When it comes to choosing a storage container for attic use, there are literally hundreds of containers, totes, footlockers, bins, boxes, baskets and bags. How do you know which ones are best for attic storage? Just as importantly, how do you get them up into your attic?
Attic storage has unique characteristics. You will want to first consider some of the following before you head off to Home Depot, Lowes, Target or Wal-Mart or start clicking on Amazon to buy storage containers.
First, head up the attic stairs or ladder and take a fresh look at your attic space with storage bins in mind. Bring along a tape measure and notepad. Your goal is to make a plan of what you want to store where and then match your needs to the panoply of storage containers on the market. Remember this is all about convenience, your convenience. Some of the following considerations affect the types and sizes of containers you’ll want to buy for each of the different storage spots in your attic.
Do you have an attic flooring system over part or all of the attic space? Sturdy bins can span between the attic floor joists, but if you slip as you’re moving them around, even a moderately heavy bin could crack or even break through the garage or home ceiling on the other side of that unprotected space between the floor joists. If you are going to span the floor joists you’ll need a storage container long enough with some overhang. So measure and note the distance between joists.
Moving bins by carrying or sliding them around your attic is easier if you have at least some flooring space for staging. More flooring makes moving the bins easier. If you have sturdy attic flooring, many of the bigger bins and footlockers have wheels and handles built into them. You can load these heavy and roll them into place. If you have only partial or minimal attic flooring, think about the weight of your loaded storage containers. How will you need to carry them to their resting place? Are you sliding them or carrying them, perhaps hunched over? Sometimes using more and smaller containers makes storage easier than fewer and larger containers. Will you need totes with handles built in to make them easier to carry?
Now that you considered the floor, take a look at your attic ceiling or the house roof. Height is an important limiter of your available storage space. In most attics the roof angles upwards from the sides. Planning ahead lets you maximize the available vertical space.
For example, you can maximize storage space with bins of different heights; lower ones tuck in closer to the eaves while taller ones or stackable containers fit better toward the center. Measure the different heights from floor to ceiling. Later you’ll divide these measurements by the heights of the storage containers you purchase. Some containers are made for stacking. But the problem with stacking bins is that you have to pull out the whole stack to access items. An alternative is to build some inexpensive shelving.
Another height consideration is how much space you have between the container top and attic ceiling. Some containers have lids on hinges and you’ll need extra space so the hinged lid can open upwards if you want to access or view the storage items. Otherwise you’ll find yourself constantly pulling out containers to open and examine the contents, then pushing them back into place. For containers kept tight to the attic ceiling, consider types with flat lids that snap off.
Do you have rafters, an attic truss system, or some combination? You’ll want to measure the space between trusses. Then purchase storage containers that easily move around the trusses. Maximize available storage space by purchasing bins that fit neatly into the space between trusses.
Attic Storage Items
Make a list of the items you want to store in your attic. Your list will come in handy when you make your storage plan and catalog. With your list of items or types of items you can then match your needs to the types of bins available. There is a type of storage container for most every item. You’ll end up with a list of bins of varying sizes and types. These can then be mapped to your attic measurements for an efficient system.
Some items you may want to store in small, six-quart sized boxes while other items may be better suited to a 169-quart tote. Combinations work too. You may want to store a variety of shoes or holiday decorations in smaller containers to keep them organized, but then put all these small containers of like items into a big tote.
Plastic storage containers are available in a wide range of prices and quality. You can save money by purchasing lower cost bins for storage items that will not be accessed very often. Purchase higher quality bins when you expect to handle or move them around a lot. Generally it is in the handling where quality issues like the strength of the bin, the roller wheels, clasps and handles become more apparent.
Weight of the bin contents is also an important strength consideration. Capacity of your SpaceLift attic lift is up to 200 pounds. You probably do not want to have that much weight in a single plastic storage container, not only for the strength of the plastic, but for your convenience in moving the container around the attic. You can stack containers high on your SpaceLift attic lift and if you’ve stacked too much weight it will let you know.
Where possible, we prefer clear plastic storage containers because it is easy to see what’s inside. Even with clear bins, but especially with opaque ones, be sure to label. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. A labeling system saves you hours of opening and closing containers searching for a particular item. Want to take it a step further? Make a list and maybe even a map of your storage items and containers and keep it on a clipboard at the attic entrance.
Storage Container Considerations
Okay. You have your list of storage items. You have your map of attic space. Now you can match the size and type of storage containers to the items and space available.
Now you’re ready to go shopping in person or on the internet. The Spruce offers this blog post, “The 6 Best Plastic Storage Bins to Buy in 2021.” They cover a broad range of container sizes and types.