How To Make A Truss Attic Suitable For Storage

Kirstin Harrington
by Kirstin Harrington

Storage space is always important to have inside any home. That space is needed for keeping childhood possessions, decorations, and other valuables. In search of additional storage space to use, you may have to look up.

Your attic may be able to yield the storage space you’ve been looking for. Even a truss attic can provide some valuable space for you to use. Getting the most out of your truss attic is possible after you make some smart purchases and changes.

To turn your truss attic into a more accommodating storage area, you need to add shelves. You can install the shelves in between the chords of the truss to make them useful. Just make sure that your truss attic is capable of supporting the added weight before making any alterations.

No homeowner wants the available space in their attic to go to waste. By following the tips in this article, you should be able to transform your truss attic into a safe storage area.

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Considerations Before Adding Storage Space

The most distinctive feature of a truss attic is the truss itself. You have this big wooden structure positioned under your roof and its main job is to provide support. The truss is there mainly to reinforce your roof although it does also provide support to the walls of your attic.

Now, the main issue with having the truss in your attic is that it takes up a lot of space. The wooden beams span most of the room and they will get in the way. So, does it mean that turning a truss attic into a useful storage area is impossible? No, that’s not the case. However, you do have to be more careful when setting up the new space.

In this section, we’ll talk about the key considerations to keep in mind as you evaluate your truss attic. Don’t forget about them because doing so risks doing serious damage to your attic.

The Presence of Roof or Truss Damage

Leaks in the attic are not always easy to detect. Chances are you don’t spend a lot of time up in that part of your home. The damage to your roof may already be quite significant by the time you take notice of it.

When deciding what to do with your truss attic, you first have to check on its condition first. Trusses are sturdy and capable of supporting your roof with no issue, but they are still susceptible to damage. The trusses that have been damaged by a leak may no longer be as strong as they were originally.

You may want to hold off on using your attic for storage if the truss is damaged. A water-damaged truss is not suitable to support additional weight. Address the truss first before you worry about storage.

No Flooring Likely Available

Some homeowners may want to add some flooring in order to turn a truss attic into a better storage area. They look at the space available and think that it should be strong enough to support additional floorboards.

Before pushing forward with flooring, there are two things to consider. They are the strength of the truss and the insulation inside your attic. Keep in mind that trusses are built for the purpose of supporting the roof. They can carry a lot of weight, but supporting the roof and the weight of people may be a bit much.

It would be best to get your truss checked out by a professional first. They will be able to tell you if the truss can support additional floorboards. If the truss cannot do that, you may have to consider making bigger changes inside your attic.

The insulation has to factor into the equation as well. Laying down sheets of plywood along the bottom of the truss risks compressing the insulation. If the insulation is compressed, it won’t be as effective when it comes to temperature regulation.

Many folks who have truss attics have to live without flooring in that part of their home. You need to know that going in if you’re planning to add storage units. The storage spots have to be easily accessible even without flooring in order for them to be useful.

The Conditions in the Attic

You also need to consider the temperature and humidity level in your attic. The conditions in there will play a huge role in whether or not you can use it as a storage space.

High humidity can be damaging to certain items, especially if they are exposed to it for a long time. Storing something valuable inside a humid attic is not a good idea. Constant exposure to high temperatures is also not good for a wide variety of items.

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by checking on the temperature and humidity in your attic before converting it. If it’s not, you’ll just have to use a different part of your home for storage or consider renovating your attic.

Tools Needed

Keep in mind the amount of lumber you’ll need depends on your attic’s size and how much storage space you want. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • OSB plywood 
  • 1 2×4 per piece of plywood  
  • 2×2 boards 
  • Drill
  • 3″ Spax screws
  • 2″ screws 
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • Circular saw
  • Marker 

Steps to Making a Truss Attic Ideal For Storage

Step 1: Measure the Distance

The very first thing you’ll need to do is measure the distance you’re working with. This will help you know how much plywood and how many 2x4s you’ll need to get the job done. Measure from one rafter to the end of where you’d like the storage to end.

Keep in mind vertical distance as well, especially when building shelves. You can’t always move things like pipes and air ducts. For this reason, you may want to grab the dimensions from floor to ceiling as well.

Step 2: Mark The Distance

Mark the distance between the rafters onto a 2×4. After that, you simply make a cut using a circular saw. Repeat this step as many times as needed until you have enough pieces to use.

Step 3: Screw The Boards Into Place

Because attics are often tight on space, it’s suggested to use a drill instead of a hammer. There isn’t much room to move around, and it can quickly become overwhelmingly warm. Opt for using a drill and some screws for step three.

Take one of the cut-up 2x4s and place it on the side of the existing board that holds in the insulation. Use one screw in each corner and screw this piece into place. Do this going down the rafters at the same height.

These act as support boards and are relatively easy to install. To make your job easier, take one panel and put in the screws in the correct position without putting them all the way through. Use this board as a sample as to where the screws go in all the other support boards.

Step 5: Add More Support

Take 2×2 pieces and apply them to the rafters in front of you. You’ll want to know how much shelving space you want before doing this step.

Suppose you want a shelf that’s 18 inches deep, screw in a 2×2 19 inches into the rafter. Then, place an additional board at the beginning of the rafter. The last part of this step is installing two more boards on each side of the rafter.

That is optional, but if you plan on storing heavy boxes on the shelves, you’ll want as much support as possible. If you’ve installed all of these boards, it will look as if you added on a rectangle base.

Step 6: Measure the Plywood & Add Screws

Measure out plywood pieces to act as the flooring of the shelves. Once you do that, simply take two-inch screws and place them on top of the base you just created. Repeat this step for every space you want to add a shelf.

Step 7: Add Your Items

Add in your goods! Like you read about earlier because a truss attic isn’t meant for storage, it’s essential to pack light. You can keep an empty suitcase on the shelf or a basket of sports balls.

Make sure you evenly space out your storage as well. You wouldn’t want to place all things heavy on one end. If you do have heavier items, you may want to put those in the middle of your shelving unit.

Adding Storage Space to Your Truss Attic

There are different ways to turn your truss attic into a useful storage area. Let’s discuss some of those methods in this section of the article.

Add Shelves between the Chords

Probably the best and easiest way to turn your truss attic into a storage area is to add shelves. The spaces between the chords – the beams sloping down from the roof – are often big enough to accommodate shelves.

You can create the shelves yourself from plywood or purchase them pre-made. The advantage of getting the shelves pre-made is that they come packaged together with the hardware needed for installation. If you’re building your own shelves, you can lock them in place using screws.

Stick to installing only one shelf per gap in the truss. The chords can probably hold more, but you’ll be pushing them to the limit. It’s good to be more cautious here because damaging the truss is an absolute no-no.

Add Flooring to Your Truss Attic

After getting your attic checked by a professional, you may be given the green light to install some flooring. In that case, you have a choice to make. You can either install pre-made or build floor panels of your own.

Homeowners can save money by building their own floor panels out of plywood. Creating panels that fit well over insulation can be a challenge though.

You can save time by getting the pre-made panels instead. Some pre-made panels also come with their own support pieces that prevent them from placing too much weight on the insulation. The choice is up to you, but the pre-made panels are easier to work with.

Add a Storage Platform to Your Truss Attic

One more way to add storage space to your truss attic is to install a dedicated platform. The platform must be attached to the truss, but it won’t add that much weight if multiple beams support it.

What we like a lot about those pre-made platforms is that they work in just about all kinds of truss attics. They can even work fine in an attic incapable of supporting flooring because of the platform itself.

The downside to using a storage platform is that they don’t provide a lot of space. You’ll have to reserve the attic for only a few items if you’re going to use a storage platform.

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Related Questions

What should not be stored in an attic?

There are a handful of things that should never be stored in an attic. This is because of the ever-changing temperatures and the less-than-stable environment. Some of these things are delicate fabrics, important papers, electronics, and anything made out of natural materials.

Avoid things like candles, anything flammable, and perishable foods. It’s easy to forget what we put in attics. Keep it to seasonal things or simple items you just might need to get out of sight for a short period of time.

How much weight can an attic truss hold?

While it can vary from one attic to another, a truss can hold 40 pounds per square foot on average. This allows for enough support to hold large boxes but not enough for an extra bedroom or large furniture.

If you absolutely must put in heavier things, consider adding in more support beams. This does require more work but can prevent the hassle of a buckling shelf if you did it without enough support.

Are attic trusses worth it?

For most people, the answer is yes. If you consider yourself a minimalist, there’s no reason to put in the work for storage space. The majority of homeowners love having extra space hidden away to keep their things.

In addition, it also increases the living space since storage is no longer taking up room. This gives you more floor area to make each room into your dream space.

Kirstin Harrington
Kirstin Harrington

Kirstin is a passionate writer who loves helping people learn new things when it comes to home improvement. When she's not behind a keyboard, she enjoys DIY projects, crafts, spending time with her pets, and making videos. She hopes that with all she writes, someone is finding a solution to their home improvement needs.

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