Your home seems much smaller when you have guests over for the weekend or your family room just doesn’t function anymore for guests. Well, have you thought about remodeling your empty attic into a space that can add square footage and value?
Making your attic into an extra bedroom with a bathroom costs $75,000 on average and retains 53 percent of its value if you decide to sell the house, according to 2017 “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS.
Most of the clients that come to Amy Hinck, design manager at Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc., in Minneapolis, usually want the attic turned into a master suite with a bedroom, bathroom, closet and built-ins.
“Some ask for music rooms or to create a family room or to make finished storage. The typical reason they contact us is for additional space,” she says. “But I’m sure they also know that when they add more finished space, that adds value to their property.”
Most attics her company has been involved with recently are converting the space into master suites. And most of the homes that they are asked to renovate are in 1920s-1960s homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“Sometimes we fur down the rafters in order to add a good amount of insulation. Typically knee walls are needed or remain in the design in order to support the rafters,” Hinck says. “We try to do trusses when we do dormers or additions, but oftentimes we still need to do some hand framing. “
Here are things you should consider before remodeling your attic:
Staircases to the attic and headroom codes
The needed headroom for a staircase to the attic is 6 foot 8 inches from front of nosing to ceiling, and the entire length of stairs. Also, codes will often require at least 50% of habitable rooms (bedrooms or living spaces) to be 7 foot. Your attic might not offer that, and that could put the project in jeopardy early.
Heating and cooling to the attic
“It’s usually a little challenging to get heating and cooling up to the space,” Hinck adds. “Oftentimes, we will utilize a closet or have to open another wall on the first floor and then do some patching on that floor.”
There is the option to do a separate system up in the attic, such as a ductless mini-split. Sometimes installing an electric baseboard heater in the bathroom or places where it’s hard to get forced air or hot water systems to is possible as well. But long term, the energy costs will likely be higher, so it’s not as efficient a way to heat the space.
Average cost to convert attic with HVAC systems
“It depends on if it’s already finished, if you want to add a bathroom, or what it’s being turned into,” she says.
Castle Building & Remodeling offer examples of costs on its website. Most finished attics that include new windows, a bathroom, bedroom, and closets are falling in the 75k to 105k range. If you add a dormer to increase head room, that increases the cost as well. Plus, depending on where you live in the country, can also change the price, too.
Other uses for renovated attics
Besides a master suite, Home Advisor talks about using the attic as a library, entertainment area with home theater and bar and pool table, a guest bedroom, a teen hangout, or multi-purpose room with workout area, office and lounging.
Other additions to make attic more livable
“Skylights are a good feature,” she says. “We also find most customers including built-in cabinetry to make best use of storage spaces in/behind knee walls. That could be bookcases or linen cabinets.”
Another not-so-obvious feature is insulation. Properly insulating and/or venting the attic space will have a big impact on livability and functionality of the house. It decreases the likelihood of ice dams and subsequent damage. Insulation, venting, and roofing, all have a lot to do with each other.
Making the space inviting
“We tend to suggest painted or light colored stained millwork in attics and basements, as that helps brighten the space and make it feel more inviting,” she adds. “You can still match the profile of millwork on the first floor but can change the color.”
Definitely think about how you will get furniture up into the space. Modular beds and couches are recommended. Multi -piece showers or tile showers also make it possible to get them up the stairs. Sometimes enlarging a window will provide an additional access point for drywall or other materials during construction and then furniture post construction.
Options besides converting attic
“For our clients, it’s usually a toss up between remodeling the basement, attic, or adding on to the back of the home,” Hinck explains. “If the basement hasn’t had many water issues in the past, or you can get that under control and install drain tile and make sure to take care of drainage appropriately from the exterior, the basement may provide more ceiling height/space to build than in the attic.”