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Old 04-23-2012, 11:36 AM   #1
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This is a very interesting topic. I have a big attic space with W trusses and would like to make it an insulated, open space. From my research, there are a few major concerns:

ceiling beams are all 2x4s, which means that I will need to build-inin much stronger beams for the area to be usable. Can I laminate them to existing?

must install a window, which is not really possible, so I will not be able to use the space as a "living space". Not necessary, anyway. I need a man-cave because I don't have a garage.

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Old 04-23-2012, 11:20 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forums!

I started you your own thread rather piggyback on one that is 4 years old.

Check with your local Building Department for the structural changes you have. It will require a structural engineer.

Gary

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Old 04-23-2012, 11:23 PM   #3
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May want to make that garage idea plan A.
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:27 PM   #4
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You have a lot of reading ahead of you if you are going to make an unconditioned space conditioned. Or, hire a reputable contractor. Search here, buildingscience.com, and greenbuildingadvisor.com (and I am sure Google will find you others.....) Good luck w/ the cave.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:32 AM   #5
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Making it into a conditioned space I suspect is the easy part since that is mostly figuring out a way to get insulation on the roof side without blocking the ventilation. Dense spray foam over a air channel spacer is a common solution with vaulted ceilings.

Your largest issue will be actually making the space usable. You start cutting any part of a truss and you pretty much have to replace it with more normal framing. Most times trusses are used when you have large open areas below. Your key problem will be replacing/enforcing the new floor. When you look at the span tables for wood you will find 15 ft is pretty much the limit even for a 2x12. Getting long boards into the attic is also a huge challenge. If you are lucky you may be able to remove the soffit and slide them in flat between the roof and wall top plate but you will most likely still have ducts,wires,plumbing in your way.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:58 AM   #6
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Folks who know very little about construction tend to think turning an attic or a basement into a liveable space is a relatively simple project. I think in their mind they see it mostly as an exercise in putting up drywall. It's akin to saying playing the piano is about striking black and white keys. The physical act of hitting a key is extremely simple--an infant can do it. Hitting the right ones, at the right time is what takes years, if not decades, of practice to do well. There are a myriad of considerations and challenges involved in such conversions. It's often a challenge for a seasoned general contractor, as every home has its quirky layouts and circumstances. Additionally, such a general contractor often brings in an engineer, and architect, a plumber and electrician and knows how to go about getting permits for all the trades. How a DIYer with minimal experience in construction ever thinks they could pull off something like this, usually with a shoestring budget, is mind blowing.
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:35 PM   #7
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Thanks everyone for the interesting replys.

@GBR, Great call on structural engineer. I've considered this, but never really looked into how much it would cost. I'm sure I can figure it out myself, but it would certainly take a lot longer and of course there is the risk of neglecting something and being out of code. I would like to sell my house someday, so you are wise to suggest an engineer.

Anyone know how much it costs for an engineer to perform work on a small attic conversion?

A little more info on my space: there are W shaped trusses in an approximately 20 ft by 20 ft area, with the apex maybe 11 ft up. So, there is plenty of room for a man cave, if I can remove the Ws. My idea is not to insulate the underside of the roof, but rather to create a 15 x 15 box and insulate around it, so that there is still a breathable attic space.

@joe, Thanks for the advice.

@jklingel, I have done a bit of reading already, and still I think I may need to hire a contractor. It is a very complex modification. Thanks for the links!

@bill01, Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions!

The AC duct is in the attic, so my initial thought was to remove the AC from the bathroom and use it for the man-cave. My concern is whether it would be against code to not have an AC vent in the bathroom. Anyone know?

@cortell, I agree 100%. This is not a job for joe-six-pack. A lot of reasearch has gone into this so far and a lot more is to come. I have to stay within code because I know I will sell someday and the last thing I want is to have to tear it all apart so that I can sell the house. Thanks buddy!
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Old 04-25-2012, 12:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomascg
Thanks everyone for the interesting replys.

@GBR, Great call on structural engineer. I've considered this, but never really looked into how much it would cost. I'm sure I can figure it out myself, but it would certainly take a lot longer and of course there is the risk of neglecting something and being out of code. I would like to sell my house someday, so you are wise to suggest an engineer.

Anyone know how much it costs for an engineer to perform work on a small attic conversion?

A little more info on my space: there are W shaped trusses in an approximately 20 ft by 20 ft area, with the apex maybe 11 ft up. So, there is plenty of room for a man cave, if I can remove the Ws. My idea is not to insulate the underside of the roof, but rather to create a 15 x 15 box and insulate around it, so that there is still a breathable attic space.

@joe, Thanks for the advice.

@jklingel, I have done a bit of reading already, and still I think I may need to hire a contractor. It is a very complex modification. Thanks for the links!

@bill01, Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions!

The AC duct is in the attic, so my initial thought was to remove the AC from the bathroom and use it for the man-cave. My concern is whether it would be against code to not have an AC vent in the bathroom. Anyone know?

@cortell, I agree 100%. This is not a job for joe-six-pack. A lot of reasearch has gone into this so far and a lot more is to come. I have to stay within code because I know I will sell someday and the last thing I want is to have to tear it all apart so that I can sell the house. Thanks buddy!
You have to stay within code because you won't pass inspections. Are you planning on getting permits and inspections?
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomascg View Post
@cortell, I agree 100%. This is not a job for joe-six-pack. A lot of reasearch has gone into this so far and a lot more is to come. I have to stay within code because I know I will sell someday and the last thing I want is to have to tear it all apart so that I can sell the house. Thanks buddy!
You bet. That's the right attitude. Your original post was alarming as you were asking about structure. In an attic conversion involving trusses, structure is probably the most critical and sensitive consideration. It is not something you should be considering to figure out on your own. An experienced contractor would bring in an engineer for that, even if he was pretty sure he knew what needed to be done. When dealing with structures that hover above people's heads or that put people significantly off the ground, you just don't mess around. Please make sure you hire a licensed engineer if you proceed with this, and know it's not going to be cheap. I predict this type of conversion is going to be expensive not only in engineering costs but in the cost require to restructure your roof. If you want a sobering look at what's involved, view this episode of Holmes on Homes highlighting an attic conversion gone wrong and what it took to do things properly
http://www.hgtv.com/video/attic-conv...deo/index.html
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:39 PM   #10
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20ft is a long way to span on your new "floor". In effect the boards in the W of the truss help hold the ceiling/attic floor.

Using the span tables for yellow pine a normal 2x12 will not make it. A LVL might make it hard to say. There are 12 inch ijoists that are rated for that span. In any case you problem will be over your walls at the end you more than likely do not have enough room between the top the walls and the roof deck to fit anything. This is one of the common complaints about trusses that you cannot put enough insulation above the end walls much less some big board.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:42 AM   #11
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@Joe, Of course I will get permits and be inspected, but the sure-fire way to get screwed by an unscrupulous contractor is to be ignorant of what needs to be done. And, unfortunately, I have nobody who could recommend a good contractor, so it is a crap-shoot as to what I will get.

@cortell, Yes, I have seen that episode of HoH. Great show BTW. That is exactly what I am trying to avoid. No way I am tearing into the roof. "Get it done right, the first time."

@bill01, The limits are determined by the walls below and how much weight they can carry. There are two bathrooms, the laundryroom, a closet, and the utility area. I assume the spans are not really an issue because there is so much structure below. What do you think?
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:52 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by tomascg View Post
Unfortunately, I have nobody who could recommend a good contractor, so it is a crap-shoot as to what I will get.
Take a look at my recommendation here: dormer

I've been using this approach for years with great success.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:26 AM   #13
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everyone is concerned about the joist span once the truss supports are gone but what about the roof rafters? they are only 2x4 and supported by the truss supports as well. probably the best way is new rafters and new joists would need to be built around the truss system and then the truss system ( W chords) removed afterward.
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:02 AM   #14
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everyone is concerned about the joist span once the truss supports are gone but what about the roof rafters? they are only 2x4 and supported by the truss supports as well. probably the best way is new rafters and new joists would need to be built around the truss system and then the truss system ( W chords) removed afterward.
It's a given that building on top of the trusses is a non-starter. As you said, it'll come down to converting that portion of the roof into a traditional joist/rafter assembly. Again, this is where the engineering and construction costs are going to make this a very expensive project, IMO. Converting a traditional attic in to a room is one thing; doing the same for a truss-based roof is a whole different ball game.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:54 PM   #15
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. I assume the spans are not really an issue because there is so much structure below.
If you have walls running perpendicular to the truss for the complete distance you may be able to use them as bearing. If they have double header plates it is more likely.

You span is still important since it determine the size lumber you need. Even at just 10ft you will need a 2x8 and at 12ft you need 2x10. You are still better off using a single long board rather than 2 since you must connect them over your bearing wall and there are rules on how you do this.

And as pointed out you then must deal with the rafters but if your total span is only 20ft you may be able to use 2x6 but it depends on snow load.

Maybe you get lucky and you have no long spans but then why did they bother with trusses in the first place. Maybe the builder just uses them on all his houses.

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