Simply running some electric wire,
throwing in some insulation, and sheetrocking the walls and ceiling of an attic
typically won’t cut it from a code compliance perspective. Most attic framing is
not designed to support the weight or openness of a finished room such as an
attic bedroom. The ceiling joists from the lower level room are often not large
enough to act as floor joists for a finished living space, so sistering of
larger lumber may be required.
Also, if roof trusses were used in the roofs construction they simply cannot be
cut to make more open area. Cutting roof truss members, even small ones, can
seriously weaken your home’s roof structure and could lead to catastrophic
failure. An architect or structural engineer should be called in to evaluate
your roof trusses and to best assess what you can and cannot do relative to your
attic bedroom plans.
Attic Bedroom Ingress/Egress
Besides the existing structural concerns of an unfinished attic, sufficient
attic ingress and egress is another major issue that needs to be addressed
during the planning stages of adding an attic bedroom. The attic bedroom will
need a standard stairway or door opening to enter and exit it. This may mean
utilizing some of the lower level finished space to support a new staircase.
In addition, a large window, or a second door to exit the attic will also be
required. If a window is to be the second means of ingress/egress to/from the
attic bedroom, then it will need to meet code requirements to allow a fully
outfitted fireman to enter the attic bedroom.
Attic Bedroom Roof Pitch
Another major issue that needs to be addressed up front from when adding an
attic bedroom is the evaluation of the roof pitch. If the roof pitch is too
shallow there may be inadequate space for adding an attic bedroom. In some
cases, you may need to consider adding a large dormer onto the roof to open up
the attic for additional headroom space. In many cases you will need to
include knee walls in your attic bedroom conversion plans to limit the lowest
roof height of the finished attic bedroom.
Attic Bedroom Lighting
Adequate lighting is also often a problem when adding an attic bedroom. You
may want to include skylights in the roof, and certainly windows if your plans
include the installation of an attic dormer.
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Attic Bedroom Heating and Cooling
Sufficient heating and cooling is another major concern when contemplating
adding an attic bedroom. Attics get extremely hot during the summer months so
the need for air conditioning is a must. Likewise, heating needs to be factored
into the plans. Sometimes it makes more sense to install a standalone heating
and cooling system in the attic bedroom versus trying to extend the existing
HVAC system up into the attic. Often the existing HVAC system is not capable of
supporting the additional living space and the work to pipe it in can be
Photo by Mark Donovan
Installing Bathrooms in Attics
If your attic bedroom plans also include a bathroom then there are a number of
additional concerns that you will need to contend with. First and foremost,
you will need to determine how to run the drain and supply lines up into the
attic. This may or may not be possible. In addition, you may need to elevate
the floor of the attic bathroom to allow room for the drain pipes to work
properly. Also, the existing water supply system may not have sufficient head
pressure to pump water up to the attic. Then there is the issue of the weight
of a full tub of water. Additional framing will be required to address the
severe weight directly underneath the tub area.
Attic Bedroom Safety
Finally, besides having sufficient ingress and egress into your attic bedroom,
there are a number of other safety issues that you will need to address. When
adding an attic bedroom you will need to incorporate smoke detectors and
suitable bedroom electrical circuits into the plans. Also, if your attic
bedroom plans include a bathroom, a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)
electrical circuit will be required in the bathroom.
Though adding an attic bedroom into your home does present its own set of
unique challenges it still does provide one of the highest rates of return for
home remodeling projects. However, as with any major investment in your home,
proper planning is essential for its success.
For help on Finishing an Attic, see HomeAdditionPlus.com's
Attic Conversion Bid sheet. The
Attic Conversion Bid sheet will help
to ensure that you hire the right contractor so that your attic conversion
project is built
correctly, on time and budget.
Related Attic Information