If your house is feeling a bit cramped, try looking up. Converting an attic into finished rooms is often the least expensive way to add living space to your home, and it provides a high return on your investment should you decide to sell your house. All attics are not created equal, however, and a number of potential pitfalls could turn your dream addition into a nightmare. Consult with a remodeling professional about the answers to these five questions to determine a plan for converting your attic.
Is there easy access to the attic space?
In many homes, the only attic access is a set of folding stairs. Finding space for a permanent staircase that meets building codes might not be easy, and construction can be costly. You'll need approximately 60 square feet of main-level floor space for a proper staircase.
Is the ceiling high enough?
Unless you plan to make major changes to the roof framing, the ceiling height in an attic addition will be limited by the height and slope of the rafters. A vaulted ceiling is a great way to increase the available space and height in an attic room, but the existing bracing shouldn't be removed without providing additional support. To make your addition energy-efficient, be sure there is enough space for adequate insulation and venting.
Is there enough natural light?
Consider whether you will need to install skylights, dormers, or windows to provide natural lighting and ventilation for the room. Adding windows to the outside walls on a gable roof is an easy alternative. Dormers are a great way to increase light and space, but construction can be costly.
Is the floor strong enough?
Find out whether the floor joists in the attic can handle the added load of a finished room or if reinforcement will be needed. In most cases the floor joists need to be at least 2�12s. Keep in mind that beefing up the floor framing will reduce the ceiling height.
How will you heat and cool the added space?
Because attic rooms tend to be hot in summer and cold in winter, they usually require a thermostat and heating-and-cooling system separate from the rest of the house. Also, consider whether it will be difficult to run the necessary ductwork, wiring, and plumbing to your attic room.
Danny is the host of the nationally syndicated show Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford (dannylipford.com).
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