Tag Archives: Home Improvement

How to Gain Low Cost Usable Space – The Attic Idea

Compared with building an addition, converting an existing attic can be a relatively low-cost way to gain usable space and increase the value of your home. Sometimes thought of as dark, cramped spaces, attics can be transformed into intriguing living areas, ranging from quiet adult retreats to children’s playrooms.

Though an attic conversion may be as simple as painting a wall or carpeting a floor, more intricate conversions, such as adding a master bedroom suite, require detailed planning and expert consultation.

Attic1 How to Gain Low Cost Usable Space   The Attic Idea

Electricity, heating, plumbing

Before we start, ask yourself these questions: Will converting the attic require any major structural changes? Are electrical, heating, and plumbing lines near the attic, or will they have to be installed? If the attic is dark, how can it be opened to light? Will the floor need greater support when the attic is used as a living space?

Some attics are built with expansion in mind, so electrical, heating, and plumbing lines may be nearby. If this is not the case in your attic, it’s wise to consult a professional, since increasing a house’s electrical capacity may involve installing whole new circuits. Installing heating may require bringing ducts up from the basement. But some furnaces cannot handle an extra load, and you may have to install electric heat in the new space. Adding plumbing usually means breaking into drain pipes and adding new vents. If you’re putting in a bathroom, you can simplify plumbing matters by trying to locate it over an existing one on the floor below, though not at the cost of total design.

Insulation and lighting

An attic room will probably need insulation. In most cases, existing insulation will be spread or stapled between the ceiling joists (those on which your new floor will rest). Leave it there for sound depending and install new insulation on attic ceiling and in walls.

Attic 5 How to Gain Low Cost Usable Space   The Attic Idea

If your attic is dark, install gable or shed dormer windows to add light as well as head-room. Or use sloping skylights to bring in light and add drama. You can even cut out a section of roof and install a balcony with sliding glass doors. Since warm air rises, attics are often summertime hot spots, so plan windows and doors to give good cross ventilation.

Collar support beams may reduce attic space; they can usually be replaced with small plywood sections (gussets) that will support rafters while giving more headroom. To reinforce attic floors, double the joists. Insulation plus carpeting will help prevent noise from reaching the rest of the house.

How to Conserve Energy – Home Improvement

When thinking about adding on, take time to reexamine your home’s energy needs and deficiencies. Heating costs continue to rise, and many homeowners are finding that solar heating is an environmentally sound, economically feasible energy saving scheme.

Energy conservation comes first

Perhaps the simplest way of making the sun work for you is to design an addition that can be heated directly by the sun’s radiation (this is referred to as “passive” solar heating.) In considering such a system, ask yourself the following questions:

Conserve Energy How to Conserve Energy   Home Improvement

  • What location will give the addition the greatest solar exposure?
  • What are the best ways of letting in the sun?
  • How can you prevent heat from escaping?
  • How can you keep the addition from overheating?

To make the most of the sun’s radiation, design your addition to face due south the direction of greatest solar exposure) and use windows generously. The greater the window area in the south wall, the more heat the addition will receive. However, if you live in a area where summer heat is more of a problem than winter cold, you may want to orient the addition to the north or east to block out some of the sun’s rays.

After encouraging the proper build-up of solar heat in your addition, take steps to hold it there. Heat travels from warmer to cooler areas, and if outside air is cooler than inside, heat will travel out. Examine areas where heat might escape. Un-insulated walls, roofs, and floors may usurp two-thirds of your hard-won heat through conduction, radiation, and convection. Glass and windows, as well as cracks, joints, and ill-fitting door frames may cause further loss. Solve this problem by using insulation, weather stripping, caulking, and double-glazing.

Insulation decreases energy loss between heated and unheated spaces. When you add on, it’s a simple matter to insulate exterior walls, but insulation may also be needed in the ceiling or under the floor.

After insulating, seal small cracks around doors and windows with weather stripping. For a final “tightening up,” caulk small wall cracks or joints.

From the standpoint of energy conservation, perhaps the most effective windows are those that have two or three layers of glass with dead air space between layers. But even double or triple-glazed windows may need to be covered with movable insulation panels at night to prevent heat loss.

Too much heat can be as discomforting as not enough. If overheating becomes problem, use exterior shades or screen to help block or filter direct sunlight. Roof overhangs, trellises, and deciduous trees are also effective since they prevent the sun from reaching and overheating walls and windows.

Conserve Energy 5 How to Conserve Energy   Home Improvement

Active Energy alternatives

If your addition is a more one – such as an entire second story – you may wish to consider installing an active solar energy system to heat the entire house. Such systems involve collector panels on the roof, and pumps or fans, pipers or ducts, and tanks or rock bins in the basement. Because installing an active system is a more commitment in both cost and time, it’s advisable to consult a reputable solar architect or designer.

If adding on involves a general home remodeling, you may wish to consider another heating alternative – the electric heat pump.

Here, too, installation is a major and complex task. Cooling as well as heating, heat pumps work well in temperate to hot climates, but where winter temperature fall below 35 F, you’ll probably need a back-up system.

How to Do Your 'Homework' – Home Improvement

Once you’ve decided to add on, consider the timing. You don’t want a project that’s going to be stalled by a fierce winter (though interior finishing work can be done in bad weather). If you have a costly and complicated plan, you might want to consider adding on in stages over a longer period of time – a 3-year remodeling plan, for instance – instead of doing it all at once.

Also, you must decide whether you or a professional will design the addition. Whatever you decision, some preliminary work must be done – necessary work if you design the addition yourself, optional work, if you have a professional prepare the design. Fr some, this “homework” can help make a better-informed partner in the process; to other it may seem superfluous or redundant, since it’s the kind of thing professional can do quickly – and will do whether you’ve done it or not. Some architects, designers, and contractors say they like to work with homeowners who’ve done some of the preliminaries, because these clients will better understand the project from the beginning. Most say they don’t really expect clients to do much along this line, and don’t mind working with them from scratch.

Home Improvement work How to Do Your 'Homework'   Home Improvement

Learn about your present house. To being, gather all the pertinent facts about your existing house. Study its structure. Find which are the bearing walls (the ones that support the roof) – any addition that involves removal of all or part of a bearing wall adds to the expense. Determine the width and depth of your foundation – go into the basement or crawl space and measure. If you want a second-story addition, your foundation must be able to support it or you’ll have to put in a new foundation. The building inspector will give you necessary specifications.

Learn where all the plumbing is – supply pipes and drain pipes – you can trace their location in the basement. Note where the water enters the house from the street main, and where the large drain pipe leaves the house to connect with the public sewer or septic tank. The farther away from existing plumbing a new bathroom or other room requiring plumbing fixtures is, the more complicated and expensive installation will be.

Measure your rooms. Measure your lot. How many feet from structure to property lines? From Structure to street?  From house to detached garage? These are all-important zoning considerations. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, collect it on a fat sheet and use it to make a scale drawing of your house and lot. Be sure to indicate plumbing outlets. To sum up, have as thorough a grasp of the existing situation as possible.

What do you really want? Next, you start thinking about what you want to add on. Remember, there are any numbers of possibilities to consider. It may not be so simple as saying, “We need a new bedroom, so we’ll add a bedroom.” You might want to think about adding a new kitchen, changing the present kitchen into a family room, and making the present family room into a new master bedroom. Or the garage may become the new bedroom you need, so that the present master bedroom, with its good light, can become a pottery studio.

What are the uses of the addition? Next you should enumerate all the purposes you want the addition to serve. Say you want a new family room. What, specifically, should it include? Space for games? For TV? For storage? For entertaining? For dining? If you plan a new master bedroom, what view should it have? Do you want more or less privacy than you have now? Do you want morning or afternoon sun? Do you want the bedroom to adjoin an existing bathroom, or will you build a new one?

Consider the traffic patterns in the new room and the effect of the room on traffic patterns throughout the rest of the house. Keep in mind that traffic should generally stay close to walls rather than run through the center of a room.

Get all the members of the family together and discuss everybody’s ideas. Get a pad of graph paper, sharpen a jarful of pencils, and begin fiddling around with the possibilities.

Thinking about design: Besides your study of space and its uses, you’ll want to begin giving serious thought to design. This gets into the area of esthetic taste and judgment; no absolute standards prevail. Some people want their room addition to blend so completely with the existing house that there’s no telling where one stops and the other begins. Others don’t mind constructing addition, so long as it harmonizes with the existing structure’s colors, shapes, and textures in way that are not extreme. Still others prefer boldness and build additions with no style similarities whatever to the existing house. Carried to its extremes, this is known as “Collision architecture”; it obviously takes a great deal of flair to carry off.

When developing ideas for space usage and design, remember that your first idea is rarely your best one. Explore in one direction, then leave it behind and go in an entirely different way. Do this as many times as possible; you’re bound to make new, pertinent, and helpful discoveries.

How to Get Started with Home Improvement

You might have any number of reasons for wanting to add space to your house. In the late 19th Century, Mrs. Sarah Winchester (of the riflemaker’s family) became convinced that she would not die as long as she continued to build onto her house. She started with eight rooms and finished with 160, $5 ½  million later. Your reasons are likely to be more conventional than Mrs. Winchester’s (who did, by the way, die).

You may need more space because your family has grown. You may need an office so you can work at home. You may want a special kind of room – a game room, a studio, or a music room. You might want to take better advantage of a view or of the sunlight. And, for one reason or another, you’ve decided that you don’t want to buy a new home to get additional room.

Home Improvement How to Get Started with Home Improvement

After determining that they need more space, some families have gone hunting for houses that satisfy their needs more suitable than their present ones and have found nothing they like. Only then have they decided that adding on is the best solution. Others may be reluctant to leave behind their present neighborhoods, friends, schools, or recreational facilities just to get into a bigger house. Still others just can’t afford to build or buy a new home, and are forced by circumstance to stay put.

To give you a general idea of what’s involved in adding on; we’ve outlined the major tasks that need to be done – each point on the list is discussed in detail. The three outlines describe three different situations. One enumerates what you’ll need to do if you design and build the addition yourself; another lists your tasks if you’ll be working with an architect who will design the addition and oversee construction; the third tells what you’ll need to do if you work with a contractor who will turn your ideas into a design and then do the building.

Of course, each of these three situations contains countless variables. For instance, you might have an architect draw up the plans and then supervise the construction yourself; or you might do your own plans, have them drafted professionally, and then turn the construction over to a contractor. The outlines there are intended as general descriptions rather than exhaustively details ones; your particular circumstances will determine what tasks you do, in which order, and how the work is divided among you and the various people who work for you on the project.

Doing it all yourself: Though the following list is not all inclusive, it will serve as a guide to the formidable array of tasks you’ll face if you’re going to do your own addition from start to finish.

  • Determine all the purposes you want the new room(s) to serve.
  • Study your house and property, making interior and exterior scale drawings.
  • Check your property title for deed restrictions and easements.
  • Make preliminary sketches of the new addition.
  • Take Sketches to the local building department to learn if the proposed addition violates the building code or zoning restrictions.
  • Prepare final plans of the proposed addition.
  • Get necessary permits from the building inspector’s office.
  • List all the materials you’ll need, then go to supplies and price them.
  • Arrange for financing the addition.
  • Arrange for worker’s compensation insurance and withholding tax if necessary.
  • Purchase materials and begin construction.
  • Arrange for the building inspector to check various stages of work at appropriate times.

If you hire an architect or building designer to design the structure and monitor construction, you shorten the list considerable; of course, you also increase the cost of the project.

Using an architect or building designer: Three of the jobs listed below are optional. Some home-owners prefer to let the architect do them; others do them personally so they work in a more informed way with the architect or designer.

  • Determine all the purposes you want the new room(s) to server (optional).
  • Study your house and property, making interior and exterior scale drawings (optional).
  • Check your property title for deed restrictions and easements.
  • Make preliminary sketches of the new addition (optional).
  • Choose an architect.
  • After you and your architect agree on final plans, he or she will arrange for bids on the project, advise you on the hiring of a contractor, and monitor the project through the completion.
  • Arrange for financing.

Working with a contractor: The third alternative, one many homeowners use, involves your working with a contractor to design an addition, and also your doing some of the labor. The contractor’s design won’t be nearly as expensive as an architect’s, and if you intend your addition to be simple and straightforward you may see little reason to engage and architect or building designer. Doing some of the labor yourself will also save you money.

Home Improvement 5 How to Get Started with Home Improvement

  • Determine all the purposes you want the new room(s) to serve (optional).
  • Study your house and property, making interior and exterior scale drawings (optional).
  • Check your property title for deed restrictions and easements.
  • Make preliminary sketches of the new addition (optional).
  • Choose a contractor.
  • Work with the contractor to design the addition and draw up all specifications.
  • Arrange for financing.
  • Contractor will build the addition, but your contract will state what labor you are to do.
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