More Space Under the Roof: Is an Attic Remodel Worth the Investment?

Written by Josh McDermott

attic remodel st. louisThough rarely a “simple” remodel, an attic conversion is an appealing one for people who want to increase their home’s living space without adding on. Unlike often dark and damp basements, attics are dryer, have access to tons of natural light, and don’t house major systems like furnaces and water heaters.

Common attic conversions are home offices, entertainment rooms, studios, playrooms, or an extra bedroom or two.

Before You Begin an Attic Conversion

Some of the biggest hurdles related to an attic remodel are the building codes. They vary from one locality to the next, but most follow the International Residential Code:

  • Ceiling codes are typically 7’6” inches high over a minimum of 70 sf of floor space, or 50% of the entire layout. If your home’s attic is shorter than required by code, you won’t be permitted to remodel it into living space without making some alteration, usually accomplished with a dormer. But keep in mind that dormers also change the appearance of your home’s exterior.
  • Joist codes must be strong enough to support the added-on weight of the remodeled space. The rafters should be able to support drywall, plumbing, electrical, lighting, and HVAC system components.
  • Windows must be at least 8% of the usable floor and include one windows that provides easy access to the outside.
  • Heating requirements include maintaining a steady attic temperature of at least 68ºF.
  • Egress codes normally require a minimum of two exits, typically a door and a window. It’s usually required that the staircase to the lower level is a fixed one. An escape ladder is a great backup option.

attic remodel st. louis

At J.T. McDermott Remodeling, our decades of experience designing and remodeling countless homes in communities throughout the Greater St. Louis area means we’re up-to-date on all local codes and building requirements. We make sure each attic remodel we do is completely compliant with your area’s ordinances.

From Storage Space to Living Space

Most attics are designed for storage and/or utilities like air handlers, not as living space. One of the biggest challenges to converting an attic is the stairway. If your home currently has a hatchway or pull-down stairs, you’ll need to find the space for permanent stairs both in the attic and on the level below.

attic remodel st. louisThe construction of the stairway is also subjected to strict codes. They must be at least 36” wide with treads 9.5” or more deep. The rise may not exceed 7-3/4” with head clearance of at least 80 inches. Many people choose a spiral staircase to access the attic, but some restrictions may apply in your community.

One project we’re currently designing is for a couple who have downsized to a smaller home but want another bedroom space for their children and grandkids to sleep in when they visit. When converting an attic to a bedroom or master suite, there are some important things to think about:

  • How much headroom you want and how much is available.
  • How the house is built, i.e., does the current structure support your vision?
  • How will the stairs be incorporated into the design? Will they enter in the center of the room or to one side?
  • You’ll need adequate insulation, but traditional batt versions will take up precious headroom. We recommend blown-in or spray insulation in these scenarios. No matter what insulation you add, attics still get hot in the warmer months, so you’ll need plenty of ventilation, too.

It’s always a good idea to get an engineer’s input on what will and won’t work. It gives you and your design team a good idea of what additional features your house may need. It also helps determine the complexity of your remodel in relation to your current roof design. For example, if your home’s roof has a modern, shallow slope, you may need a roof rebuild. That’s a big job with considerable cash outlay and you may decide an attic remodel is not the way to go.

Learn More

An attic conversion offers you a great opportunity to increase your home’s livable space without increasing its current footprint. That’s a real plus when you don’t have the available land for adding on. And an attic, because it is unfinished, is a versatile space that can be adapted into just about any room you want it to be.

No matter what you have in mind for your attic remodel, our designers are here to help. To learn more about how to turn your home’s attic into a functional and beautiful space, schedule a consultation with us today. We look forwarding to meeting with you!

For Josh, it’s always been about relationships. As J.T. McDermott’s 2nd generation owner, he believes nothing matters more than the enduring friendships that are built with the homeowners he serves. “If I can help both our clients grow and the team grow, everything else will take care of itself.”

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