The Ins and Outs of Attic Remodeling


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.

Floor Joists
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!

                                 Attic_renovation_in_Boston_area-507064-edited               Bathroom_in_renovated_attic-283391-edited

Tags: remodeling, renovation ideas, small space

How to Find Extra Storage Space in an Older Home

If you own an older home, chances are good that inefficient or inadequate storage is high on your list of grievances. We have more – and different – possessions than previous generations. The storage provided in a home built 25, 50 or 100 years ago simply doesn’t work for today’s homeowners.

Most old houses have small (or non-existent) closets and garages. Homes from the 18th and early 19th centuries may have fieldstone foundations and dirt cellars, which limit the storage value of a basement.

The solution is to find extra storage space in the nooks and crannies of your home. With careful planning, it is possible to discover all kinds of untapped storage spaces without expanding a home's footprint. Storage can be tucked into niches or unused corners, around doors, under stairs and eaves, and even hidden beneath stair treads. Basements can be dried out and finished to create functional space.

Have an unused chimney? Take it out and use the space for closets. If you have air ducts left from an abandoned heating system, put that wasted space to work for small shelves or cupboards. If your closets are too narrow, considering enlarging them to get the space you need.

The key is to look at space creatively to make every inch count, as we did for these two Boston-area clients:

creative storage space in bedroom storage wall
  A couple in Cambridge added a tremendous amount of storage in the master bedroom by lining the walls with built-in cabinetry.

hallway bookcase 
These built-in bookshelves provided additional storage in a previously unused corner, while adding architectural interest to the hallway.

Interested in more ideas for renovating an older home? Please download How to Breathe New Life into Older Homes ebook or contact us to discuss your needs. 

Tags: Historic Renovations, small space design, renovation ideas, Boston home renovation

How to Plan a Successful Renovation

What's the #1 renovation mistake? We feel it is not allowing enough time for careful planning.

Planning is essential for a project that stays on schedule, within budget, and successfully transforms your home. Upfront planning includes: Planning a Successful Renovation guide

  • Considering function and aesthetics for the renovation
  • Creating a master plan for this and future renovations
  • Establishing a realistic budget
  • Understanding local building and historic commission regulations
  • Designing a renovation that achieves your goals within your budget
  • Selecting finishes, hardware and other items
  • Setting realistic schedules

To find out more, please read our free guide on planning a successful renovation. You may download the 8-page PDF guide at the link below.

If you have questions or would like to discuss a possible project, please email Paul or call us at. Now is the perfect time to plan your summer renovations!


Download Planning a Successful Renovation



Tags: renovation ideas, renovation guides, renovation ebooks, Massachusetts renovation

Home Renovation Inspiration: Modern Flair for Older Boston Homes

We are in the process of renovating our own older home in Cambridge. When we finish, the interior will be much more contemporary and open. We love the suprise of a traditional exterior cloaking a modern interior, yet it is a priority to preserve the architectural features that give the house character and integrity.

If you own one of Boston's many wonderful older homes, you may love its architectural details, but yearn for solutions to awkward floorplans, smaller rooms and insufficient storage. Maybe you envy the clean lines and openness of contemporary spaces.

Renovation is the answer! We've compiled some inspiring examples of surprising renovations of historic homes from around the country -- including a recent one that we completed in Boston. Please take a look at some of these Ideabooks from Houzz.

If you have any questions or need help envisioning your space in new ways, we would be happy to speak with you. Please don't hesitate to contact us. -- Paul & Karen Morse


Tags: Historic Renovations, renovation ideas, whole home renovation