Everything You Want to Know About Converting Your Attic

Finished attic bedroom

Have you been thinking about converting your attic to living space?

We have covered basement renovations for more interior space in your home. Basement renovations are very popular, and they can be beneficial.

Unfortunately, some basements will never be friendly spaces to hang out. This is usually true of old cellars.

However, if you are looking for an unfinished room in your house to claim for a necessary hideaway from the kids, a playroom, an office, or a guest bedroom, your attic could be a goldmine. 

Attic Assessment

Attic spaces have very different considerations from basements. If your ventilation and roofing system is done right, you should have no moisture problems, unlike some basements. If you do find moisture problems in your attic, make sure to call us right away. It’s not something you want to save to fix later. 

Most people will not believe there is enough space to finish in their attic. It’s true, if you live in a typical ranch house, there may not be enough attic space to finish.

However, you might be surprised if you live in a bungalow or another style of home. While it does sound amazing to have a full third floor with tall ceilings to finish, you could be surprised by what’s possible using dormers and skylights. 

Attic Space and Livability Requirements

There are a few rules to keep in mind for finished living spaces as you survey and measure your attic. 

Finished Space

You will need to know if your attic will have enough space once it is finished. According to building codes, a habitable room must have at least 70 square feet and measure 7 feet in all directions. For rooms with sloped ceilings like most attics, at least 50% of the room must have 7-foot ceilings. 

Framing Concerns

Rafters or Trusses?  

If it looks like your attic has space, you probably have rafters or attic trusses. These create large open space beneath the roof’s peak. Conventional trusses have what is called webbing. These are supports that zigzag through the attic space. If you look up there and see those, forget about finishing your attic unless you want to rebuild your roof. You can’t cut into them without damaging your roof’s support. 

Insulation Space

Your rafters must provide enough depth for insulation, but this varies quite a bit by location. You can increase the area, but it might reduce your precious headroom.

Floor Framing

 Do you have joists or truss members? Attic trusses are built to support living space. However, that’s not the case with all attic framing.

A rafter-framed attic may have floor joists to support the weight associated with a living area, or it may not. They have to handle 30lbs per square foot of live load (people and stuff). The further apart the joists are from each other, the larger they need to be. In some cases, inadequate joists can be shored up.

Accessibility – Stairs and Egress Window

Generally, stairs must be at least 3 feet wide and provide at least 6 inches of headroom. There must be a 3-foot landing space at the top and bottom of the stairs. If you have pull-down stairs, they may not meet requirements. The chances are good that you will have to build new stairs.

Did you know attics have to have an egress window too? Unless your attic already has a balcony, you will need to provide a window big enough to climb out of and an egress ladder for a quick escape in case of fire. 

Habitability – Light, Heating & Ventilation

All rooms other than kitchens must meet several habitability requirements. They have to have enough natural light, heat, and ventilation for essential human comfort.

For every 100 square feet of floor space, you need at least 8 square feet of windows or 8% of the floor area. The room must have a means for heating other than a portable space heater, and it must be able to be heated to 68 degrees Fahrenheit measured from the middle of the room. It also must have ventilation equal to 4% of the floor space – in other words, an operable window. 

Bringing it Home

The first step in converting your attic is to look around and take many measurements. A contractor should be able to look at your attic and tell you in a few minutes whether the space can be finished as-is.

Do you live in Southeast Michigan and have questions about converting your attic or any other building-related matter? Please call. We’re honored to help.

Call today!


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