Are you thinking of turning an unused attic into a room? It’s a great way for Bay Area homeowners to gain extra living space or create an income-earning rental space. In either case, it is worth the time to read these considerations before making the space official.
We also recommend reviewing our post, Converting Attic Space to Living Space: How It’s Done, for more specifics about the actual process.
From ensuring you’re building the space to code and keeping yourself well within the law. In addition to following these guidelines, you’ll also ensure your attic room is safe for occupancy, comfortable, and energy-efficient.
If this is a DIY project for you, you’ll be working directly with your local building department. In order to be built to meet current federal and state building codes, you’ll need to know what the current fire, earthquake, safety, and energy efficiency codes are and adhere to them. To do that, you’ll schedule regular inspections pertaining to different phases of construction - framing, electrical work, sheetrock and drywall, fire sprinklers, etc.
If you are hiring someone else to do the work, make sure you hire a licensed contractor (you can verify their licensure, insurance, and bonding with your building department). In that case, the contractor’s job is to ensure all of the work is done to code and that each of the permit cards is signed off so your attic renovation is finalized.
There is a basic “rule of 7s” for attics, which means the finished attic space must have at least seven feet of height from floor-to-ceiling, seven feet wide from wall-to-wall, and be at least 70 square feet. If your attic won’t accommodate that, the project may be a no-go.
WARNING: Failure to build your attic to code can have serious consequences ranging from large fines to diminishing the resale value of your home.
If your attic ceiling is on the seven to eight feet high (or has pitched, A-line ceilings) speak to your contractor about using a more durable ceiling finish to protect it from dings as furniture and furnishings are moved in/out and put into place. Some ideas include:
This is a great time to consider skylights or solar tubes. They are a smart way to have “free” daylighting and can be added to your roof to gain a lighter, brighter, and more spacious feel in your attic space. If you do choose to add them, we recommend having the work done - or approved - by a licensed roofer to eliminate any risk of leaks or moisture control issues down the road.
Even the best of daylighting ideas fade once the sunsets. Most of our clients choose to install recessed cans as a way to gain the lighting they want without impacting the air space. Any fixtures attached to the ceiling will take inches off the headspace around the fixture. That’s fine if you’re dealing with an A-line or sloped ceiling with lots of room from floor-to-ceiling at the peak, but not so pleasant for people who are 6-feet tall or taller in a 7-foot space.
Instead of using traditional batt insulation, consider using insulated wall panels or spray foam options to minimize interior wall space and optimize the usable square footage in the room. In a small attic space, gaining a few extra inches on each wall makes a big difference in how the room looks and feels.
Even more importantly, using spray foam insulation in the exterior walls and roof will exponentially increase whole-space comfort, minimize energy consumption, and will also help to dampen the sound when it rains.
Your attic was built with the idea that nobody would be living up there, so there wasn’t any attention placed on soundproofing. Once somebody’s living up there, the clomp-clomp of their steps, the scrape of a chair being pushed back from a desk or table, and even the sounds emanating from stereo systems or televisions can be obnoxious for whoever lives below.
Make sure to take this into consideration. Consider amending or shoring up the existing floor joists to make them sturdier (and less squeaky), and be extra generous with soundproof flooring options, such as thicker, sound-resistant padding under carpets or hard surface flooring.
If you’ll be adding a bathroom and/or kitchen area, you want to be extra careful that the added plumbing is done by a professional to minimize the chance of leaks. Often, plumbing issues in attic spaces go unnoticed for too long because the water seeps into the interior wall spaces. Also, make sure the new plumbing lines drain all the way down to the ground to increase drainage pressure and to properly vent the sewage gases.
Are you thinking about converting your little- or unused attic space into a comfortable living space? Contact us here at Attic Solutions.
We can help you every step of the way, from clearing out old insulation, cleaning up and sanitizing any evidence of previous pest, mold, or mildew issues, and keeping your insulation plans on track. We are local, licensed, and come highly vetted. Our team looks forward to providing a free quote and competitive prices.