Everyone knows the attic and the basement are meant for storing stuff. Decorations you're not using, DIY stuff, tools, old stuff you aren't using but can't get rid of, that weird present you got that you have to put out when that person comes over. The list goes on and on.
Your basement and attic areas are probably full of stuff you should actually never, ever put in there for all sorts of reasons that range from personal safety to property damage. Never store these things in your attic or basement, and start re-organizing your storage areas.
It's very common to have leftover paint from past home projects. You might have the wall color for one room, trim paint, or some other color you used once. The problem with paint is that it's flammable. Under extreme temperature conditions, latex paints will break down and become unstable.
The attic of any home is prone to getting hot, sometimes extremely so. Any paint stored up there is a hazard and should be moved into an area of the home that is more temperature controlled. Under room temperature conditions, old paint is safe to store.
Your old blankets, quilts, winter coats, and other fabric items, especially treasured keepsakes such as a wedding dress, should never be put in the attic or basement unless they are safely inside air-tight, plastic storage containers.
Wool, linens, cotton, and many other fabrics are not only subject to water damage, but they're also highly attractive to pests. Anything soft like this attracts nest-building animals, and there are plenty of pests, including moths, that feed on fabric.
Most people don't even know how many old keyboards, computer mouses, headsets, cables, cords, and miscellaneous electronics they have lying around. You might have a box, or two, of this random stuff that you know you can't throw away but you're no longer using.
But if you're saving these items so they can potentially be used again in the future, move them from the attic. Electronics can be damaged by heat, which is exactly what you're going to find in an attic.
Old electronics should be stored somewhere cool, so they retain functionality in case you need one of these items again.
This also applies to any old DVDs or even VCR tapes you might still have, along with old remote controls, gaming consoles, and anything that can be considered to be an electronic or electronic-related item.
None f these items should be put in the basement or attic because all of these items can be damaged by changing temperatures and environmental conditions.
Cleaning solutions and other chemicals should not be put in attic or basement areas because they're flammable. These flammable items shouldn't be in attic or basement areas that are subject to temperature changes, as this can cause the chemicals to react.
Having a reaction could mean that these chemicals catch on fire, which is an extreme hazard to you and your belongings.
Any chemical mixtures or potentially toxic solutions should be stored safely in a temperature-controlled, dry space where they are out of reach of children and pets.
There might be lots of reasons why you have extra supplies, including food, stored away somewhere. Dry goods, canned goods, and paper products, these items can be subject to scarcity in times of trouble, and many people have learned this.
Attic environments, however, are too warm for food storage. The heat can actually activate the cooking process, and this will spoil your food. Any food and drink items should always be stored in a cool, dry place. This applies to food for pets, too. Their food may also spoil in the attic, and you definitely don't want that.
There's something else to consider when you're storing food in the basement or attic: pests. You don't want to end up providing a feast for mice and critters. If you do store food anywhere in your home, store it in plastic containers that will keep all the pests out and help preserve your food to keep it fresher.
Papers and Photos
Remember actual photographs? It's been a while, but chances are, you still have lots of old photos lying around in the basement or the attic somewhere.
Old papers, books, and photos are often put into boxes and thrown into basements and attics, but you should move those items out. Humidity and heat can damage photos and paper. Ink on paper and photos becomes discolored.
Photos, books, and documents should be stored in a dry location that's not subject to marked changes in humidity. The basement, which could experience flood damage or water damage due to leaking popes, is not a safe location for these items, either.
Store these paper and photographic items somewhere off the floor in a dry and temperature-controlled spot, and they should be safe for many years to come.
Would basements and attics even exist if it wasn't for seasonable decorations? The items you drag out to decorate for the holidays are special, and many of them might be treasured keepsakes. But let's face it, you don't want them around for most of the year.
It seems natural to place boxes of this stuff up in the attic but don't. Humidity can cause wood to swell and glue to melt. Handmade items and decorations made of natural materials are prone to becoming damaged if they're stored in the attic.
Another thing to remember when storing decorations: candles and candies. Candy canes, candles, and other items associated with holiday decorations should never be stored in an attic or in any area where they may get hot.
Wax and candies will start to melt in the presence of heat, and this can end up damaging many of your treasured holiday items. Glue can also melt.
Some holiday decorations can be safely stored in the basement or attic, but there are some items, such as handmade decorations, that should be safely kept in an area of the home that has a more regulated temperature.
Old furniture, musical instruments, shelves, there are lots of items made from wood that you've collected and stored over the years. But wood swells in humidity. It shrinks and cracks in the cold.
In other words, the attic is a terrible place to store any wood items of any kind. That old guitar, those shelves you might hang again, furniture you don’t want to part with, all those wooden items could be destroyed in the attic. Put them somewhere dry and temperature controlled.
It always looks super cool in movies and TV shows when the attic or basement is full of creepy old stuff, like big portraits of people or other artwork. The truth is, you should never store artwork in your attic or basement areas.
Paint can expand and crack when exposed to humidity and heat, which will absolutely ruin artwork. All artwork should optimally be stored at temperatures between 65 and 75 F. Attic spaces tend to fluctuate wildly outside of this range, which means artwork should not be in these environments.
Though it's easy to forget this, remember that leather is actually skin. Just like your skin, leather can get dry and cracked due to humidity, heat, cold and dry conditions. Any area of your home that is not temperature controlled is unsuitable for storing leather items, including leather furniture.
Don’t store any leather items in the attic because it’s likely they will become damaged here.
What Can You Store?
There's a long list of things you shouldn't store in your attic or basement areas. So...what can you actually put in there? It may sound like you can't put anything in these areas meant for storage, but there are many things that can be safely stored in your attic and/or basement.
Luggage of any kind will do just fine in the attic or basement. Suitcases, garment bags, and computer bags can all be stored in these areas and stay in good condition under all normal atmospheric circumstances. Any sort of duffle bags, gym bags, and tote bags can be stored in attic and basement areas.
Cookware, dishware, silverware, all of these things can be stored in attics and basements. These items are already designed to withstand moisture, heat, and cold. That means they can certainly stand up to the fluxes in temperature and the sometimes harsh atmospheric conditions found in these storage areas of your home.
Gear like camping equipment, tools, outdoor stuff, all of this is made to be stored in attics and basements. These items are already designed to withstand moisture and weather, so they will withstand the conditions in your basement and attic as well.
Ceramics are fine in attic and basement environments. Ceramics withstand humidity and moisture, and they hold up well even in the face of changing temperature conditions. Old crockery, decorative objects, mugs, pottery—all ceramics can be stored in attic and basement areas.
Metal objects can also be stored safely in attic and basement areas. Metal will withstand humidity, cold, and heat. Shelving, racks, lamps, and other items made from metal can all be stored in your basement and attic.
Plastic containers are made for storage. They're designed to withstand humidity and temperature changes.
Best of all, they keep out dust, and they keep out pests. Instead of cardboard boxes that animals can easily chew through, store your items in plastic containers that will keep them protected from water, temperature, pests, and all those other things that can wreak havoc on the treasured and important items you're trying to preserve.
Never Store These Things in Your Attic or Basement
Some items that feel like a natural fit for the attic or basement can actually be damaged or even do damage to you if they are stored in these places.
By knowing what not to store in the attic and basement areas of your home and how to store items here safely, you will keep all of your treasured items safer, and you'll be keeping yourself safer, too. Good organization starts with knowing what goes where and how to store it all the right way.
Basement and Attic Storage FAQ
Can an Unfinished Basement Be Used for Storage?
Unfinished basements may not have completed walls, rooms, or even finished flooring or ceilings. But that doesn't mean an unfinished basement is unsuitable for storage.
Even unfinished basements can be used to store all sorts of objects, though these items will be subject to changes in heat and cold due to the lack of insulation and finished walls.
As long as you avoid the items that shouldn't be stored in the basement, even an unfinished basement can be used to hold the items you need to keep out of the way.
How Can You Prevent Basement Flooding?
Basements can flood due to rainwater, plumbing issues, and other problems. There are things you can do to help prevent and avoid flooding, as water can do a lot of damage to anything you might be storing in your basement.
Check for cracks in the foundation and seal them as you find them, have a sump pump installed to get rid of water in the basement once it's in there, and add window well covers to basement window areas. Keep your gutters clear of debris, so the water is effectively funneled away from your house.
Look for leaks and clean gutters regularly to provide ongoing maintenance to prevent basement flooding.
Can You Finish an Attic?
If you want to make your attic safer for storing items, you can finish this space. Add insulation and drywall, for starters. You'll also need to provide ventilation for the attic. A dehumidifier may help pull moisture from the air.
A finished attic provides a more temperature-controlled, safer environment, which makes it more suitable for storage.
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