If you are like a lot of clients in San Antonio that call me about converting an existing attic space into living space, then read on. The fact is that with the economy the way it is, it may be beneficial to convert your existing attic into livable square footage. There are a few key factors that must be addressed before you consider an attic remodel. If you already have a set of stairs leading up to the attic, then you are way ahead of the game. If you do not, you will need to think about how and where the new stairs will go. Stairs can take up a lot of real estate (about 6′-4″x11’0″), so you need to make sure you have the room before going any further. You can always build the stairs on exterior wall, but this will take some careful design and planning. A spiral staircase can be an option, but you will need to check to see what the building code requirements will allow in your area. The next thing you will need to assess is: how much height do you have inside the attic. Keep in mind that you may have to add a sub-floor with i-joists (or a flooring system) to be able to displace the weight of the new living space upstairs. The age of the home and building materials used will play a key factor here. Most homes we not designed to have the attic used as living space and as a result, the floor joists cannot properly carry the weight. A careful inspection of the foundation will need to conducted in order to determine that the current foundation can support the new attic addition. Consulting with an architect or engineer is highly recommended before starting any attic renovation or second story addition.
I see a lot of attic conversions that were not done properly and as a result, cracks in the downstairs walls and ceilings have formed. The architect, engineer or qualified design professional will be able to tell you if the existing walls and foundation will be sufficient to carry the weight of the new attic space. This is obviously not cheap, but you can’t put a price on ensuring the safety of knowing it was done correctly and peace of mind knowing your family is safe. There will be some upfront costs associated with bringing in these professionals, but it is well worth it. The last thing you want is your house not being structurally sound. You will sell that house one day and you could potentially lose a lot of money if you do not follow the proper procedures. The City of San Antonio requires a full plan review when submitting for a building permit for any second story room addition or attic renovation. And, yes, building permits are definitely required for any attic being converted into living space.–Danny Garcia, owner of Rhino Design Build in San Antonio, Texas.
Converting an attic into an bedroom or an office can be a great way of adding living space to your house, but you must follow the right procedures. As you can see, there are many factors that come into play when considering attic remodeling. Other items to consider are approvals from: HOA (home owners association) Historic Conservation District, Preservation District and Flood Plain Approval.