Attic Variety: Discovering Different Types of Attics

An attic is one of the most common types of space found in a typical house. It is essentially the space between the roof and the ceiling of the top floor of the house. Attics are typically used for storing items, but they can also be transformed into livable spaces such as an extra bedroom, a playroom, or home office. There are several types of attics, including unfinished attics, finished attics, knee wall attics, and scuttle attics. Each type has its own unique characteristics and can be utilized in different ways. In this article, we will dive into the different types of attics and explore their features in detail.

Need a roofing contractor to install attic, wall or basement insulation?

Call us (509)201-4190 or send the form

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about the different types of attics and effective insulation for attic spaces. While we have made every effort to ensure that the information provided is accurate, it should not be taken as professional advice or a guarantee of any kind. For specific questions and advice regarding your particular attic space, we recommend consulting with professionals at Advance Roofing LLC, – we are always happy to help. With years of experience providing quality roofing solutions in Spokane, WA and the surrounding areas, Advance Roofing LLC can provide expert advice tailored to your individual needs.

Different Types Of Attics 

Attics are often a feature in many homes, but not every attic is the same. Depending on the home’s design and the homeowner’s needs, there may be different types of attics. In general, there are three main categories of attics: unfinished attics, finished attics, and accessible attics. 

  • Unfinished attics are just like their name suggests – they are spaces that have not been finished or converted into living spaces. They are usually accessed by a hatch or pull-down stairs, and they may have exposed rafters, ceiling joists, and insulation. Unfinished attics are best used for storage since they can provide a lot of extra space for storing seasonal items or things that are not used regularly. Because unfinished attics are usually poorly insulated, they tend to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. This is a drawback for homeowners who plan to use this space as a living area. 
  • Finished attics are the opposite of unfinished attics. They are spaces that have been transformed into usable living areas. Usually, finished attics have undergone remodeling or renovation, which involves installing flooring, walls, electrical wiring, and sometimes even extra plumbing. A finished attic can be turned into anything from an extra bedroom, an office, or a playroom. This type of attic can add a lot of value to a home since it increases the livable square footage. However, one drawback of finished attics is that they can be expensive to convert, especially if the space doesn’t already have adequate ventilation, insulation, and plumbing. 
  • Accessible attics are attics that are easy to access and have sufficient headspace to allow one to stand. Ideally, they should be accessed by a staircase, but some are accessible by pull-down stairs or scuttle holes.
  • In general, accessible attics are the most versatile “type” of attic, since they can be either unfinished or finished. By nature, they have more square footage than unfinished attics, and hence, they are more useful for storage or as a living area. However, a drawback of accessible attics is that they may require a larger investment to finish compared to unfinished attics. 

Each type of attic has its benefits and drawbacks, and homeowners should consider their needs and budget before choosing which type they want. For example, if they require storage space and do not have the budget for renovation, then an unfinished attic might be the best option. On the other hand, if they value additional living space, then a finished attic may be worth the investment. Accessible attics are a good compromise since they offer versatility and convenience. 

Building Code Requirements

Building Code Requirements

Building code requirements are important regulations that ensure the safety and structural integrity of buildings. These codes dictate the minimum standards for construction, materials, and techniques, and they vary by location and jurisdiction. Adhering to building code requirements is crucial for ensuring that a building is structurally sound, safe, and meets the required standards. Failing to comply with building codes can result in fines, legal liability, or even dangerous structural issues in the building. 

Exterior Wall and Floors 

When it comes to different types of attics, exterior walls and floors play a crucial role in determining the overall functionality and livability of the space. The design and construction of these elements can greatly impact the amount of natural light that enters the attic space, as well as its ability to regulate temperature. 

To ensure that the attic remains comfortable and energy-efficient, proper insulation installation is crucial. Insulation helps to maintain energy efficiency and reduce heat transfer between the attic space and the rest of the house. This is especially important for exterior walls and floors, which are often exposed to the elements and can be a source of energy loss. 

When it comes to insulation for exterior walls and floors, there are a variety of materials to choose from. Fiberglass batt insulation is a common choice, as it is easy to install and relatively inexpensive. However, mineral wool and cellulose insulation are also popular options, as they offer superior thermal performance and are more environmentally friendly. 

In addition to insulation, proper ventilation and natural light are essential for maintaining a healthy and comfortable attic space. Soffit vents and ridge vents help to regulate temperature and prevent the build-up of moisture, while windows and skylights can add natural light and create a more inviting living space. 

Overall, when designing and constructing an attic space, it is important to carefully consider the role that exterior walls and floors play in creating a functional, energy efficient, and inviting space. By choosing the right insulation materials and incorporating proper ventilation and natural light solutions, homeowners can create an attic space that adds value to their home and enhances their daily lives.

Square Footage Considerations 

When considering the use of an attic space, one of the most important factors to take into account is its square footage. The size of the attic can greatly impact the activities that can be accommodated within it, as well as any changes that can be made to the layout or design of the space. 

Several factors can affect the square footage of an attic, including the pitch and height of the ceiling, the presence of knee walls or slopes, and any obstructions such as ductwork or HVAC units. Attics with lower ceiling heights or obstructions may have less usable square footage, limiting the types of activities that can take place within the space. 

It’s important to consider the potential use of the attic when measuring the square footage accurately. If the attic will be used as a storage space, for example, the types and number of items that will be stored should be taken into account. Common items that may take up space in an attic include HVAC units, water heaters, and storage boxes. 

Before planning any changes to the layout or design of an attic space, it’s crucial to measure the space accurately to ensure that any proposed changes will be feasible. Proper measurements can also help to determine the most efficient and effective use of the available square footage, maximizing the potential of the space. 

Knee Walls and Vertical Walls

Knee Walls and Vertical Walls

When it comes to the layout of an attic space, knee walls and vertical walls play an important role. Knee walls are short walls that run along the slope of the roof, providing support and stability to the overall structure. They are typically found in attics with sloped or pitched roofs and can be made from a variety of materials such as drywall, paneling, or plywood. 

In addition to providing support, knee walls can also serve as valuable storage spaces or be finished for additional living space. This added square footage can be ideal for creating a cozy reading nook or a small office space. However, it’s important to keep in mind that knee walls can impact the height of the attic floor and ceiling, which can affect the overall design and functionality of the space. 

Vertical walls, on the other hand, run perpendicular to the roof slope and can be used to divide the attic into separate areas or rooms. These walls also come in a variety of materials, such as drywall or paneling, and can greatly impact the overall design of the attic space. While they can help create additional living areas or storage spaces, vertical walls can also limit the height of the ceiling and reduce the amount of available square footage. 

When planning an attic renovation or remodel, it’s important to consider the impact that knee walls and vertical walls can have on the overall layout and design. The choice of materials can also be a factor in how these walls will look and function in the space. Ultimately, careful consideration of knee walls and vertical walls can help ensure that the attic is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. 

Unfinished Attics

Unfinished Attics

Unfinished attics are a common type of attic found in many homes. These spaces are typically used for storage and are left unfinished, without any flooring or insulation. While an unfinished attic may not be ideal for living space, it can provide a valuable area for storing seasonal items, holiday decorations, and other items that may not have a place elsewhere in the home. However, it’s important to follow building codes and ensure proper ventilation to prevent heat transfer and promote energy efficiency. Proper insulation, such as spray foam or fiberglass batts, can also help maintain a consistent temperature and reduce energy costs. 

Common Type of Unfinished Attic 

The most common type of unfinished attic is the scuttle attic, which is essentially a small access opening in the ceiling that allows entry to the attic space. Scuttle attics are typically used for storage purposes only and have limited headroom. 

Access to a scuttle attic can be gained by pull-down stairs or a ladder that is attached to the ceiling, making it easier for homeowners to climb in and out of the space. 

To meet building code requirements, scuttle or accessible attics must have a minimum ceiling height of 30 inches throughout at least 50% of the attic space. Additionally, the access opening must be at least 22 inches by 30 inches. 

It’s important to note that because scuttle attics are typically used for storage, they are not meant to be living spaces. Limitations on headroom and proper ventilation make it an unsuitable area for habitation. However, it can be a useful space for storing seasonal items or excess belongings. 

Floor Joists and Ceiling Joists 

When it comes to structuring an attic, floor joists and ceiling joists play an important role in providing support and stability to the space. Floor joists are especially important as they bear the weight of any items you plan to store in the attic. This makes it crucial to consider the intended usage of your attic when planning the size and spacing of the floor joists. 

If you plan to store heavier items like furniture, boxes, or seasonal decorations in the attic, your floor joists should be able to withstand the weight without sagging or cracking. This is especially important if you anticipate frequent or prolonged use of the space. In addition to the weight of the storage items, it’s important to consider the safety of those accessing the attic. Floor joists that are not strong enough may pose a risk to anyone climbing into or moving around in the space. 

Ceiling joists are also a crucial part of attic structuring. These joists provide support for the finish that is installed in the attic. For example, if your attic is being converted into a livable space such as an extra bedroom or office, the ceiling joists will support the drywall or other finishing materials. Without them, the finish may sag or collapse, posing a serious safety risk to anyone using the space. 

In addition to providing crucial support and stability, floor and ceiling joists can play a role in the energy efficiency of your home. Proper insulation between the joists can help to limit heat transfer through the attic and into your living spaces. This can lead to lower energy costs and increased comfort within your home. 

Insulation Requirements for Unfinished Attics

When it comes to insulating an unfinished attic, it’s important to follow the proper building codes in your area. Proper insulation is necessary for maintaining energy efficiency and preventing heat transfer between your living space and the attic. 

Before beginning any insulation project, it’s important to properly seal air leaks and add any necessary air barriers. This can help prevent air from escaping the living space and entering the attic. An insulation project can only be effective if the attic is properly sealed. 

When selecting insulation for your unfinished attic, consider factors such as your area’s climate and the desired R-value. R-value refers to the insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance to heat transfer. 

Fiberglass batts and blown-in cellulose insulation are popular options for unfinished attics. Fiberglass batts are easy to install but can leave gaps, which can decrease insulation effectiveness. Blown-in cellulose insulation can fill gaps and tight spaces, making it a great choice for attics. 

It’s important to note that different building codes may have different insulation requirements for unfinished attics. Be sure to check with your local building code office to ensure that your insulation project meets the necessary requirements and standards. 

Finished Attics 

A finished attic can provide valuable extra living space in your home. This type of attic has been renovated to create a functional and comfortable living area, such as an extra bedroom, playroom, or home office. However, turning your attic into a livable space requires careful planning and consideration of important factors such as ceiling height, insulation, ventilation, and building codes. In this section, we will discuss what a finished attic is, the benefits of having a finished attic, and some essential considerations for building a functional and comfortable finished attic. 

Livable Space Opportunities in a Finished Attic

Livable Space Opportunities in a Finished Attic

A finished attic can offer a wealth of opportunities for additional livable space in your home. With the right planning and execution, you can transform this somewhat forgotten and neglected area into a beautiful, functional and comfortable living space that serves your needs. 

  • One common use for a finished attic is as an extra bedroom. If you’re expecting an addition to your family but don’t have the square footage to accommodate a dedicated bedroom on your main floor, a finished attic might be the solution. You can create a cozy, private space complete with a comfortable bed, nightstands, dressers, and even a reading nook. 
  • Another popular use for a finished attic is as a home office. If you’re working from home now and then, you can designate the extra space you have created in your attic to use as a home office. You can add a desk, chair, filing cabinets and shelves for your work papers, and, of course, install the necessary technology for you to be productive.

Apart from being used as a bedroom or office, a finished attic can also serve as an entertainment room. You can add a projector, a screen, a sound system, and comfortable seating to create a cozy and lively atmosphere. Plus, with the angled ceilings and exposed beams, the space can feel like a unique and charming entertainment oasis. 

When planning the layout of your finished attic, it’s important to consider essential aspects such as ceiling height and natural lighting. Sloped ceilings are a common feature in finished attics, and while they can add character and charm to space, they can also present some challenges with headroom. You want to ensure that the space is comfortable and functional as you move around it. Adding skylights or larger windows can make the space feel bright, open and inviting. 

It’s essential to have proper insulation and ventilation in a finished attic to ensure comfort and energy efficiency. Proper insulation can help regulate the temperature of the space, especially during hot or cold months, while adequate ventilation can help prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and other issues. 

Planning the Layout of Your Finished Attic Space 

When planning the layout of your finished attic space, there are several factors you need to consider. First and foremost, you must determine the available square footage and ceiling height to ensure that your finished attic can function as a livable space. 

Depending on the design of your home, your finished attic space may feature knee walls or sloped ceilings. These design elements can add character and charm to your finished attic, but they can also impact the layout and placement of furniture, storage spaces, and lighting fixtures. Therefore, consider how you want to allocate the space before planning any modifications. 

If you intend to use your finished attic as an extra bedroom or home office, for instance, you want to make sure that you have enough room for a comfortable bed or desk. You also need to have enough storage space for clothes, books, and other personal items. For an entertainment area, you may need to consider the placement of audiovisual equipment and seating arrangements. 

Once you have determined the basic layout of your finished attic, make a list of required amenities and design elements, such as lighting fixtures, electrical outlets, and built-in storage spaces. You can also consider adding windows or skylights to bring natural light into the space, as well as to provide natural ventilation. 

Finally, ensure that proper insulation and airflow are in place for optimal comfort. Proper insulation can help regulate the temperature of the space, while adequate ventilation can prevent moisture buildup and other potential issues. 

In conclusion, by considering the available square footage, ceiling height, knee walls, sloped ceilings, and necessary amenities, you can create a comfortable and functional livable space in your finished attic. 

Proper Insulation for a Finished Attic Space

Proper insulation is crucial when it comes to creating a comfortable living space in your finished attic. A well-insulated finished attic not only promotes energy efficiency, but it also protects against fluctuations in temperature and saves money on heating and cooling costs. 

Fortunately, you have several options when it comes to insulating your finished attic. Traditional methods such as fiberglass batts and cellulose insulation are popular choices, but you may also want to consider investing in spray foam insulation for added energy efficiency. 

It’s important to install a vapor barrier when insulating your finished attic space. The vapor barrier helps to prevent moisture from entering your finished attic and causing damage to the insulation. Moisture buildup can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which could impact the air quality in your home. 

In addition to a vapor barrier, you may also want to consider adding a radiant barrier to your finished attic space. Radiant barriers reflect heat in hot climates, and they provide additional insulation for cold climates. A radiant barrier blocks radiant heat transfer, keeping your living space cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. 

In conclusion, investing in proper insulation for your finished attic space is essential for achieving energy efficiency and a comfortable living space. Consider your options for insulation, including spray foam insulation, and be sure to install a vapor barrier and radiant barrier to maximize the benefits of insulation in your finished attic. 


Choosing the appropriate type of attic and meeting building code requirements are important considerations when it comes to attics. Proper insulation and ventilation play a significant role in both energy efficiency and indoor air quality. It’s important to follow building code requirements regarding ceiling height and access opening size for scuttle or accessible attics. Ventilation is critical to prevent moisture buildup and the growth of mold and mildew. By selecting the right insulation material and level, you can save on energy costs and improve comfort. Radiant barriers can also provide additional energy cost savings. Overall, following building code requirements with proper insulation and ventilation can lead to a more comfortable, healthier, and cost-effective living space. 

Attic types FAQs – What You Need To Know!

What types of attic insulation are available?

Traditional methods such as fiberglass batts and cellulose insulation are popular choices, but you may also want to consider investing in spray foam insulation for added energy efficiency.

What should I do to ensure proper ventilation for my attic?

It's important to install a vapor barrier when insulating your finished attic space. The vapor barrier helps to prevent moisture from entering your finished attic and causing damage to the insulation. Moisture buildup can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which could impact the air quality in your home.

Are there any other considerations for my attic ceiling?

In addition to a vapor barrier, you may also want to consider adding a radiant barrier to your finished attic space. Radiant barriers reflect heat in hot climates, and they provide additional insulation for cold climates. A radiant barrier blocks radiant heat transfer, keeping your living space cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter.