The terms attic and loft are often used interchangeably to refer to the space below the roof. While both are spaces used for various storage purposes, there are differences in their connotations, which is crucial to know when planning a conversion project.
It can be confusing to distinguish the differences between an attic and a loft, considering how similar they are, but there are key details that can help set them apart.
Understanding the Differences Between an Attic and a Loft
If you need an additional room for your home on a budget, the roof space is a great place to start. However, the requirements to turn it into a living space will vary depending on whether it is an attic or loft. To help you get a gist of their characteristics, this article will summarise all you need to know.
Attic and loft are generally synonymous, but usage may vary depending on the region:
The United States
- The attic is the more commonly used term in the US, referring to the space directly below the roof, accessible using a hatch and ladder.
- The loft refers to a space above ground level within a building, often lacking walls, and is either an open area or partially enclosed.
- The loft is the more commonly used word in the UK for the roof space and is accessible via ladder and hatch, usually for storage.
- The attic is a room within a roof space accessible using a staircase.
- Attic/loftare used interchangeably in Australia.
- The attic is typically used as a storage space but is versatile enough to be used as a fully functional room.
- The loft refers to a habitable living space.
You can determine whether your home has an attic or a loft by looking at the size of the roof space. Specific dimensions will vary based on how large your home is, but the main difference is that attics are usually bigger than lofts.
Below is a summary of their size characteristics:
- Attics refer to the space beneath the roof, spanning the entire footprint of the house or limited to a smaller area.
- Attics are considered enclosed spaces that can be accessed through a hatch and pull-down ladder.
- When converting in Australia, attics have a lower ceiling height requirement.
- Attics tend to have a pitched roof.
- Lofts are considered smaller than attics, take up a portion of the space, and often overlook a central living area.
- In residential locations, the loft is a small area situated just below the roof. However, lofts constitute the entire upper storey of barns, otherwise known as haylofts.
- Lofts are open spaceswith little to no partitions and are accessible via a staircase. Railings separate some lofts.
- Most lofts have a sloped ceiling and flat roof, and conversions require a higher ceiling.
Both attics and lofts are leveraged as storage units for households and commercial settings. Some homeowners transform these additional roof spaces into useful living areas for added property value and practicality.
There are specific purposes for attics and lofts, as summarised below:
Uses of an Attic
- Due to its ample size, attics are used extensively for storing various objects, including furniture, seasonal items, documents, and gear.
- Homeowners perform attic conversion projects to transform their roof spaces into practical living quarters, including bedrooms and home offices.
- In commercial buildings, attics are used to store HVACs, water heaters, or electrical systems.
- Depending on whether it is unfinished or conditioned, attics can help insulate the property.
- The pitched roofs of attics help direct water flow into the gutters to prevent water damage.
Uses of a Loft
- Lofts are also used as storage units for essential household items like furniture.
- In Australia, lofts are roof cavities that have been converted into living areas, with windows, ventilation, built-in storage, and other complete amenities.
- The most common living spaces made from lofts are bedrooms, playrooms, offices, rumpus rooms, and bathrooms.
- Many lofts are transformed into loft apartments – a large, open area with no walls that are similar to studio apartments, which contain a kitchen, sleeping quarters, and more home features in one room.
- Lofts also have specialised uses outside households, including organ or choir lofts for churches, rigging lofts in shipyards, and parachute lofts.
No rule dictates how you should use your roof space, regardless of whether it is a loft or an attic. However, it is important to establish your conversion plans, the roof space’s structure, and local regulatory requirements.
Appearance and Interior Design
Lofts and attics also largely differ in their appearance. As mentioned, an attic is enclosed, while a loft is open-plan.
The following lists the most common appearances of attics and lofts and their associated designs:
Appearance and Interior Design of Attics
- In most houses, attics are unfinished roof spaces with little to no heating, ventilation, and utilities. Some may have exposed trusses or lack of proper flooring.
- Since attics are usually located in old houses, they may appear dark, cluttered, and dusty. Renovations and regular maintenance can prevent such.
- Attics tend to have higher ceilings and a pitched roof.
- Many modern attics are finished to give homeowners maximum use of their property’s available space.
- The best interior designs for attics are rustic, industrial looks, which is especially fitting for the trusses.
Appearance and Interior Design of Lofts
- Lofts are conditioned roof spaces with complete amenities, like insulation and ventilation, since they are intended for living areas.
- Many lofts have windows and skylights for a brighter and more comfortable look.
- Lofts often have flat roofs and sloped ceilings, creating a box room perfect for apartments.
- Some lofts appear bigger due to the lack of partitions, although some may have railings and banisters.
- Contemporary minimalist interior designs are ideal for household lofts.
Attic vs. Loft Conversions
Because of the differences between attics and lofts, their conversions also have varying standards.
- It involves creating a living space in the attic or enhancing its storage capabilities.
- Attic conversions require less time and budget due to lower ceilings.
- Are an affordable alternative to full-scale additions and renovations
- Easily achievable through stairs or ladders
- Involves creating a complete, liveable area
- Is achieved by adding stair access, windows, ventilation, insulation, and other amenities
- Loft conversions will cost more than their attic counterparts and require more time.
- Ceiling height requirements are higher.
While attics and lofts can be used interchangeably, it is best to understand their nuances when planning a conversion project.
Attics are generally large, unfinished spaces that are commonly used as storage spaces, with some easily convertible to functional rooms.
Meanwhile, lofts are smaller roof cavities that overlook a main living area, with complete amenities necessary for a practical studio apartment-like room.
Regardless of the kind of area you have under your roof, it is important to talk to a professional contractor or attic specialist to gain better insight into how you can plan for your future projects.
We highly recommend teaming up with Attic Plus – one of Australia’s fastest-growing attic storage and conversion companies – for high-quality and personalised attic rooms.
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