While major home projects and renovations – like patios, decks, additions and expansions will require municipal permits and approvals it’s important to understand the process and responsibilities you or your contractor will take on when considering an attic renovation.
Adding extra space might not be so simple, especially if you want to add a bedroom.
Structural components, utilities like heating and cooling as well as access to and from the new room space will determine how it can legally be used.
“If it’s going to be used as a closet space maybe in the primary bedroom (formerly known as a master bedroom), you won’t have access issues,” said John Gemmi, owner of Gemmi Construction Inc. in Buckingham Township.
Prior proper planning
Attic renovations can be a great way to make better use of existing space and add usable space to the home and for the family, Gemmi said.
Keep in mind an attic renovation intended as a new bedroom must have its own entry points.
How you create access to the room will define how it can be used – and promoted if you decide to sell your home later.
“If you have to go through an existing bedroom to get to it, it’s not considered a separate room,” Gemmi said.
That means you can’t create a kids’ room in the attic and have the only way to get there through another person’s bedroom.
However, Gemmi said you can create a library, bonus room, sitting room or office in the attic space with shared access from another bedroom.
Consider the “rule of 7s”
According to This Old House. com, at least half of the finished attic room space must include:
• Head clearance space of 7 feet.
• At least 7 feet wide of usable space.
• Includes roughly 70 square feet of space.
Have a professional review the plan and have a pro out to check the structure in person. Think about access, like an existing staircase or the need to build a new one for access and to move furnishings in and out of the new space, the website said.
Structures and insulation
Even with solid base structures like adequate floor joists and high enough rooflines, attic rooms can be difficult to heat and cool. More often than not, you’ll want and need to invest in quality insulation.
“Spray urethane insulation, while it’s more expensive than conventional fiberglass, does pay for itself over time,” Gemmi explained.
Attic renovations intended to be used as a new bedroom space, cozy alcove, sitting room or office can make use of interesting architectural features like triangles, peaks, windows or nooks.
Lighting, color palette and special features
Other tips from This Old House website include:
• Consider recessed LED lighting, which won’t interfere with headspace in the room.
• Pick a unified color scheme or palette to visually tie different materials together.
• Create a flooring plan up front to reduce overhead noise from activity in the new space.
Think about adding or changing windows to allow for more natural sunlight, too, Gemmi said, in addition to required window egress in the event of an emergency or sudden evacuation.
Do you have cool architectural features in the attic? Consider showcasing them.
Can you add features like painted or finished beadboard? Can you take advantage of a steep pitch or other features like built-ins to help define the space? Are you planning to add another bathroom? If so, think through and have professional advice about plumbing and utilities as well as considering lightweight and space saving fixtures, like showers and tubs, This Old House.com said.
Renovate for premium storage
John Gray, project manager at Total Home Manager LLC in Hopewell, N.J., said investing in attic rehabilitation doesn’t always end with usable living space.
For property owners with valuable collections like musical instruments, collectibles or artwork, creating a climate controlled environment in an otherwise unused attic space can make sense.
Gray said adding a mini-split system with a heat pump and air conditioning is a practical, versatile climate control option.
And investing in spray foam insulation and finishing wall products like bead board panels or ship lap wall siding creates an aesthetic and practical quality storage space.
“Changing the use changes the tax base,” Gray said of adding living space with an attic renovation.
Keeping long-term and continuing cost factors in mind will help set realistic expectations around the project, while adding value to the property – and the home’s use and enjoyment for years to come.