Another popular trend in the United States housing market is converting an existing attic into livable space such as an extra bedroom or an office. It makes sense to use existing attics if the attic has enough height and space to be used as living space. Most attics were not originally intended to serve as living space, so you will need to understand that the existing attic space will need to be worked with as is. The roof line or ceiling is usually the first thing will need to considered. Depending on where you live in the United States, some cities have minimum head clearances that will need to be met in order to pass building code. Some old homes have staircases leading to the attic, which eliminates a large problem that most of our clients encounter when wanting to convert an attic to a bedroom or office space.
Stairs can take up a large amount of square footage and are not even considered by most in the planning stages of an attic conversion. An architect, designer or qualified builder can help in the layout of the stairway of the new attic remodel. The idea is to allow the exiting floor plan to tie into the new stairway as seamless as possible. You have many options when it comes to choosing the type of stairway (spiral, u-shaped, straight run, flared and curved).”–Danny Garcia, owner of Rhino Design Build in San Antonio, Texas.
Another very important area that is not considered is how will the new attic space be supported? Chances are that the existing floor joists were not designed to handle the weight of the attic as living space. Floor joists or a floor system can be added to help distribute the weight of the attic remodel, but it takes a building professional or registered architect or engineer to make that call. Always have the foundation of the home inspected by a structural engineer to ensure that the attic renovation can be supported by the home’s current foundation. The City of San Antonio requires this as part of the approval process when it comes to getting a building permit. Also required is a stamped set of plans from a registered Architect showing the layout of trusses, floor joists and details of wall sections. All of this certainly adds to the cost of an attic conversion, but is necessary in making sure the new upstairs living space meets building code and is safe to occupy. Plumbing, electrical and air conditioning will need to be assessed to see how they will come into play for the new upstairs attic space. Permits are also required for these trades as well as a building permit by your builder. Other items to consider are approvals from: HOA (home owners association) Historic Conservation District, and Preservation Districts. As you can see, there are many items to consider before making a decision on turning an attic into living space.