Here are some things to keep in mind before beginning your project:

• Analyze how you want to use the space. "Bigger isn't always better," said homeowner Linda Berglin.

• Interview three contractors and get references, advised homeowners Nancy and Dan Griffin, who had a bad experience with the first contractor they hired. "Work with someone you feel comfortable with and who respects your budget," said Nancy.

• Visit home tours to scrutinize other attic conversions. "Another project gave us the idea to open up the wall at the top of the stairs," said Nancy.

• Explore different heating and cooling options for your space. "Attics tend to be too hot or too cold, and it has to be comfortable up there," said Dan Hayes of Plekkenpol Builders.

• Attic bathrooms typically have large walk-in showers and more storage cabinets instead of a space-sucking tub.

• When remodeling existing spaces, you may have to modify the roof structure to meet building codes.

• Add skylights and windows to bring natural light into dark rooms.

• Make sure the attic suite is well-insulated. Most contractors recommend installing energy-efficient spray-foam insulation.

• Consider remodeling in phases to spread out costs, like the Griffins did. "It took us six years to finish it, but we had an overall vision," said Nancy.

Lynn Underwood