Do you want to add space without adding on? Your attic may offer the perfect solution. Attics have been converted into wonderful master bedroom suites, playrooms, home offices, reading nooks, guest bedrooms, teen hideaways, and the list goes on.Could you be making better use of your attic?
Here is a checklist of construction considerations when evaluating the feasibility of an attic remodel:
Building Code Requirements
Building codes may vary according to municipality, but all Massachusetts towns require minimum ceiling heights and egress windows.
Dormers are a great way to open up space that would otherwise be unuseable because of the slope of the rafters. There are several types of dormers, but classic doghouse-style or shed dormers are the most common in attic conversions. Not sure the difference? Here’s a quick overview article on Houzz.
Dormers are a cost-efficient way to meet building codes for ceiling height and add windows for light, ventilation and egress in case of fire. However, the style of your roof will dictate whether or not dormers are a viable option. A well-conceived dormer should enhance the exterior of your home and add architectural interest.
Most existing attic stairs do not meet code for living spaces. Existing steep or narrow stairs may need to be rebuilt or relocated depending on ceiling height at the top. When considering the footprint of a stairway, a spiral staircase requires the least square footage, followed by a straight run and a staircase with a landing and two runs. Many homeowners find the room for the staircase by sacrificing a closet on the floor below the attic and tucking storage space under the newly constructed stairs.
The floors of many attics are not built to current code requirements. If they do not meet code, they may be reinforced by sistering additional joists to existing ones or replacing them with larger joists.
Skylights and Windows
If you are adding dormers, windows are sure to be part of your plan. If not, you may want to add windows, skylights or both to provide maximum light and ventilation. If you plan to use the new room as a bedroom, code requires at least one window to provide egress in case of fire. If you don’t have wall space for several windows, skylights are a great way to let in light and air while picking up a few inches of headroom in a slanted ceiling. As with dormers, carefully consider window and skylight placement to enhance the exterior aesthetics of your home.
Every home has what is called the “main stack”, which is the large pipe that carries wastewater to your sewer or septic tank and provides ventilation for proper drainage. If you are installing a bathroom in your converted attic, consider placing the new bathroom directly over existing plumbing in the floors below to minimize costs.
Heating and Cooling
Hot air rises, so your attic room is going to be warmer than the rest of your home during the summer. Spray-in-place foam insulation will help keep your new space cooler in the summer and hold the heat in the winter. If your existing system has the capacity to heat and cool your attic room, consider creating a special zone for optimal climate control. Other options for heating and cooling are a mini-split heat exchange system or a small traditional style furnace/air conditioner.
Slanted attic ceilings can pose a furniture placement challenge. We like to minimize the need for freestanding furniture by building in storage whenever possible. For example, knee wall space (the area where the rafters slant down to connect to the outer wall) is far too low to be comfortable for living, but is ideal for built-in drawers and shelving. Smart use of built-ins will maximize your use of space.
Is your home right for an attic renovation? Please contact us to get more information to help plan and create your new attic space. Just look how one recent client added a master suite in their attic in these in-progress photos!