Is more living space in your home on top of your wish list when it comes to quality of life?
If so, you’re far from alone. Many of us could use some extra square footage where kids could play, guests could sleep, we could exercise, or have a quiet place to get some work done. And your home may just have the expansion option you are looking for.
That’s why you may want to consider turning your attic space into a bedroom, office, playroom or other functional space instead of a dark and dusty storage center. An attic renovation often makes a lot of sense when it comes to adding usable square footage without wrangling over zoning and easement requirements, and it can produce a decent ROI when it comes to adding value to your home. You can expect an attic conversion that creates a new bedroom and bathroom to recoup some 53 percent of its value when you sell your house, reports the National Association of Realtors, assuming you’re spending last year’s median U.S. cost of $75,000 on such a project.
Still, you’ll want to be sure you’re considering all the pros and cons before getting started. Think about the following factors before investing your hard-earned money.
- Building codes: Your local building inspector can offer a list of codes and inspections enforced in your municipality. For example, you’ll likely need floor space of 70 square feet or more and a ceiling height of at least 7 feet, though modifying dormers may help you meet height requirements.
- Support structures: Check with an engineer; your floor joists must be able to handle the weight of any added materials, while your rafters must be strong enough to support added drywall, lighting, electrical, plumbing and HVAC elements. If you have w-shaped roof trusses, you may be required to add more support or alter the structure to meet code
- Electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems: A licensed electrician can fill you in on whether your existing electric panel can handle the added demand; if so, the wiring process should be relatively simple. Plumbing installation may also be straightforward and cost-effective if you can place the new pipes near the main stack of your house. As for HVAC, you may be able to funnel hot and cold air through your existing forced air blower, or control attic temperatures through baseboard heating and a window air conditioner. Either way, a ceiling fan can make your attic more comfortable year-round.
- Access: An attic bedroom usually needs two exits in the form of one doorway (connecting to stairs) and one window. A standard interior staircase may cost $500 to $3,000, according to HouseLogic.com, while a spiral version might cost $2,000 to $6,000 plus up to $1,200 in installation. Exterior stairs are another option, but such a structure may reclassify your home as a multi-unit dwelling and thus change your zoning requirements.
- Décor: Make choices that will firmly establish your new space as a cozy, finished living area instead of a cramped, dimly lit space that scares people away. Keep color schemes light; cover ceilings with bead board or V-groove wood panels; choose recessed LED lighting and/or skylights that provide brightness without getting in the way; soundproof floors with dense insulation and thick carpeting or rugs; invest in good ceiling insulation to ward off drafts; screen windows and make them easy to open for fresh air; and strategically optimize nooks and crannies for storage and other purposes.
Taking time to do an attic renovation right could really pay off when it comes to optimizing the full potential of your home. Think about whether such an investment might improve the quality of your life.