Attic Bedroom Conversions

Oct 26


Mark Donovan

Mark Donovan

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Major Items to Consider when Converting an Attic into a Bedroom


An attic bedroom conversion offers a high rate of return for home improvement projects. Since exterior walls and a roof come for free the cost of converting an attic into a bedroom is relatively moderate compared to adding a room on to a home.

Incorporating a bedroom into an attic,Attic Bedroom Conversions Articles however, does have to pass a few simple upfront tests and significant planning is necessary. In addition it’s wise to talk to the local building inspector about your plans before going too far down this project road. It’s also smart to call in an architect to take a look at the home and attic to see where, if any, structural changes can be done, if required.

Just routing some electric wire, installing some insulation, and slapping up some drywall on the walls and ceiling of an attic won’t suffice from a code compliance perspective. Attic structural members are typically not designed to support the weight or openness of a finished room such as a bedroom. For example, lower level ceiling joists are often not large enough to act as floor joists for a finished living attic space. Consequently sistering of larger lumber is often necessary.

Similarly, if roof trusses were used in the construction of the roof then there may be inadequate space for a finished living area. In addition, roof trusses cannot be cut to make more open area. Cutting roof trusses can weaken the roof structure and could cause it to fail catastrophically. An architect or structural engineer should evaluate the roof trusses to determine if there is anything that can be done to enable a bedroom attic conversion.

Proper and code legal attic ingress and egress is another major concern that needs to be addressed during the planning stages. The attic bedroom will need a standard stairway or door opening for ingress and egress. This may require utilizing some of the lower level finished space to support a new staircase. Moreover, a large window, or a second door to exit the attic may also be necessary to meet fire codes.

Another major item that needs to be considered when designing an attic bedroom is the roof pitch. If the roof pitch is too shallow there may be inadequate headroom and space for finishing the attic. Incorporating a large dormer onto the roof may be one way to gain additional headroom space. You may also need to include knee walls in your attic conversion plans.

Adequate lighting is another item that also has to be well thought out. Often natural lighting in an attic is inadequate. Thus, skylights and window dormers may want to be considered in your plans to allow more natural light into the finished living space.

Adequate heating and cooling is another major item to resolve when planning an attic bedroom conversion. Attics typically get very hot during the summer months so air conditioning is a necessity. Similarly, heating needs to be included into the plans. A standalone heating and cooling system in the attic bedroom is often the most effective solution. Frequently the home’s existing HVAC system is insufficient for supporting additional living space and the cost to upgrade can be prohibitive. In addition routing duct work from the furnace to the attic can be expensive, if not nearly impossible to do.

Finally, besides ingress and egress safety concerns there are also a number of other safety items that need to be included in your attic bedroom conversion plans. For example, an attic bedroom will need to incorporate smoke detectors and arc-fault bedroom electrical circuits.

Though an attic bedroom conversion project does present its own unique set of challenges it still does offer a high rate of return. So do your upfront homework by speaking to your local building inspector and architect and plan accordingly. Doing so will ensure a successful home remodeling outcome.