When you’re short on space, converting your attic to a bedroom is one way to increase your living area without adding onto your home. Constructing an attic bedroom requires adherence to building code to ensure safety and structural integrity. If you’re handy with power tools and you understand the basics of construction, you can turn your attic into an additional bedroom and raise your property value. Keep in mind the following steps to ensure a quality conversion.
Check with your local building authority before you begin. Some states require a plan, approved by an engineer, before they will issue a remodeling permit. Other states may have little or no code, especially if your home is in a rural area but find out what the regulations are in your community before you do start a remodel.
Determine if there is sufficient headroom in the attic to make a bedroom. Generally, this is a minimum of 7 feet high in the uppermost portion of the rafters but higher is better. In addition, look at the floor space in relationship to the slope of the rafters. Where the rafters slope downwards, any space between the floor and rafters that is less than 4 feet in height is not usable for living space.
Examine the floor rafters for structural integrity.At a minimum, 2-inch-by-4-inch dimensional lumber should be free and spanned no longer than 10 feet without support. In addition, rafters should sit on 16-inch centers, or less. If you have a question about the span of the floor joists, consult an engineer before you begin. (See Resources.)
Re-route existing attic vents, such as gable vents if they interfere with the new wall configuration. Ridge vents are a good choice when converting an attic. In addition, all plumbing and furnace vents will require re-routing if they interfere with the bedroom. Avoid terminating a vent.
Design your heat and air access to the new bedroom. If you can’t tie into the existing HVAC system, consider installing a small horizontal HVAC unit in the bedroom with venting to the exterior of the home.
Re-route existing attic vents, such as gable vents, if they interfere with the new wall configuration. Ridge vents are a good choice when converting an attic. In addition, all plumbing and furnace vents will require re-routing if they interfere with the bedroom. Avoid terminating any vents.
Build the staircase that will provide access to the new bedroom. This is an important step and you should avoid installing a steep or narrow staircase. The basic rule for a safe stairway is to allow a maximum of 8 inches for each rise and a minimum of 11 inches of tread. Allow 3 feet, in width or more, to move furniture.
Put down the subfloor next, extending under the area where the knee walls will run. You need not install a subfloor past this point unless you want to utilize the space for cabinets. Frame the knee walls and the sidewalls to code or to a minimum of 2-inch-by-4-inch dimensional lumber set on 16-inch centers. Install any exterior sidewall windows at this time.
Install all the mechanical elements of the attic bedroom, venting runs, plumbing vents, electrical, cable and phone wires before insulating. Extend your rafters to a depth of at least 5 1/2 inches to allow a minimum of R-19 insulation.
Sheetrock the walls and apply drywall mud and tape. Finish the walls with paint or acoustical spray and install your light fixtures and outlet covers .Put down the final flooring and install the base trim and window trim. Hang the closet doors.