Room On Top

BY DAN RAFTER ON JULY 21ST, 2017

blog-image Before you start planning a dream room in the attic, consult a professional contractor to determine if your space can support the creation of a new living area.

For remodel-ready homeowners, an attic remodel seems like a magic trick that expands a house without buying new land. Homeowners look at the empty space and picture a new bedroom or living area.

What they don’t see is the work that goes into making that transformation.

“People think that all they need is to throw down some plywood and they have a room,” says Jeb Breithaupt, president of Shreveport, La.-based JEB Design/Build. “They don’t account for what the possible problems might be.”

Those who don’t do the proper research beforehand, or who hire contractors who aren’t experienced in attic work, could easily blow a remodeling budget. Breithaupt says, “They encounter a problem that they hadn’t thought about, and suddenly, the price of their project doubles.”

It is always smart to squeeze every square inch out of your house’s footprint. But attic remodels do come with their own challenges.

Begin with a thorough plan for the space. A simple way to start is to break things down to structure and function. What is the room for and how do the mechanicals function?

Determine whether or not the attic can structurally support a living space. An attic can be deceiving, Breithaupt says: “They think that they’ve already walked up in their attic. They already store stuff up there. But it’s a different type of load when you’re actually living up there.”

Most attics have joists that support their ceilings, he says. These joists, though, might not be adequate for supporting the furniture and constant walking that an attic floor will endure if homeowners turn it into a bedroom or other living area.

If the attic isn’t structurally sound enough for a remodel, you’ll need to beef up the ceiling supports or start over from scratch, something else that will add to the final cost of an attic renovation.

Another concern is installing utilities that the unoccupied attic never needed. When preparing a budget, you must account for everything from plumbing pipes and air-conditioning ducts to security or telephone wiring.

A new bathroom will significantly increase the price tag of the project. Not only are bathrooms expensive to design and build, the plumbing alone will consume a lot of time and money.

Lastly, don’t forget to think of long-term goals and problems. Some homeowners picture a master bedroom in the attic with beautiful skylights, without considering how long they’ll be staying in that house. The stairs leading up to that attic-level master bedroom might not seem so daunting at first, but that won’t always be the case as you age.

Besides creating a livable space, homeowners will need to build some way to escape the attic in case of fire or other emergency. This usually means a back stairway or fire escape.

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