Easy DIY Basement and Attic Projects That Will Keep Your Stuff Secure

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Attic living room

Whether it’s boxes of family memories, or just out-of-season clothing and holiday decor, one thing is certain. You need a safe, secure place to stash your cherished belongings.

There’s always the option to store your valuables in a self-storage unit, although you might want the convenience of starting with storage space in your own home. However, basements and attics aren’t always the most suitable environments for important items. But with a few hours, a few bucks and some ingenuity, you can make better use of these prime storage areas and help keep your house from looking like an episode of Hoarders.

Here are four weekend home improvement projects suitable for any level of DIY skill (even no skill!) that will create additional, secure storage for your most important belongings.


Install shelving in your basement

Cost: $30 – $50
Time commitment: 1 hour (plus purging and organizing)

Tempted to just toss boxes in your basement for what Mike Kerrigan, a Chicago-area DIY er and real estate agent calls a “set-it-and-forget-it” storage system? Don’t do it—and not just because it will be impossible to find anything in the mess. “All basements have the threat of leaking or flooding. If boxes are on the floor,” Kerrigan advises, the contents are likely to be damaged.”

The solution is to install simple shelving, which protects boxes from moisture and also prevents fragile items from getting crushed underneath. While you could build your own shelves with some plywood, he recommends checking into plastic shelving that can be snapped together with no tools. “You can find it at big box stores for as low as $30 for five good-size shelves,” Kerrigan says.

Another option is to repurpose kitchen cabinets. Post on your local social media pages or visit a used building supply store like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. The less time you spend building the shelves, the more time you can spend on a more useful project—decluttering. “Create zones for your treasures, with different areas for holiday decorations, sports equipment, and documents,” Kerrigan says. “It’ll be much easier to find what you need.”

Carpeted Basement Stairs

Waterproof your basement

Cost: $40 – 45 per gallon
Time commitment: 2 hours to an afternoon, depending on size

While it’s true that basements are prone to water leakage, there’s nothing stopping you from making the basement a little less prone to moisture, notes Carrie Thompson, facility manager at Affordable Mini Storage, LLC in Roanoke, VA. “If you have concrete walls, you’ll want to lock the moisture out.”

Since concrete is a porous surface, her best suggestion is to paint concrete walls with DryLok, a latex-based waterproof “paint” that helps keep your space dry, a tip she uses at her own storage facility. “Since DryLok leaves a gritty surface and a dull, off-white look to the walls, we always paint over it with a standard latex paint,” she adds. And while you’re waterproofing your basement, why not add a pop of color to the basement while you’re down there?

Waterproof your attic

Cost: $25 – $35 per gallon
Time commitment: 2 hours to an afternoon depending on size

DIY-er Caleb Backe finds that people are more prone to think of waterproofing their basement than their attic, but he finds it’s a must if you’re going to be using it for storage. (See below before you decide if that’s a good idea for you or not.)

“From the loss of valuables to problems stemming from mold, water intrusion is not something to be taken lightly,” Backe says. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your roof isn’t leaking, but that’s a job for a professional. You can waterproof the rest of the surfaces with an oil-based waterproofing compound that can cover cement or wood.

“It’s important to move slowly and cover every inch, and use a brush rather than a roller,” Backe recommends. While you’re at it, attic ventilation is a good precaution to take as well.

Add flooring to your attic (proceed with caution!)

Cost: Negligible; visit your lumber supply to get some boards
Time: Minimal

This seems like a no-brainer as a way to increase space, but you’ll want to take care, cautions Kerrigan. “In newer homes, the attic is usually accessed by a narrow hatch, and carrying a box of treasures up a ladder will be a test of balance and strength,” Kerrigan says. “Rafters are designed to hold up the roof and not load rated for much else.”

So unless your home has a pull-down stairwell (think Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) or you’re in an older home with a dedicated stairway, your storage will be limited to a few light boxes, he adds. In addition, attics experience dramatic temperature changes, which can harm most of your items—from electronics to photos and artwork.

“Sometimes a few boards laid out on the rafters will provide enough room for storage of lighter items,” Kerrigan says. But don’t overdo it—or you risk having your project turn into far more than DIY.

This guest post was provided by Cathie Ericson of SpareFoot.

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