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How to Frame an Attic for More Livable Space

Extra square footage is hard to come by.  Whether you want another bedroom, a game room, or some other type of living space, there is always value in adding an extra room. Some homeowners want to build an addition onto their house but find the costs prohibitive.

A full addition may also be impractical if you live in a development where homes are close together or there are association rules. When an addition is impractical, consider reframing your attic. You may be surprised at the amazing results.  

Framing an attic is a necessary step before you can turn your attic into a livable space. Framing involves planning where the walls will go. This can be a bit challenging because attics usually have a pitched roofline.

Walls may need to be different heights to accommodate this. Once you have determined the wall dimensions and placements, you will need to construct the wall frames using 2X4s. 

Basic Considerations Before Framing Your Attic

Does Your Attic Qualify?

If you’re thinking about converting your attic, first check your local building code to make sure your attic qualifies. Regulations differ depending on the municipality, so find out the requirements first to avoid nasty surprises later.

If you don’t meet the code requirements right now, don’t worry! 

You can always bring the attic up to code during the project. For example, if your flooring is insufficient to handle a bedroom or bathroom, you can reinforce the flooring during construction.

One of the most important qualifications is the ceiling height. In most jurisdictions, the ceiling needs to be 7 feet from the floor in order for the attic to qualify for conversion to living space, such as a bedroom or bathroom.

If the ceiling is too low, the attic must remain a storage space, unless you renovate to change the ceiling height. This can be done by raising the roof or lowering the ceiling on the lower level. 

The second code requirement to be aware of is heating and cooling. Most areas’ building codes require the attic temperature be maintained at 68 degrees fahrenheit to qualify as living space.

Attic Conversion Cost

Like most other home renovations, most of your costs depend on the size of your attic. In deciding what to spend, a good rule of thumb is to invest a proportionate amount to your home’s current value based on square footage. For instance, if your home is valued at $150,000 and your attic is 15% of the square footage, you want to limit spending to $22,500.

The final cost will depend on your attic’s space and your location. If your attic is already code ready, less renovation will be needed, so your budget can be smaller.

In order to set a realistic conversion budget,, make a comprehensive list of all changes and updates you want to make to your attic. Your contractor can then give you an accurate upfront estimate. 

Also, remember that you need to include furniture and other extras for your attic space. 

The Benefits of an Attic Conversion

Two of the biggest benefits is the return on investment and the extra space.

Just like an addition, attic framing and rehab increases the value of your home. In 2015, the national average for the return on investment of an attic conversion was 61%.

For example, If you spent $20,000 on your renovation, you can expect $12,200 to be added to your home’s resale value. That’s a great way to add to the home’s living space without the complexity and heavy costs that come with an addition.

Because your attic already has a structure in place with a floor and roof, attic framing is overall cheaper than a brand new addition. Attic conversions are especially beneficial to those who live in developments where homes are close together or in townhomes. In these types of properties, expanding out may not be an option.. By building up, you can add living space and therefore the value of your home.

Add Extra Income

If you’re looking to earn some extra income, consider renting out your newly converted attic!

Attic renovations are the perfect way to boost your income. They work for homeowners who want an extra room to rent or for landlords who want a higher return on investment properties. If you want to rent out the attic in  your personal residence, a bedroom with an en suite bathroom is the ideal solution.

Whether it’s in your personal home or a rental property, you must meet building codes if you plan to rent out the room. If you do not, big fines could wipe out your investment. Refer to your local building code to make certain that your attic space is up to code, safe and ready for tenants!

Structural Considerations When Converting Your Attic

Ceilings

A converted attic’s ceiling becomes a focal point for anyone entering the space. A sloped ceiling is an interesting and unique piece of architecture for your new room, so take advantage of sloped attics. You can make the most of the conversion by finishing the attic in a way that compliments the room’s design.

If you want a traditional room, creating paneling from strategically placed molding adds an elegant feel to the space. It’s a classic finishing touch and it adds a polished presence..

If you want a room with country charm, beadboard paneling may be the way to go. Beadboard is similar to drywall in weight, but it has decorative grooves that give a more finished look.

Wood paneling remains a popular decoration. It is the most versatile of the three materials listed here. Because of the varieties of wood and the ability to stain them, you can create a warm and rustic look for your wood panels while still finishing them to ensure longevity.

Walls

Ceilings may be the main design feature, but the walls are the key supporting feature. Most attics have knee walls, which are short walls (usually under 3 feet). When you must work in these small spaces, you need to maximize your walls with built in storage and seating.

Installing recessed shelves in the oddly shaped spaces gives you storage space in a wall that would otherwise serve no utility except supporting the roof.. If you want a closed storage space, consider drawers and cabinets..

Consider built in seating too.. By keeping the seating against the short walls, you can keep the center space open for large pieces of furniture.

Flooring

When considering your flooring options for your new attic, think about how it relates to the other areas of your home.

For example, many homeowners want to prevent noise from upstairs from being heard on lower levels. Carpet is the obvious noise-cancelling choice. It absorbs sound, allowing you to convert your attic to living space without it bothering those sleeping on the floor below.

If you want to use hardwood flooring in your attic, consider employing bulkier floor joists and dense insulation. They help absorb noise that would otherwise travel through to the floor below.

Windows

When renovating your attic, windows and natural light should always be a primary consideration.. By allowing lots of natural light into the room, you make the space bigger and more enjoyable.

Commonly, there are two window types used in attics: dormer windows and skylights.

Dormer windows are built to project vertically from a sloped roof, making them ideal for attics. They allow a lot of natural light to come into an otherwise dark space. Because the window projects out, it also creates extra space in your attic. Dormer windows create a perfect nook  for built-in seating and storage.

Skylights are the other common option for natural light in an attic conversion. They are often built into your home’s design. If you don’t have excess natural light built into your home design, including skylights is a great option that does not alter too much of the original roofline. While a dormer window requires its own vertical wall, a skylight fits right  into the existing slope.

Stairs

Depending upon the previous means of access, you may need to replace your attic stairs. Many attics have folding staircases, which are stairs that fold up and are then concealed behind a ceiling panel. Folding staircases are fine for an attic used for storage; however, for attic living space, you need a staircase suitable for much heavier foot traffic.

If you plan to rent the space, you definitely must install a more permanent option. There are two categories for your attic conversion stairs: traditional stairs and spiral staircases.

A traditional staircase is the typical home design option. However, it has a large footprint. This may not be ideal for your attic because attics tend to be tucked into small spaces of the house.

A spiral staircase preserves room and gives you flexibility when it comes to design and space. A spiral staircase will have a very small footprint that is kept to a narrow circle in your home. Because of the compact design, spiral staircases can easily be installed in a corner and out of the way. However, the designs are also beautiful, making for an attractive centerpiece for your home.

Spiral staircase options offer their own unique characteristics. For example, the Forged Iron Spiral Stair is known for its traditional elegance and the ornate details of its balusters and caps, which create a unique style that is the perfect complement to your traditional home design.

The Classic Steel Spiral Stair line includes a versatile design that fits into any home design. The clean lines and custom color options make it the perfect fit for both contemporary or traditional homes.

The last indoor spiral stair design is the Solid Wood Spiral Stair. This classic design focuses on ornate craftsmanship and the timeless nature of wood design. In addition to elegance, wood lasts and lasts.

Redesigning your attic is one of the best ways to increase your home’s value and create functional living space your family will enjoy for years to come. In addition, attic conversions can provide extra space that can be rented for additional income. It’s easy to think of attics as empty spaces or seasonal storage lockers.

However, you can create functional, stylish, and equity boosting spaces at a fraction of the cost of an addition. 

If you have an attic that offers the potential for conversion to useful living space, do not hesitate to get a quote from a qualified contractor. You will probably find that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

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