Attic Infill: Can I add rooms in my attic for extra living space?

HOUSETIPS
January 10, 2023

Our home must accommodate our changing lifestyles, but sometimes new desires and needs create a demand for more living space. For financial and personal reasons, buying or building a larger home may not be appropriate. Instead, adding square footage to your existing home can be a good alternative for you and your family. If going expanding your footprint with an addition is not feasible, utilizing attic space may seem like an attractive approach – but there are several things to consider and investigate before committing to this project:

  • Structural Integrity
  • Staircase Location
  • Emergency Exit Locations
  • Increased Load on Existing HVAC Systems
  • Plumbing & Electrical Wiring Issues
  • Attic Ventilation

So, when you’re looking at that attic space and think – I’ve already got a roof and floor – so all I need is a few walls and lights and I’m done…think again!

Structural Integrity – When adding rooms in the attic, you are adding more weight to the load-bearing parts of your home. The existing ceiling joists (see our blog on the parts of my attic) and load-bearing columns are sized for the weight of the ceiling, air-conditioning equipment, and possibly some storage. These will not be sufficient as floor support for your new living spaces, so you must install larger joists with more substantial columns to hold the weight. The existing foundation must also be inspected to ensure it can support a new room.

Staircase Location – A staircase must be constructed to provide access to the new living space in the attic, and finding an extra 60-100 square feet to fit it in can be a challenge. On top of the space needed, the layout of the staircase must work with the existing floorplan on the first and second level for proper access.

Emergency Exits – Current building codes require that each floor and the bedroom areas have a minimum number of windows/doors for emergency exit purposes. This requirement creates certain restrictions on floorplans to allow for in-swing/out-swing of the door and access to the windows.

Increased Loads on Existing HVAC Systems – Living spaces must be conditioned so that they are comfortable. Second floor space requires more capacity per square foot than first floor space, and would typically necessitate a separate system. Relocating existing systems may be required, which can restrict certain layouts.

Plumbing & Electrical Wiring – New plumbing (depending on use of space) and electrical wiring will need to be installed. Any new plumbing drains must connect to the existing drains, and will have to be planned for accordingly. Depending on the size of the added living area, a secondary electrical panel might also be needed.

Attic Ventilation – Filling any existing attic with living space will greatly affect how the attic is ventilated. Provisions for maintaining proper ventilation, like new air ducts and intakes, need to be factored into the overall design.

Any of these potential issues must be taken into consideration before starting any large construction project, especially attic additions. Proper planning Is crucial to ensure the new living area provides comfortable and long-lasting space for your needs. We strongly recommend that you research professionals in the area, get references, and view past work so you know your project is in good hands.

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