Attic Remodels Increase Value, Square Footage

    Photo: Nina Hale/FlickrIf your house feels a little cramped for your needs, there are a wide variety of solutions to the problem. You could move around some walls inside to use the space more efficiently, for example, or bump out in a remodel to add an extra room or even a whole new wing. Or you could look upward. Attics tend to be extremely underutilized household spaces ... a pity, because sometimes they harbor a lot of floor space, a great view, and a whole lot of potential.

    Advantages of an Attic Remodel

    While attic remodels may involve some serious retrofitting (plus maneuvering equipment and supplies up a staircase or two), but they also offer a number of advantages. They don't increase the footprint of your home, a concern if you're on a small lot or live in an area where home size is limited by local code. By building up without adding a full floor, you may also be able to squeak around height restrictions (discuss this with your remodeling contractor to find out your limits). And the attic offers you some of the best seats in the house: great raised view, lots of warmth (heat rises!), and a cozy spot for a child's room, gaming den, or workspace.

    This area can also be ideal as an "in-law unit," which you might use to house someone in the family or rent out for income. This could be very helpful for keeping up with the mortgage, and could also increase the sales value of a home. 

    Roof Height May be an Issue

    An obvious issue that confronts homeowners considering an attic remodel is the height of the roof. In some old houses, the slanted ceilings may be tall enough for comfort (and to meet building code requirements!) in the central area of the attic, but that's not always the case. Bump-outs of the roof might be necessary to create comfortable spaces in the attic, and could create more opportunities for light and air circulation, as well. At the edges of the attic, where an extreme slant makes the floor impractical for use, you can install cabinets or shelving areas  -- one reason an attic is ideal as a bedroom or home office, where lots of storage comes in handy.

    Roof Insulation

    You may also need to insulate or reinsulate the roof, depending on the age of your home and which materials were used previously. Attics should be insulated anyway for energy efficiency, so now is a great time to install insulation and seal the walls, ceiling, and floor as part of your remodeling project. Be sure to get insulation that's rated for your area and type of use, and make sure your roof is in good shape before you start; now is not the time for leaks, so call your Portland roofer for a quick inspection.

    Egress

    All sleeping rooms must have egress -- a second opening for emergencies. This must be large enough not only to allow occupants to escape, but also to permit first responders (such as firefighters), fully dressed in all their gear, to enter. Required size of the opening is at least 5.7 square feet, and its bottom threshold should be no higher than 44" from floor level.

    Attic Flooring

    Attic flooring tends to be another area at issue, as some attic floors aren't covered with appropriate flooring material, and in some cases may even be left as bare joists! You have a choice between a wide variety of materials including hardwoods, manufactured flooring, and carpeting. If you want a tile floor, as for example if you're turning an attic into an in-law unit and plan to install a bathroom and kitchen, you may need to reinforce the joists to carry the additional weight.

    Lighting

    What about lighting? If you're in a very old house, electricity may not have been extended to the attic, so you'll need to call in an electrician about running wires and making sure there's sufficient power. Remember: you want lots of outlets as well as wired fixtures to create plenty of options. Older outlets and fixtures should be assessed to see if they are in good working condition, and replaced if necessary.

    Not sure about the direction your attic remodel will take? Here's a slideshow of 27 fantastic examples to show you how it's done.

    Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

    Updated August 20, 2018.

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