An attic conversion is a fantastic project because it will increase your living space. If you want more livable space for your family, this is the best solution. In addition, many homeowners save up for this kind of renovation since it also increases your property’s value.
Unlike basements, your attic is dryer and quieter. More importantly, it is free from major appliances, like the boiler, furnace, or washer and dryer. Hence, an attic is more suitable for finishing.
You can transform it into an entertainment area, TV room, hobby studio, or even a bedroom. The options are limitless because your attic is so versatile. However, before beginning an attic conversion, you must find a reputable contractor to help you achieve your goals.
The right team can figure out the necessary building codes for your project. They can also help you analyze if your building is structurally sound to handle this new addition. Find out more about attic conversions below.
Overview of Building Codes to Help with Planning
The first thing you want to figure out is if your attic is a good candidate for a conversion project. Your designer and contractor can help guide you. The following codes are the most important criteria that could impact your project:
The Overall Size
Your attic must satisfy the same regulations imposed for the other rooms in your home. For your attic area to be considered habitable, it must have an area of at least 70 square feet. It must also pass ceiling requirements (more details below) so people can walk comfortably without hurting their heads.
Assess Windows and Other Openable Areas
You are required to have a minimum glazed area to be equal to or exceed 8% of your overall usable floor area. For instance, if the attic has more than 200 square feet with a 5 feet height, your window area must be at least 8% of 200, which measures 16 square feet.
In the meantime, the openable area must be 4%. So, at 200 square feet, you need 8 square feet that open and provide access to the exteriors. This opening acts as an operable emergency escape route or a rescue opening. Building codes require this opening with proper dimensions in an accessible area.
Ceiling Height Specifications
When it comes to ceiling height, 50% of your attic’s usable area should have at least 7 feet. For example, based on the same calculation above, if your attic has 200 square feet, 50% of the usable space is 100 square feet. Therefore, the ceiling height needs to be at least 7 feet for half of the space, and the rest must be at least 5 feet.
If your attic is relatively low, fret not. You can still go on with your attic conversion project because your contractor can install a dormer. This technique raises your ceiling height to an acceptable level, allowing you to walk underneath comfortably.
The most popular dormers are doghouse style because they incorporate a lot of natural light and ventilation. Shed dormers are another excellent choice because they will allow you to maximize your usable attic space. Your contractor can help you make these adjustments to ensure the dormer fits the architectural style of your home since ill-conceived dormers look unsightly.
Heat and Insulation
Your attic must be well insulated, and your HVAC must maintain a steady ambient temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, you do not need to worry about extending your heating system because the hot air path travels upwards.
Heat will naturally rise through open stairwells, but you must ensure that your insulation prevents cold drafts from coming in. Alternatively, you can always use an electric space heater or electric blanket if the weather outside is too cold.
Structure and Support Issues
Your attic must support the weight of everything you intend to add, from furniture to appliances. It must also bear the weight of the occupants. If you have a habitable attic with fixed stairs, building code regulations indicate that your attic must have 30 pounds per square foot load capacity. This assures you have optimal floor strength. You also need to consider the framing for your attic remodel, especially the following details:
- Width and depth of joists
- The span of the support beams
- Spacing in between the joints
- The type of material used for support structures
Your contractor will help you assess if your floor is strong enough to accommodate the project. Double-checking these details fall under their service. However, if you intend a DIY attic renovation, you have to go through your municipal hall’s building department to make sure every detail is up to standard. This is for the safety of your family and future guests.
Attic stairs can be tricky because most attics were initially for storage space and utilities like air handlers or vents. Since it is not usually a livable space, you may be dealing with a pull-down type of stairs or a hatchway. If you have this kind of attic access, you need to carve out space for a permanent staircase for easy accessibility. This will traverse several square feet of the attic, including the floor below it.
According to building code regulations, the stairs must measure at least 36 inches wide. The stair treads should be 9.5 inches or deeper, and their rise must be 7-¾ inches. The head clearance must be at least 80 inches or more.
Winding or circular staircases are allowed but must follow safety restrictions. Notably, most existing attic staircases rarely meet code requirements. Thus, you must ensure your plans are up to code before commencing with any changes.
Attic Finishing Touches to Make It Stylish and Functional
When planning an attic conversion, you want it to meet more than the code. Apart from being functional, a stylish and comfortable attic is more inviting. Since you will be investing a lot of money in this renovation, consider finishing touches to upgrade the ambiance. A visually appealing attic can be a Zen-like sanctuary. You will feel more excited to hang out and use the space if the aesthetics appease your eyes. Check out the most popular finishing touches below:
Incorporate a Nice Ceiling Finish
The ceiling catches the eyes in most attic spaces because it slants down on almost all sides, catching the eyes. Since they are highly visible, they are worth the splurge.
- Wood boards: You can leave them bare in their natural color because they add a lovely, rustic charm. Alternatively, you can also paint them in whatever color you fancy. You can let your imagination run wild because attic paint does not need to meet building code. You can also play around with boards of varying widths for a unique effect.
- Wall Frames: Try paneling with designed moldings. The attention to detail provides an elegant touch for your attic conversion. Besides, these intricate designs make a low-ceiling attic look classier.
- Beadboards: These classic tongue and groove panels are a great choice because they exude a snug and cozy vibe. Best of all, they are straightforward to install. They will also protect your ceilings from any dents, extending the life of the material.
Create As Much Floor Space as Possible
A nifty hack to create more floor space moving the walls close to the eaves. From there, you can add low cabinets, drawers, cubbies, or shelves for easy organization. These smaller units fit snugly into the tiny space and work exceptionally well under sloped ceilings.
Take advantage of every nook and cranny, including the awkward niches along with the pipe chases near the chimney or near low walls. Add some DIY open shelving to maximize the space. You can be creative in working storage into your attic conversion.
For example, you can use the half-wall by the staircase as a bookshelf. Conversely, if there is no room for recessed storage, built-in cabinets that double as window seats will serve a double purpose of storage and seating.
Consider Floor Finishing
If you want to taper down the noise in the rooms below, filling the bays with more insulation will cancel the racket you make in the attic. Beefier joists will also cushion the sound. Another cheaper fix, which is the most popular choice among homeowners, is wall-to-wall carpets over a subfloor made of plywood.
But when you are under a tight budget, you can opt for painted plywood. Then, spruce the floors up with a few themed area rugs. Thankfully, you can finish your attic based on your personal preference and let your personality shine.
Select Good Lighting
Since attics have a low ceiling, recessed LED fixtures are an excellent choice. They tuck away completely, so there is no overhang. On top of that, they will not generate any extra heat near your head. Most of all, you can put the installation safely around these kinds of lights.
Consider a Ceiling Fan
If you have the headroom, consider a low-arm ceiling fan. This will promote air circulation and pave the way for better climate control. A fan can provide a cool breeze during the summer months. And with a nifty reverse switch, the same can push warmer air down to keep you snug and cozy.
Utilize a Cohesive Color Palette
Consider doing the walls, ceilings, floors, and even your furnishing in a light hue. This will brighten up your attic, make it look airier, and provide an optical illusion of more space. Even a tiny attic will feel larger with warm whites like ivory, cream, or ecru. You can also add mirrors to make the room look bigger.
Add a Skylight to Provide More Headroom
One of the most remarkable additions you can add to your attic conversion is a skylight. Since it cuts into your roofing rafters, it can give you that much-needed headspace. In addition, you can place it beneath your reading nook under the eaves, so you do not need to fear bumping your noggin. Try adding the following details to your skylights:
- Remote control operation: This nifty device allows you to open and shut your skylights. You can manipulate it with only a push of a button.
- Solar shades: Prevent ambient air from climbing too high with solar shades. They are cool because they work with the power of the sun.
- Retractable insect screens: Use roll-up screens to keep pests and debris out. The retractable part makes the glass easier to clean.
- Make Egress Easy in Case of an Emergency
Building code requires your attic to have an opening for an emergency exit and easy rescue. If you are using a window as an escape route, it will help to have an in-wall rope ladder installed. Keep it hidden by a door or cabinet. It does not cost a lot, and it will give you peace of mind, especially if you intend to use your attic a lot.
Find a Reputable Contractor to Transform Your Attic
Your attic conversion will only be successful if you partner up with the right contractor. The right team can transform your unfinished attic into a charming livable space for you and your family. When looking for a company to work with, make sure they have the following:
- License to operate
- Business permit
- Accreditation by professional organizations
- A robust portfolio of past projects
- Worker’s compensation in case of an accident
- Liability insurance coverage in case something gets destroyed in your property
- Years of experience
- Professional team members
When it comes to your home, you cannot leave things to chance. Converting your attic means welcoming tradesmen into your home. Make sure everyone who steps into your property has a stringent background check. This will assure that you can trust the people near your family and your belongings.
If you need help planning an attic conversion, give our team at Eco Minded Solutions a call. We can make sure your project is up to code while drawing up the plans of your dreams. Fill out this contact form for a free consultation. Let us help you increase your living space so you can feel more comfortable and at ease making memories with your loved ones.
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