal foot, and should continue to slope away from the house for a minimum distance of three feet.
  • Correct any leaks in the foundation from the inside by sealing the walls with hydraulic cement or silicone caulk. If desired, treat the walls with a waterproofing paint.

Basement Storage Ideas
A basement is usually more accessible than an attic, and tends to house a mix of items ranging from furniture to paper products, as well as stacks of family memorabilia. Basement storage accessories should be tailored to provide maximal access, ventilation, and moisture resistance. Since basements can be damp, metal shelving and cabinetry protect possessions better than wooden alternatives; plastic bins, in turn, protect better than cardboard boxes. If you are using plastic tubs for storing clothes, make sure that the bin is not airtight, as clothing needs some ventilation. If you do store in cardboard boxes, don’t stack them—always leave space for air circulation.

Cellars offer a number of creative possibilities when it comes to basement storage ideas. Unlike an attic, with its sloping ceiling, basement rafters provide the ideal framework for shelving. Vertically attach 2×4′s from the rafters to act as supports, add a plywood shelf, and you have created the perfect home for flat, bulky items like storm windows or folding chairs.

As with any storage area, label your boxes, post an inventory map, and check your possessions periodically to make sure they are damage free. Look in every nook and cranny of your basement for telltale signs of water damage. Water stains, musty odors, powdery deposits on concrete walls and floors, and crumbling mortar should serve as red flags for moisture damage.

Mold and mildew flourish in poorly ventilated areas; dormant mold spores will continue to grow in basements if not fully eradicated. Scrub suspect areas with a solution of bleach and water, use a mildewcide, and remove boxes and other items that show signs of mildew damage. Use muriatic acid and a wire brush to remove any white, powdery deposits, known as efflorescence, from concrete walls. Then, crank up the dehumidifier and get some air circulating.


Optimize Your Attic Storage

Ventilation, insulation, and efficient use of space are key factors in attic storage.

Attic Storage

Photo: flickr.com

A home’s style and vintage often dictate to what extent an attic can be used for attic storage. Victorians and pre-1970′s Colonials offer the best third-story space due to the steeper pitch of their roofs. Newer two-story homes, ranches, and raised ranches have the least amount of attic storage space, mostly because the engineered roof trusses used in new construction greatly compromise roof pitch. In fact, newer homes often allow for little more than crawl-space storage.

Even without traditional attic storage space, Cape Cods and bungalow-style homes offer creative opportunities for second-story storage. Shed dormers are found or created where the roof extends beyond the dominant roofline. These spaces can provide storage units the size of a large closet or small room. Storage alleys are commonly found in homes of this style. Known as knee-walls, they run along the exterior wall, beneath the dormer or perpendicular to it, and can be accessed by doors cut into the wall. Because of the angled ceiling, however, these alleys offer little or no headroom but are ideal for shelves and stacking storage. Shed dormers can also be constructed to lessen the slope of a ceiling and extend the storage capabilities of a spare room or third-floor attic.

Ventilation
No full attic is completely safe for storage unless it is properly ventilated and insulated. Ventilation and insulation work hand-in-hand to reduce humidity and prevent drastic swings in temperature during the summer and winter months.

While goods unaffected by temperature can be stored in an uninsulated attic, all attic storage areas should be properly ventilated. Ventilation prevents excessive heat and humidity build-up. It can take place naturally, provided the necessary vents are present. In this case, cooler air enters the attic by way of vents located near the eaves. Warm-air convection then causes the hotter air to escape through vents in or around the roof.

Mechanical ventilation uses an electric fan to draw in fresh air and suck out the old. The fan operates automatically any time the heat in an attic reaches 100 degrees. Before you have an attic fan installed, make sure that it has a firestat or automatic shutoff feature. Since they cause increased air currents that can fuel house fires, attic fans need shutoff sensors that kick in should temperatures increase dramatically. Some attic fans are even equipped with a humidistat that will activate anytime the humidity level climbs above 70 percent.

Insulation
Insulation acts as a buffer by slowing down the transfer of heat between second-story living space and the attic. Most attics have insulation between the floor joists, but additional insulation is recommended if you intend to use the attic for long-term storage. Insulation is rated for efficiency, known as the R-value, and can be tailored to suit the optimal insulation standards for your region. Except in the driest of climates, moisture buildup is a concern in insulated attics. Vapor barriers, air space, and venting all offer possible solutions to the problem, but it’s best to explore your options before tackling any insulation installation.

Of course, no attic is fully functional as storage space if the ceiling joists above your second-story can’t sustain a weight-bearing floor. A floor can be installed, but not without first beefing up the joists. If the only means of access is through a hatch in a bedroom closet, you may also want to construct a fixed staircase or install a fold-down ladder.

Efficient Use of Space
Attic architecture presents interesting options for wall storage. The gable walls provide the greatest surface area, perfect for shelving or custom cabinetry. Under-eave wall space can be transformed by constructing a knee-wall. Built out away from the exterior wall, the knee-wall cuts off the angular slope of the eaves at its lowest point. A four-foot knee-wall can provide a level shelf space to support boxes, while doorways cut into the wall provide access to under-eave storage. Shelving can be attached to the exterior wall behind the new knee-wall for easy organization. A durable wardrobe bag can hang from the collar beam that runs perpendicular to the rafters, while the space between collar beams is used to support a platform for lightweight storage. Hanging shelves can be suspended from the rafters for compartmentalized storage of smaller goods.

When organizing an attic, resist the temptation to stack heavy boxes on top of furniture so as not to weaken the furniture joints. Stacked boxes make it more difficult to check for pests, or hidden damage to your structure or wiring. Whether your storage space is attic, dormer, crawl space, or alley, take the time to create an inventory map. Along with it, keep a schedule for regular checks of furnishings, boxes, and infrastructure, so that your prized possessions stay in prime condition.


Organize Your Home

Organize your home by making the most of your garage, basement, and laundry areas.

Home Organization

Photo: The Container Store

Unlimited storage space would be great. But sufficient space is possible if laundry, basement, and garage storage is maximized. Before buying storage products haphazardly or individually, get rid of the excess—there’s no need to store what’s not there. Review and donate, sell, or discard items that are not needed. Safely dispose of no-longer-used chemicals and other unsafe items at a hazardous waste center. What’s left is what needs to be stored.

Smart Storage Planning
First decide whether your stored items are in the best location. Things that get little use might be better stored in the basement than the garage. Seasonal items can rotate to remote storage spots during off-season. Gardening supplies should be near the garden. Then, list items by storage location. Note whether they are used daily or often; used less often or seasonally; are small, large, or hold dangerous contents. Keep those points in mind when matching belongings with the best storage options. Laundry detergents and other supplies can be stored in a closed cabinet, on a high shelf, or even in a deep drawer. Small gardening tools might be best in a basket, bin, or on hooks.

Storage Solutions
With a checklist in hand, review storage products and systems available, but keep options flexible to meet changing household needs. To keep items off the floors, there are pre-drilled tracks and slat or slot walls, which are grooved panels or strips for hanging movable hooks, baskets, bins, and cabinets. There are suspended storage options that include ventilated shelves attached to the ceiling or mechanical lift systems that raise items or shelves off the floor.

Vertical mounting strips allow for height-adjustable shelves, drawers, and cabinets. Stacking cabinets have removable bins. Heavy-duty casters and wheels allow cabinets and lockers to be moved and adjusted to accommodate uneven floors.

Depending on the amount of stuff, decide whether a storage system or a few individual products are most appropriate. Be aware that components vary from company to company. If choosing a system that has a slat wall or track system, find out if hangers, baskets, bins, or cabinets from another system will work with them.

Laundry Storage
Laundry rooms benefit from slide-out bins or baskets to keep dirty clothes off the floor and rods to hang drip-dry clothes or items fresh from the dryer. Hinged or pull-out shelves can provide space for folding or stain treatments. It’s important to store cleaning fluids safely and away from small children in closing drawers or cabinets with safety locks.

Basement Storage
A dry basement offers many storage possibilities, but items should be kept away from the furnace or water heater. Select shelving or cabinets that keep items off the floor in case of flooding, and away from overhead pipes that can burst. For unfinished basements, an open shelf system and a series of hooks or baskets may help keep items easily seen yet organized. Storage systems are also available for finished basement space, with designs and finishes to match the home’s decor.

Garage Storage
The garage has become an extension of the home, especially in warmer climates, so it must be cleaned and organized. Racks, hooks, baskets, and overhead or suspended storage now target garden gear, athletic equipment, tools, and large items like bikes, canoes, and motorcycles.

Storage components with adjustable legs accommodate sloped garage floors. Safety-lock mechanisms on garage cabinets keep children and pets from chemicals or dangerous tools. Garage storage units must be able to handle extreme heat, cold, and humidity without rusting, cracking, rotting, splitting, or peeling. That is why galvanized metal and plastic products are so popular for garage storage components.

Storage Planning and Installation
Once you have inventoried your items and mapped out storage categories, you can shop online for designs and storage configurations to organize your belongings. It is also possible to hire professionals who will assess your needs and create a storage plan for you, complete with a list of storage components to buy and install.

There are many companies that offer do-it-yourself storage assembly. You can order online or purchase the storage pieces at a retail outlet for assembly at home. Customers can benefit from the design guidance and online planners these companies offer, but save on the overall cost by installing the storage units themselves.


5 Ways to Clear Summer Sports Clutter

It takes neither the salary of a pro athlete nor the commitment of an Olympian to wrangle the sports equipment that accumulates this time of year.

Sports Storage

Photo: shutterstock.com

Summer brings flowers and sunshine, but it also has a way of dragging outdoor sports right into your front hall. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways for homeowners to get things under control for little money, and with a minimum of elbow grease. Start with these five ideas.

 

1. Park Sports Gear in the Garage

Sports Storage - Garage

Photo: garages123.com

Relocate sports storage from your front door area to the garage, where your family members can easily retrieve or replace whatever they need upon exiting, or climbing into, the car.

Bungee cords, scrap lumber, and existing studs make for a readymade framework to organize bicycles, skateboards, tennis rackets and other miscellaneous pieces. Alternatively, choose from a vast selection of retail garage storage systems.

 

Sports Storage - Laundry Bins

Photo: chicagoprofessionalorganizer.com

2. Laundry Bins Labeled by Sport
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to create instant sports storage is by applying homemade labels to heavy-duty laundry baskets.

Place the baskets on built-in or modular shelves wherever you can spare the real estate. As they’re returning from the field, your family members can toss their things into the appropriate baskets.

Of course, each family is different, so consider whether labeling the baskets by sport or by family member makes the most sense in your household.

 

3. All-in-One Standing Organizer

Sports Storage - Organizer

Photo: brookstone.com

A no-frills organizer is perfect for families in which several members participate in different summer sports. Choose whether to set yours up in a central location or an out-of-the-way corner. When the season is over, collapse the assembly and store it until next summer, or swap in skiing, hockey, and ice-skating gear.

 

Sports Storage - Basket

Photo: the birminghamhandyman.com

4. Basket Wall
Wall-hung baskets systems have become increasingly popular options for storage around the house, be it in the bathroom, mudroom, laundry room or even the entry hall.

Shop online or visit your local home improvement center or hardware store to find an inexpensive, ready-to-install system, one that fits neatly into the space you have available.

Slidable hooks in combination with mesh or wire baskets enable you to customize sports storage for the specific needs of your family.

The feature I like best is that each basket’s contents are clearly visible, which means I don’t have to waste time digging around in search of that elusive lacrosse ball.

 

5. Contain Clutter in a Closet

Sports Storage - Closet

Photo: homesessive.com

Get soccer cleats and roller blades off the foyer floor, where they are not only unsightly, but also a tripping hazard for family members and guests. Use hooks, rods, bins and shelves to transform a closet into a sports storage zone that’s out of the way of both eyes and feet.

A basket on the inside of the closet door works well as a holder for awkwardly shaped items, such as helmets, while hooks fixed to the rear wall keep field hockey sticks and golf clubs in place.

If there’s no better place for them, put balls on the closet floor, nailing a two-by-four across the foot of the space in order to keep them from rolling out the door. Oh, and remember to add some air freshener or potpourri to mask the inevitable odors!


Planning Guide: Attic Conversion

Though it's rarely a breeze, attic conversion holds tremendous appeal for homeowners seeking more living space under their own roofs.

Attic Conversion - Family Room

Photo: Borges Brooks Builders

The Planning Stage

Does it feel like your house is bursting at the seams? If so, consider finishing the attic. An attic renovation is a great way to add living space, whether for a guest room, home office, playroom or art studio. Before undertaking an attic conversion project, look through magazines and consult online sources to collect finished attic ideas. After all, a wide range of designs are possible. Some of the most popular include the construction of a dormer, which would of course add to the cost, but would also increase the amount of comfortably usable space. Since dormers can drastically change the exterior appearance of your house, give some focus and thought to the question of whether your plans respect your home's architectural style.

Want more livable space in your home? Don’t want to spend a king’s ransom? Attic conversion has fit the bill for countless homeowners over the years.

Unlike many basements, attics are dry, and being free of major appliances (e.g., the furnace), they are also quiet. You can devote the finished space to any number of purposes: Attics are suitable as home offices, TV rooms, art studios and even bedrooms—the list of possible uses goes on at length.

Related: Planning Guide: Basement Remodeling

Before starting on an attic conversion project, you’ll need to negotiate a gauntlet of building codes. Of course, these vary from one municipality to the next, but most codes correspond to one or another edition of the International Residential Code for One- and Two-Story Dwellings (IRC).

To view the latest IRC codes (as well as previous editions), go here. If you’re confused about which edition bears relevance to your individual home, ask an official in the building department of your city, town, village or hamlet.

Is Your Attic a Candidate?
Of course, it’s beyond the scope of this article to detail every code, but you should be sure to discuss them all with your designer, contractor, or local building official. What follows is an overview of the most important codes affecting the majority of attic conversion projects:

Attic Conversion - Storage

Photo: Dijeau Poage Construction

Area. Habitable attic space must satisfy the same requirements that govern rooms in the rest of the house. To pass code, there must be at least 70 square feet where the ceiling height is 5 feet or higher.

Windows and Openable Area. Minimum glazed area is required to equal or exceed 8% of the usable floor area. So let’s say your attic has 200 square feet over which the ceiling is at least 5 feet high. Your window area must be at least 8% of 200 square feet (16 square feet). Meanwhile, the 4% openable area requirement means you need 8 square feet (4% of 200, that is) providing access to the outside.

Ceiling Height. At least 50% of the usable area (calculated above) must have ceilings of at least 7 feet. In other words, if your attic has 200 square feet over which the ceiling is at least 5 feet high, then for a minimum of 100 square feet (50% of 200, that is), the ceiling height needs to be at least 7 feet.

Some homeowners satisfy this code by installing a dormer. In effect, a dormer raises the height of a ceiling that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to walk beneath. Doghouse-style dormers admit natural light and promote ventilation, while shed dormers maximize usable attic space. Consult an architect in either case; few “improvements” compromise the look of a house like an ill-conceived dormer does.

Heating. Code requires the heating system in your home to be capable of maintaining a steady attic temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit (assuming the annual low temperature outdoors). Homeowners usually find no cause to extend their heating systems, since hot air rises through open stairwells and attic insulation does an effective job of keeping in that heated air.

Support Capability. For a habitable attic served by fixed stairs, code requires a load capacity of 30 pounds per square foot. You can use an online calculator to aid in your assessment of the floor’s strength, but in order to use a tool like this, you must know a host of details about the framing of your house—the width and depth of joists, their span, the amount of spacing between them, and what species of lumber they are.

Ultimately, the building department official in your municipality is the one to decide such things as whether your floor is strong enough. Observing all codes is a contractor’s responsibility, but if you plan on handling your own attic conversion, be prepared to acquaint yourself with every pertinent specification.

Attic Conversion - Bedroom

Photo: Cuppett Architects

Designing Safe Stairs
In the course of a conversion project, the codes surrounding attic access can often be challenging, since most attics were designed, not to be lived in, but rather for storage, utilities (e.g., air handlers), or both.

If you currently reach the attic by means of a hatchway or pull-down stairs, then you will need to carve out space for a length of permanent stairs—several square feet in the attic and on the next level down.

Code stipulates that stairways must be 36 inches wide (or wider), with treads that are 9.5 inches deep (or deeper). The maximum rise from one tread to the next is 7-3/4 inches, and head clearance has to meet or exceed 80 inches. Winding stairs are generally permissible, though some restrictions apply.

Existing attic stairs rarely conform to today’s code. Before moving forward, it’s best to discuss the matter with a local building department official. Exceptions are sometimes granted when upgrades are not feasible. For a complete picture, visit the Stairway Manufacturers’ Association.

Note that, in addition to access by stairs, a habitable attic needs at least one operable emergency escape-and-rescue opening. Codes regulate this opening’s minimum dimensions and proper placement.

Finishing the Attic
My preference is to push the knee walls close to the eaves, creating as much floor space as possible. Low cabinets and bookcases fit snugly in the space under slanted ceilings. In a lot of attic spaces, ceilings are what you see, more or less, so I think it’s worth splurging on them; consider wood boards. When it comes to flooring, wall-to-wall carpeting over a plywood subfloor is one popular option. A much less costly approach is to paint the plywood and add a few area rugs. In the end, finishing your attic conversion is largely a matter of personal taste. There are no codes governing your choice of paint color, thankfully!


Bob Vila Radio: Rafter Storage

Hunting around your house for space you can use as storage? Don't forget to look up.

If you’re just moving into a tiny starter home, making room for growing children, or downsizing into smaller quarters after the kids have moved out, chances are you’re in search of extra storage space.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RAFTER STORAGE or read the text below:

Rafter Storage

Photo: core77.com

There are lots of places to look for a few more square feet, and don’t forget to look up. Exposed beams and rafters—whether they’re in a garage, attic, or basement—are excellent places to carve out some storage space. If you have access to the first floor’s exposed floor joists from your basement, there are plenty of storage opportunities up there.

Rafters and exposed floor joists are especially good for storing long, skinny items like scrap lumber, skis, or drapery rods. For those, you just need to screw in a few hooks to hold the items, or screw in a few cross-pieces.

For heavier items, you may need to screw in a more substantial plywood bottom. There are even kits you can buy that let you create pull-down storage bins between the rafters or beams. Be sure to protect your stored items from dust or moisture by keeping them wrapped in plastic or old sheets.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Finally, a Sure-Fire Cure for the Sagging Closet Pole

If your closet rods are straining under the weight of the clothes they need to carry, give them a lift—and a break—with this clever how-to.

how-to-fix-a-closet

A simple prop holds the closet rod level under the heaviest of loads. Photo: JProvey

My wife and I recently reorganized our bedroom closet and added several new accessories, including a double rod hanger, canvas shoe cubbies, and a column of hanging shelves. We were really happy with the results, but our closet rod wasn’t. It sagged, and then sagged some more with every item we hung on it.

Fortunately, I had some wooden closet pole left over from another project and used it to build a prop. While I was at it, I added some dowels for my wife to hang her belts and handbags. Now we’re all happy—no more sag and another place to hang stuff. The total cost was under $10.

Skill level: About as easy as it gets, but you need to be comfortable with an electric drill.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Handsaw and miter box
- Drill
- 1” diameter spade bit
- ¼” diameter twist drill
- 1-3/8″ wood closet pole
- ¼” dowel
- Paint and small brush (optional)
- Beads to cap ends of dowels

DIRECTIONS

1. Carefully measure the height of your closet rod. Be sure to measure the height it’s supposed to be, not the height with the rod deflection. Mark this height on the wood closet pole, then bore a hole in the pole so that the bottom of the hole is at the marked height.

Drilling hole in wood closet pole

Photo: JProvey

2. Saw through the hole to create a notch on which the closet rod can rest.

Sawing closet rod to make pole support

Photo: JProvey

3. Bore ¼” diameter holes near the top of the pole and insert ¼” dowels.

How to Fix a Closet - Insert Wood Dowels

Photo: JProvey

4. Bore 1/4″ holes in plastic, wood, or clay beads. For safe drilling, first secure the beads in a clamp or vise with padded jaws. Then place the beads on the ends of the dowels.

Drilling hole in wood beads

Photo: JProvey

THE SAME GOES FOR SAGGING SHELVES
Now that your tools are out, take the opportunity to check your bookcases and cabinets for sagging shelves. Much of today’s storage furniture comes with 5/8″- or ¾”-thick melamine-laminated particleboard shelves. They hold up fine if the spans are two feet or less and if the load limits are not exceeded. For wider cabinets, however, sagging shelves are a common problem.

Measure the distance between the cabinet bottom and the underside of the sagging shelf. Measure where the shelf meets the side of the cabinet so you get the correct height for the shelf, not the height where the shelf has sagged. Then cut two strips of 1⁄4″ x 1″ wood to that length. Attach one to the cabinet back and the other behind the center stile. Together, they will prevent the shelf from sagging. Use double-sided tape to attach the wood strips so they can be removed if you decide to change the shelf height in the future.

Supports for sagging cabinet shelves

Wide shelves made of particleboard are likely to deflect under heavy loads. Make these simple shelf supports to solve the problem. Photo: JProvey

To add support to multiple shelves, place additional wood strips under the next highest shelf in the manner described above. Don’t skip a shelf, however. The load must be carried to the cabinet bottom.


Weekend Projects: 5 Creative Ways to Build Shelves

From old textbooks to the latest printing of Harry Potter, and from VHS to DVD and now Blu-Ray, we can’t stop collecting and hoarding rectangular objects! So instead of letting them sit in a messy pile for another eight months, why not display them proudly on a simple set of DIY shelves?

With the help of these outstanding tutorials on DIY shelves from around the web, you can finally find a spot for that Windows ’95 software package that, for some strange reason, you can’t bear to part with.

 

1. DIY Pipe Fitting Shelves

DIY Shelves - Pipe Fittings

Photo: thehousehippos.com

Would you call your style Industrial Chic? Then these pipe-fitting DIY shelves from The House Hippos would be the perfect storage solution for your space. All you need to supply are pipes, pipe fittings, and a few slats of wood—ingeniously assembled, of course.

 

2. DIY Ladder Shelf

DIY Shelves - Ladder

Photo: dandelionexpress.wordpress.com

Ladder shelves can be vertical or horizontal, wood or aluminum, made from classic ladders or step ladders—but this hanging, wall-mounted version from Dandelion Express stands out from the crowd.

 

3. DIY Pallet Shelf

DIY Shelves - Shipping Pallets

Photo: sethandkait.blogspot.com

If you can get your hands on a shipping pallet (or several), the possibilities for DIY shelves are endless. Try rearranging the slats to make these charming shelves, following in the creative footsteps of bloggers Seth and Kait.

 

4. DIY Shoebox Shelves

DIY Shelves - Shoe Boxes

Photo: cremedelacraft.com

I’ve heard of making rubber-band guitars out of shoeboxes, but shelves?! This DIY project from Creme de la Craft is a one-of-a-kind DIY success. Just paint and hang!

 

5. DIY Wine Bottle Shelves

DIY Shelves - Wine Bottles

Photo: zero-waste.co.uk

More advanced DIYers will love this wine bottle shelf from Zero Waste Design. Who can say no to a little upcycling?

 

Sunday Morning Project (if you’re looking for something a little less labor intensive):

6. DIY Floating Book Shelf

DIY Shelves - Floating Books

Photo: crunchyfarmbaby.com

Want to tackle a smaller project so that you’re free to spend the whole weekend watching Homeland? Then these “floating” DIY shelves from Crunchy Farm Baby are just what you’re looking for. All you need are a few L-brackets!

 

For more DIY projects, consider:

5 Things to Do with… Bottle Caps
5 Things to Do with… Wine Bottles
5 Things to Do with… Cinder Blocks