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dqmw2004 04-30-2013 07:11 PM

Very Basic Attic Finish
Hi folks! This is my first post here on the forum, so bear with me if I'm not making sense! :)

We live in a really old farmhouse in PA that's been in my family for four generations. The house has been slowly added onto over the years, almost always done by family members, so it's a lot of cheap, shoddy labor/parts. We just finished a major kitchen renovation (completely by ourselves, hooray!), and we're ready to move onto something a bit more challenging.... finishing the attic.

Right now, it's solely a storage space. There is no plumbing or vents or air conditioning or water units, etc. It's just a big empty space. We want to make it an occupy-able living area - in my head, I'm thinking "occasionally used movie room" and/or "extra guest room".

I'm thinking that the only things I really need to do are insulate (which would REALLLLLY help with our loss of heat in the winter!), add walls, and put in some carpet (there's already a decent subfloor), and perhaps run some electrical wiring for outlets.

I guess my question is: am I making this too simple of a project in my head? Should I be considering knee walls and/or more things?

The one thing I'm not a fan of is the "rat runs" (is that the right term?) that make the ceiling seem so much lower than it is. Is there any chance that those are easily removed and/or replaced by something more modern and less space-hogging?

I should probably also add that we're not looking to spend too much money on this project. If it gets too cost-prohibitive, it's not really worth it anymore....

Thanks in advance for any tips/advice!!

GBrackins 04-30-2013 08:34 PM

first thing I would recommend is contacting your local building department to determine what if any code requirements there are for your project, and whether local zoning allows this. Adding a bedroom usually involves requiring several code issues such as emergency escape and rescue windows and hard wiring of smoke detectors throughout the home. again, contacting the building department can provide you answers to code related items. Additional bedrooms can affect your septic system requirements, at least in my area the size of your septic system is based upon the # of bedrooms. Your building official should be able to direct you to whoever is in charge of such (if applicable).

one issue that certainly needs to be determined is "will the existing attic floor joists be sufficient as floor joists for living space?" the loads an attic floor must support are less than living space so many times you'd have to add additional joists to make something like this work.

are there currently stairs to the attic or would you be required to install them? where will they go if you need to build them? things to think about.

when building under a roof knee walls are common. in my area they are typically around 4 to 5 feet in height depending on the slope of the roof. the height of the ceiling is higher in front of furniture than behind the furniture since the ceiling is sloped. you don't want to be bumping your head on the ceiling all of the time.

energy code requirements need to be evaluated. older homes typically have shallower rafters that provide for less insulation space. again ask about this at the building department.

construction costs are local issues, if it's a DIY project then you're into material costs, if you're hiring the work out the best thing is to obtain several estimates from local builders. you could always check with family and friends to see if they can recommend a local builder that you could contact and discuss your project with.

with all that said building under an existing roof can be a cost effective means of providing more living space and well worth looking into.

Good luck!

user1007 05-01-2013 09:03 AM

You also mention generations of add-ons and shoddy workmanship. I am not sure what this means but were any of the groundfloor additions at all close to code with decent foundations and so forth? If not, you would not want to build upon the shortcomings?

I have mentioned before that building designers and architects are not just for the rich. I would certainly consult with one to see where you stand and most will probably not charge you, or charge a minimal amount, for the consult. In the long run, working with one could save you lots of money and anguish even if it meant staging your project or something.

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