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.

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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.

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