Storing household items in an attic
June 12, 2015 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Our house has a large attic space that is easily accessible via a door at one end. It's not completely finished, so it's not climate controlled, but it's fairly safe from bugs/critters. What can I safely store up there for long periods of time?

For some reason I'm worried that I'll store, say, unused blankets and find them ... I don't know what. Can I store books up there in cardboard boxes? Are there any definite no-nos for hot/cold attics? I've never had a house with an attic OBVIOUSLY.
posted by checkitnice to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How hot/cold/damp is it in your neck of the woods (i.e., where are you located? Do you need to worry about things freezing for months?)
posted by brainmouse at 8:01 PM on June 12, 2015

I promise not to threads it after this.

I am in the northern Midwest. Hot hot summers, very cold winters. Attic does not freeze.
posted by checkitnice at 8:06 PM on June 12, 2015

Do you know how humid it gets in your attic in the summer?
posted by J. Wilson at 8:39 PM on June 12, 2015

Your enemies here are moisture, bugs, and extreme temps. A blanket could probably survive the extreme temps if protected from moisture and bugs, but the more fragile the object the less that is true. For example, an heirloom quilt would probably not handle the attic well.

I would not store books (or comic books) in an attic. Standard advice is to avoid high humidity and to keep the temperature as consistently near 70F as possible. Humidity plus heat causes mold. Heat alone could make pages brittle. More info here, but probably more than you need.

I would also avoid storing wooden instruments because extreme temperatures and/or humidity will cause the wood to expand and contract. Also, if the instrument is varnished, the varnish may melt or crack. All of this affects the sound and structure of the instrument. This is true of all wooden objects, but may not really be an issue depending on the item (wooden toy blocks, for example).

My family has stored Christmas decorations in our attic for decades. We're in Texas, so we deal with heat and humidity. The wooden ornaments never seemed to be affected, but ornaments that had Styrofoam pieces eventually crumbled beyond repair.

Also, avoid cardboard boxes. Bugs love boxes.
posted by rakaidan at 9:40 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

We are in the northern Midwest and have the same kind of attic you have. We've had lots of books in cardboard boxes, clothes in open shopping bags, etc. up there for years. The stuff has all been fine. I mean, these books are not rare editions, they're standard hardbacks and paperbacks, more than half of which were bought used in the first place, so I'm not talking about archival standards of "fine" here, mind you.

(On the other hand, with basement storage we've definitely lost whole boxes of books to mold.)
posted by escabeche at 6:20 AM on June 13, 2015

This is more of a seasonal thing and less of a long-term storage thing, but root vegetables and winter squashes. One of the apartments I rented was a converted attic that still had access to a tiny insulated but unheated portion and I stored a 50lb bag of potatoes there over the winter. Also did a smaller bag of onions, but those likely wouldn't have lasted the entire winter. Storage apples (particular varieties meant to last, not your average (gag) red delicious) would also do fine. Follow conventional advice on storing onions well separate of other vegetables and so on.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:03 AM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

We have an attic like yours and we store off-season clothing type things (blankets would fit the definition) in big tupperware tubs, to keep out the moisture and bugs. We get the "ruggedized" ones intended for garages as they tend to seal a bit better.

I also store all my luggage in there, just tossed in. I do sometimes find friendly spiders living in or on rarely-used suitcases, but I pull my regular overnight bag out often enough that it's always fine. Random tote bags and backpacks and so on that we get free get thrown in there and we can always find an appropriate (and disposable) bag to send with the kids somewhere we think it may not come back.

I've been thinking of getting a wrapping-paper tupperware thingie and storing my wrapping paper in there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wooden furniture will self destruct in a few years. Don't ask how I know this.
posted by rudd135 at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get a weather station with a remote sensor, put the sensor in the attic, and compare temp and humidity with your living areas over time, this will help you decide what's safe to put up there.

And every house is different. My current place used to have a wood shingle roof, and the more-or-less finished attic was hot in the summer. Then we replaced with a metal roof and now it's just like a warm-ish room, so I feel better about keeping things there.
posted by sageleaf at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Humidity is your worst enemy here. If it's dry and well ventilated a lot of things will be ok up there for a long time. Clearly don't store heirlooms or high value items in areas that are not temperature controlled and keep an eye out for pests.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:40 AM on June 14, 2015

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