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How to Finish Attic Walls and Ceilings

In a tight attic space, finishing the walls and ceiling is especially important. Learn how to finish an attic's walls and ceiling with these easy step-by-step directions.

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Step 1: Frame the Top and Sides of the Knee Wall

If installing a knee wall, measure and mark the location for the top of the knee wall, check for level, and attach long boards to the ceiling joists at this point. This will define the top of the knee wall and serve as a guide when installing the OSB and plywood for the walls and ceiling.

Step 2: Insulate Walls and Ceiling

Staple insulation between the wall studs and ceiling joists (Image A). Use R-30 insulation for the ceiling and R-13 for the walls. Don't mash or compress the insulation into the space; it needs a certain amount of loft to work properly. If building a knee wall for storage, like Karl did with this project, make sure to insulate that area as well.

Step 3: Install OSB Walls

Use a nail gun to attach sheets of OSB to the walls over the insulation. Make sure to nail into the wall studs when installing the OSB (Image B).
Safety Alert: Always wear safety glasses and use caution when working with a nail gun. These powerful tools can drive a nail through wood — or a hand or foot

Step 4: Work Behind the Knee Wall

If installing a knee wall with a swing-out feature, such as the swing-out sofa in this episode, make sure to install OSB and/or plywood over the insulation in the visible area behind the knee wall.

Step 5: Attach Laminate

Laminate is more often used as countertops or work surfaces, but here it helps create an edgy look for this teen artist. To install, roll contact cement onto the surface of the OSB wall and the surface of the laminate. Allow the cement to set until it gets tacky. When it's tacky and dry to the touch, carefully line up the laminate and adhere it to the OSB.

Tip: Used correctly, contact cement is a super-strong adhesive – so it's important to line everything up carefully before letting the two surfaces touch. The adhesive will instantly, permanently bond with itself – there's no wiggling around for a better fit once the pieces touch.

Step 6: Roll Out the Bubbles

Use a rubber roller to get ready of any bubbles under the laminate.

Step 7: Install and Paint the Ceiling

Use screws to attach sheets of birch plywood to the angled ceiling over the insulation, making sure to drive the screws into the ceiling joists. The plywood will create a smooth, strong ceiling – without having to apply drywall tape and mud to the ceiling. Run the plywood down to the top of the knee wall.

Prime and paint the walls and ceiling as desired.

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