Steps to Turning Your Unused Attic Into Your Dream Library

If you’re looking to optimize your current space, transform your unused attic into a dream home library. Give yourself and your family a reader’s retreat, a place perfect for learning and relaxation.

We’ll break down the features and the steps to converting your attic into a library:

The attic should be building code compliant

When converting an attic into a living space, it must meet requirements set by the building code, like any other living area in your house.

Overall floor space

  • Floor space: The attic should have a minimum of 70-sq ft of floor space.
  • Floor dimension: It should have a floor space of at least 7 ft starting from the center. The reason behind this is to prevent homeowners from occupying strangely configured spaces. If you have a 70-sq ft attic space with a 4-ft x 17.50-ft dimension, it will not be code-compliant.
  • Ceiling height: At least 50 percent of usable floor space should have a ceiling height of 7.50-ft or more so owners can stand up comfortably with enough headroom.


Note that both fixed ladders and pull-down ladders aren’t code-compliant stairs for an attic. If your attic doesn’t have a staircase, your design will require one. According to the building code, an attic staircase must:

  • Provide a minimum of 6-ft 8-in of headroom in its entire length.
  • An individual stair must be at least 36-in wide.
  • Treads must be at least 9-in deep.
  • Risers should be no more than 8 1/4-in high.

Secondary egress

Attics can be the worst place to be in during a fire because heat can rise rapidly; that’s why it’s necessary to have a secondary exit. Attic egress openings must:

  • Have a minimum net opening area of at least 5.70-sq ft.
  • Have a height of not more than 44-in above the attic floor level.
  • Have a minimum opening height of at least 24-in.
  • Have a minimum opening width of at least 20-in.

Roof frame

Most roofs are framed either using trusses or rafters.

  • Trusses aren’t ideal for converted attics because it’s hard to get that needed walkable open space.
  • Rafters provide a better attic environment because of the clear space they provide below the frame.

You can go to your local permitting office to get a permit for your attic renovation. Usually, permits are needed only when there’s a need to alter electrical wirings or ventilation or if the renovation will affect the overall structural integrity of the house.

Start building your dream home library

Top-to-bottom attic renovation, unless you’re a handyman, is rarely a DIY project. Be realistic about your skill level when planning to do all the work yourself. Hire a professional for the renovation, especially if this is your first time to remodel.

Check the roof for leaks

The attic is the spot in your house that’s most likely to suffer from moisture infiltration. Moisture can cause substantial damage to wooden shelves and books.

  • Ensure that the roof is completely water-proof. Apply a waterproofing compound to prevent the penetration of moisture in the roofing material.
  • Check the walls for moisture. Mold and mildew thrive in moisture-filled, humid walls.

Minor roof repairs can cost from $150 to $400; $400 to $1,000 for moderate repairs; while $1,000 to $3,000 for major repairs.

Proper insulation

The temperature in a standard library should be around 70°F (21°C) and the room should have a relative humidity of between 30-50%. Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity may contribute significantly to the deterioration of books and other archival materials. The damage may include cockling paper, flaking ink, warped book covers and cracked emulsion on photographs.

Attic insulations maintain the desired temperature in the attic. Consider the following insulation methods:

  • Wall insulation – This seals gaps in walls effectively, ensuring stud widths are snug tight. This keeps outside temperatures at bay.
  • Spray foam insulation – This guarantees there will be no gaps where indoor air can escape, as the constant exchange of air between inside and outside the home can lead to high energy bills.


Attic wiring

An electrician should check if all the wiring installations meet building code requirements. Doing this without the guidance and advice of a professional increases the risk of electrical breakdown and fires. Your electrician will install electrical wiring across the walls and the ceiling, with one outlet available for each wall.

If your attic doesn’t have existing ductwork, you’ll need to find out whether your current HVAC system will be able to support a new room.

Thick subfloor

You can only proceed with subflooring once all electrical, ventilation and insulation installations are finished. If wood joists are visible on your attic floor, you will need a subfloor.

Choose a thicker subfloor panel to reduce the sound coming from the room below the attic. You can also add an insulation layer beneath the subfloor.

Inspiring wall color

You can start now with the decorating part. Since your home library will be your sanctuary for relaxation, go with inspiring and soothing hues.

  • Neutral colors like ivory, light blue, light purple and muted colors of green will create a soothing ambiance.
  • Warm neutral colors (light shades of brown and grey) will make the attic cozy and will give the library a cocoon-like effect.
  • Pure white walls will give a Scandinavian-inspired feel.
  • Black walls will result in a sophisticated, upscale finish.

More vibrant shades can be used for a few accent details to spark creativity and imagination. Avoid bright colors that invigorate, like sunny yellow, bold fuschia, bright orange and lime green. If these hues are your favorites, you can tone down and substitute with mellow gold, pumpkin, warm berry or olive green.

Reading nook

Pick a special corner that will serve as your reading nook. Place your favorite chair or couch, and hang select art pieces for inspiration. Surround the space with more shelves and cozy furniture.


Bookshelves are the key ingredients to turning your attic into a full-fledged library. When choosing your bookshelves, go with those that will give maximum functionality and storage space.

  • Traditional bookshelves are made from wood and come with classic features like crown molding, built-in lighting and picture frame doors. You can stain them to match your home library’s design.
  • Modern and minimalist bookshelves have wooden and metal accents.
  • Built-in shelves and floating shelves have become more popular in modern homes. They have a sleek design, saving on floor space. They can store everything from books, pictures to CDs.

How much would it cost to convert an attic into a library?

According to Home Advisor, the average cost of attic conversions is $50,000. Here’s a breakdown of the cost (note that the costs are rough averages):

  • Windows – $2,200 for a five-window installation.
  • Dormers – $1,800 for a DIY dormer installation; $2,500 to $20,000 for professional installation.
  • Heating and cooling – $1,000 for duct and vent installations; $4,000 for a furnace installation; $300 for a window air conditioner; $150 to $200 for an electric baseboard heater; $500 to $1,600 for an attic fan installation.
  • Stairs – $2,200 to $3,100 for a professional staircase installation.
  • Walls – $1,900 for a professional wall installation; $1,600 for a drywall installation; $500 for a typical wallpaper.
  • Ceiling – $1,600 for a professional ceiling installation.
  • Flooring – $4,400 for hardwood; $1,500 for carpet; $ $2,800 for laminate flooring; $1,600 for ceramic or porcelain tile.
  • Lighting – $50 to $200 for recessed lighting; $90 to $220 for ceiling-mounted lights; $90 to $230 for wall lights.
  • Electricity – $1,300 to $3,000 for new electrical panel installation; $50 to $100 an hour for the service of a licensed electrician.
  • Plumbing – $1,000 for plumbing installations.
  • Bookshelves – $2,500 for a standard built-in bookshelf; $1,250 to $4,000 for a customized bookshelf.
  • Chairs and couches – $300 to $1,000 for upholstered furniture.

home library

Why have a library at home?

A child growing up in a home with at least 80 books has a higher chance of developing greater literacy and numeracy in adulthood. The study found that high school students who are exposed to a wide selection of books can become as literate, numerate and technologically bright as college graduates who grew up with only a few books.

Another study found that growing up in a home with 500 books could propel a child up to 3.2 years further in education.

Fun fact: Scandinavian families (Norwegians, Swedes) have the biggest book collections, with a minimum of 500 books in their homes. Chile, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Singapore are the only countries with homes having 80 books or fewer.

A home library is an excellent investment for your child’s future. Reading at home can improve your child’s reading and math skills, potentially eliminating the need for additional classes. Lastly, a child who grew up in a family rich in books is 19% more likely to finish college than a child who didn’t.

Trust A+ Insulation for your attic’s insulation needs

Did you know that an under-insulated house can lose between 20 and 30 percent of its energy? Trust your insulation needs to us at A+ Insulation. When it comes to insulation, we’re the experts to answer all your needs. We’ve been insulating homes and businesses in the Kansas City area since 2004.

Our spray foam method has been proven to reduce energy loss and lower electricity bills. Because it’s made of foam, it expands to fill entire holes, leaving no gaps in your walls. Feel free to request a quote or call us today for more information.