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Remodeling the Attic

Converting an attic into extra living space can be a great substitute for building a new wing on your house, especially if your lot is on the small size. You may wish to opt for added bedroom space for a growing family, or to rise above the distractions of your home with a home office. You might consider a play room or a family room with a large-screen TV and entertainment center. The sky’s the limit, as they say. Before you make the decision to hire your contractor, you should know a few important things about the requirements of an attic remodeling project.

Some people consider a room tucked under the eaves as romantic and cozy. But, building codes usually require a ceiling at least 7 feet 6 inches above 50 percent of the floor area. If your floor to ceiling height is slightly short, you can add dormer windows or a bank of skylight windows to sway the total in your favor. Your local code will tell you how much window space you are required to include in your attic conversion plan. If you plan to use the attic as a bedroom, many codes require egress through a window in case of emergency.

You may need to strengthen the ceiling joists under the floor of the attic to support heavy furniture and people in the attic adequately. The roof joists above the attic may also need upgrading in order to hold insulation. And of course, you will need to insulate the walls and flooring in order to make the attic snug and cozy. All of these modifications will reduce your usable attic space. More substantive structural changes might be required if your house was build after the 1960s when many were built with crisscrossing wood trusses.

Naturally, you will need a staircase to access your attic living space. A straight staircase requires at least 3 by 16 feet on the floor below. A spiral staircase, requires a space that is 5 feet in diameter. Alternatively, a stair designed with an intermediate landing and two runs needs about 8 feet on the lower level. Note: Ladders to attics are not acceptable by code.

While electricity doesn’t present a major problem extending to an attic space, another consideration is the heating and cooling system. If your current system can handle the attic, all the better. But, if not, you will need to add a second unit or a zoned system.

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