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Old 03-30-2007, 07:20 PM   #1
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A question about dormers


Hello all, I have a question from a total newbie. I'm such a newbie, I don't even own a house yet!

We're looking into buying our first house. We've found an historic home that is "just perfect, except..." Wonderful location, within our price range, blah blah blah... Half of the house is a typical two-story and works well. In the other (older) half, the attic was finished, but it is incredibly short. I'm 5'6 and can just barely stand up in the center, and of course most of the space is shorter as it stretches under the eaves.

We could live in the house as-is for now and be happy, but for the house to work for us long-term (say, with kids or even my parents sharing the space) we'd need those rooms to be livable. I've already checked and there are no ordinances that would prevent us from modifying the home.

How would one go about altering this? I was thinking of a shed dormer, but realistically, even the highest point needs to be raised. Can a dormer wrap over the peak of a roof? Would it be necessary to literally raise the roof? We would hire a contractor for the major work, although I'm more than happy to jump in and do some of the finishing. Does this project sound too big for new and inexperienced home owners?

I've attached a picture of one short room, looking through the doorway into the second short room. For reference, the doorway is a little over 4 feet tall.


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Old 03-30-2007, 08:47 PM   #2
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A question about dormers


Hi,

I am not an expert on historic homes....

But aren't they governed by specific guidelines in regards to what the owner may and may not do in terms of alterations...?

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Old 03-30-2007, 08:55 PM   #3
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A question about dormers


Is that just an optical illusion, or is there a major sag in the floor, as it appears by looking at the baseboard? Leads me to believe that the old undersize ceiling joists were used as floor joists without beefing them up.

My point is to be careful here. Any work to make these spaces functional will obviously involve roof modifications, thus permits, and the possibility of many costly fixes.

The only possibility I see here is to build a room perpendicular to the existing space, creating a cross gable room . This was a popular roof style around the Victorian era. There was a series of plan books of this era published by Dover Press or Publishers, that had many illlustrations of this roof style.

Last edited by troubleseeker; 03-30-2007 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 03-31-2007, 02:07 PM   #4
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A question about dormers


Quote:
Originally Posted by AtlanticWBConst. View Post
Hi,

I am not an expert on historic homes....

But aren't they governed by specific guidelines in regards to what the owner may and may not do in terms of alterations...?

It varies by location. In this case, no--I checked into it beforehand and there are no local ordinances to protect this particular house. In fact, much of the house was renovated by the last owners, or I'd be more reticent about changing it's character.


Quote:
Is that just an optical illusion, or is there a major sag in the floor, as it appears by looking at the baseboard? Leads me to believe that the old undersize ceiling joists were used as floor joists without beefing them up.

My point is to be careful here. Any work to make these spaces functional will obviously involve roof modifications, thus permits, and the possibility of many costly fixes.
Nope--the camera is just playing tricks upon us. The floor seemed flat upon our initial walk-through. Your point is well taken, though! I guess that's what I'm trying to get a handle on; you know, brainstorm what all would be involved in that renovation process and how much of a headache it would be. If we were to get into this, we'd be prepared for permits and some serious contractor work. I'd really like to get a ballpark idea of cost; is in reasonable to ask the current owners to let us bring a contractor onsite for an estimate, before we bid on the house?
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Old 03-31-2007, 03:55 PM   #5
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A question about dormers


"I'd really like to get a ballpark idea of cost; is in reasonable to ask the current owners to let us bring a contractor on site for an estimate, before we bid on the house?"

Sure, the most they can say is no. My sister did so when contemplating an offer on a 1910 house had electric and plumbing/heating contractors look it over and give estimates just to bring it up to code. After their guesstimates she passed on that dream.
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Old 04-09-2007, 04:51 PM   #6
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A question about dormers


This looks too low to dormer. It would make more sense to remove the whole thing and redo it. By more sense, I mean you won't get a permit because the ceiling height won't be high enough to conform to code.
The cost effectiveness depends what you would have planned for the location. Cost would depend on size and planned use.
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Old 04-09-2007, 05:36 PM   #7
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A question about dormers


I see no problem bringing a contractor in for an estimate before you buy the house. Don't know how easy it will be to find one if they know you do not own the home yet. But their are some great contractors out their that I'm sure will be willing to do it in hopes they may get your business in the future. It looks like a pretty big job for a newbie to me. My guess is kiss the roof goodbye and hello to a whole new upstair. Let us know what happens and go luck I always like to see pictures.
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Old 04-09-2007, 07:52 PM   #8
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A question about dormers


I did a similar project but I had about 8'6" the bottom of the ridge. I did a shed dormer with a 1/12 pitch over about 12'. That means the we dropped 1 foot in 12'. So, the finished ceiling height was only 7'6" (we did a flat ceiling) This just barely met the local code requirements at the time. This was the back side of the house. Front we did 2 gable, or dog house, style dormers. The flat ceiling continued all the way through the front dormers.

Anyway, no way on a 5'6" celing. Even though your ridge is a bit higher by the looks of it. Just consider this space a nice finished attic storage space.

Like others have said, to do this the entire roof will need to come off and get raised up. Possible but costly. You will need to raise that chimney and match up what ever exterior finish you have.

Good luck.

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