Once you’ve determined your attic has
passed the sniff test for finishing, next comes the task of assessing the
structural integrity of the attic framing. First and foremost, if your attic is
filled with roof trusses that impede on headroom, then finishing your attic is
not possible, at least without not having to replace the roof. If on the other
hand there are only a few trusses used in a portion of the attic you can work
around them in your finished attic design plans. Never cut a roof truss without
first seeking the advice of a professional structural engineer. Cutting even a
single member of a roof truss could severely weaken the integrity of the roof
and could lead to an eventual roof collapse.
Second, examine the attic flooring, or ceiling joists from the lower level.
Often the lower level ceiling joists are not adequate in size to support the
weight and use of a finished living space. Again, work with an architect or
structural engineer to determine if your attic floor joists (lower level ceiling
joists) are adequate for finishing an attic. Often the solution to undersized
attic floor joists is to sister larger lumber to the existing joists.
The third major concern when planning to finish an attic involves potentially
moving heating and air conditioning equipment.
Often HVAC equipment is located in the attic. In some cases it may not be
easily moved. If you have HVAC equipment in your attic check with an HVAC
contractor to see what your options are for relocating or replacing it.
Insulation is also another major concern when finishing an attic. Attics can
be extremely hot during the summer months and just as cold during the winter
ones. Consequently it is vital when finishing an attic to have plenty of
insulation installed, and installed correctly.
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The next item on the “how to finish
an attic” planning checklist is lighting. Make sure to include in your attic
conversion budget funds for the installation of natural lighting, e.g. via
skylights, the installation of windows on the gable ends of the attic space, or
the inclusion of a dormer(s) with a window(s). In addition, make sure to include
copious amounts of electrical lighting, particularly if natural lighting is not
available in your attic conversion budget.
Lastly, prior to the start of
finishing your attic make sure to check with your local building inspector to
fully understand all of the rules and building codes for finishing an attic, and
to pull the appropriate permits.
Photo by Mark Donovan
To obtain a building permit you’ll need to show the building inspector a copy
of your finished attic plans, along with projected materials and overall
project costs. In particular, the building inspector will want to see framing
and cross-sectional structural drawings of the attic to ensure your finished
attic design plans are safe and to code.
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