Adding Attic Living Space

Adding attic living space can convert unused space into living space at a low cost, but you have to plan the renovation and refinishing carefully.

Many homeowners looking for additional living space are looking up. Their attics is where they can add living space.

Once an area to store old family photo albums and Christmas decorations, attics can serve a better purpose. Homeowners can add living space in the attic for use as bedrooms, sewing rooms, home offices and workout rooms.

Benefits of adding living space in the attic

Adding living space to the attic also allows homeowners to reconfigure their living space downstairs. If a homeowner adds bedrooms to the attic, they can remodel the bedrooms on the first floor into family rooms. That additional first floor space can also become a den, or an additional kitchen or bathroom areas.

Attic conversions are proving extremely popular with homes that have little yard space. In cities with small lots, you can look up and see more living space.

Fortunately, such homes – usually built prior to World War II – are also perfect candidates for attic conversions as they have roomy unfinished attics with strong floor joists and high-pitched roofs for good ceiling heights. But attic conversions are not limited to only the roomy, old-fashioned attics. Homeowners with lower-pitched roofs can convert their attic space into additional living space. They can simply build up by raising the roof or adding dormers.

A common design is to create a cathedral-like ceiling out of the sloping pitch of the attic roof. The sloping pitch of the roof will result in a knee wall – a vertical wall about three feet high – on the sides of the attic. You can use the space behind the knee walls for storage and ductwork.

But before you begin your attic renovation or adding attic living space to your home, you might want to have your attic inspected to see what problems you might face. If you are buying a home and are contemplating work in an attic, you better make sure the home inspector takes a good look at the attic.

Heating and cooling issues when adding attic living space

One concern of homeowners is heating and cooling an attic space. Insulation and moisture barriers can drastically help to control an attic’s temperature. In addition, balancing the home’s heating and air conditioning system with ductwork dampers can improve temperature stability in the attic.

Because heat rises, heating an attic is not as much as a problem as keeping it cool. With a properly balanced system, homeowners should notice no more than a temperature difference of a few degrees in the attic, even on a hot summer day.

Additional windows will also help as will a continuous ridge vent on the roof. One way of completely controlling an attic’s temperature is with a separate heating and cooling system. The addition of such as system can cost thousands of dollars.

First floor considerations when adding attic living space

While they add living space, Attic conversions can also affect the living space on the downstairs level. For example, you may need to add a new staircase where your home homes has no existing staircases to the attic.

Another concern is the installation of a mechanical chase through the first floor and up to the attic. Keep in mind that the chase you use to run plumbing, ductwork, electric lines, etc., from the basement to the attic and is usually about one foot wide and one foot deep. On the plus side, you can hide the chase behind drywall or you can hide it in a closet or place it in a bedroom corner.

Remember, you may end up with cracked ceilings in the floor below when you install new space in the attic or you install flooring in the attic.

Adding Attic Living Space to Home
Costs of Adding Attic Living Space

To add living space to an attic can range from a few thousand dollars into the tens of thousands, depending on the size of the project, the construction and type of amenities sought. A walk-in attic will cost less to convert to living space, as raising a roof dormers add dollars.

An attic conversion is also is an investment time-wise. For relatively simple jobs such as partitioning off rooms, an attic conversion can take between a week or two. The construction of a major addition – such as raising roofs and adding plumbing for a bathroom – can take more than a month or two to complete.

Resale benefits of having additional attic space

As with other home remodeling projects, you can recoup those costs on a long-term basis – at least five years or so. You can contain costs by connecting into your home’s existing services such as the heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems.

For example, the benefit to placing a bathroom in an attic is that you have existing plumbing below that you can tie into. As a result, constructing additional space upstairs can be not as difficult as adding space on the back of the house.”

Although do-it-yourselfers can handle much of the attic conversion work, you should hire experts for new dormers or installing floor joists.

And there you have it, once you’ve done the work, you’ve added attic living space and improved your home’s value and resale potential.

© by Jim Sulski