Adding Up: An Attic Conversion Planning Guide

Callen Blog -  Attic Conversions 062716If your family is growing and you need extra space, or you would simply like to expand with a home office or hobby room, you might be considering a room addition. However, with the cost of a room addition ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars, it may be wise to first take a look at your attic and see if it can qualify for an attic conversion.

Be Aware of Rules & Regulations

As with most building projects, there are a multitude of building codes and regulations to consider before doing an attic conversion. They may vary slightly from place to place, so be sure to ask your Callen representative about building codes for your community.

  • Adequate space. Your attic room should have at least 70 square feet of floor space, with half of the usable space having a ceiling height of at least five feet, and the other half being 7-7.5 feet or higher. There must be at least seven feet of floor space in each direction, so the room at minimum should be 7’ x 10’.
  • Strong floors. For your attic floor to be strong enough to support a habitable room, it must be able to bear a load capacity of 30 pounds per square foot. Callen, the leading remodeling company in Milwaukee, is familiar with and responsible for following the codes that will ensure a strong floor.
  • Safe stairs. An attic being used as a living space must have a structurally sound staircase to allow access to it. It must be at least 36″ wide, with treads 9.5-10″ deep. Risers should be 7¼- 7¾” high, and the stairs must allow for 80″ or more of headspace.
  • Exit points. In addition to stair access, an attic must have another point of egress to meet fire safety codes, which means that you will need a window that can be opened in case of an emergency. The size and placement of attic windows is regulated and local codes must be consulted before installing.

If you think your attic may be a candidate for a conversion and you’re looking for advice from the best remodeling company in Lake Country, look no further than Callen. We know the codes and will have you well on your way to a new living space before you know it! Call us today at 414-529-5509.



Living the High Life: Attic Conversions

Callen Blog - Attic Conversions 051616If you are like most people, your attic is a dusty place full of unused furniture, old clothes, and other odds and ends that you are reluctant to throw out. There is a much better way to make use of this space, however, by converting it into an office, bedroom, playroom, or cozy nook for reading or watching movies. Here are some hints and tips to keep in mind if you’re considering an attic conversion.

  • Read up on building and safety codes. Converting your attic into a safe and functional living space can be tricky. Before you decide on an attic renovation, you must first make sure that your attic will be able to meet current building codes. Minimum ceiling heights must be determined, the strength of attic joists checked, and the placement of windows, dormers, and staircases decided, along with many other requirements. As the leading remodeling company in Brookfield, Callen has knowledgeable designers, project managers, and building professionals to help you navigate what can sometimes be a confusing process.
  • Minimize noise. Chances are the attic is right over the living room or someone’s bedroom, which means even the smallest of noises is magnified in the rooms below – especially if you’re using the area as a TV room or playroom. To combat this problem, blown-in dense-pack insulation can be added between thick floor joists. Installing a thick carpet and pad can further block sound. You can even go with a quick fix by adding some area rugs.
  • Finish and protect. Attic ceilings tend to be low and slanted, so you see much more of the ceiling than in other parts of the house. Make your ceilings eye-catching with beadboard or wood panels. Beadboard panels install easily for a classic look, while bare or stained wood paneling will make your room warm and homey. These methods of finishing your ceiling not only look great, they also protect the ceiling from dents and scuffs.

If you have a space in your home that needs a transformation, whether it’s with basement refinishing in Greenfield, WI, a kitchen remodel or a total attic conversion, Callen Construction has the experience and know-how to make it happen for you. Give us a call today at 414-529-5509!



Attics Offer Opportunity for Usable Living Space

DSC_0090By Jeff Billstrom

Homeowners who have a Cape Cod or story-and-a-half residence typically have underutilized space in their attic.  Often, when the decision is made to convert the attic, a master suite is the desired outcome.  But conversion attics also make ideal spaces for a kids’ playroom, home office, craft room, or home theater.

Converting an attic is more than just drywall and insulation.  Mechanicals – heat, warm air and cold air, as well as any plumbing if a bath is to be added – need to be routed.  Often it’s not difficult to do, just a consideration when planning for a conversion.  When running ducts and piping, we look for spaces, such as closets on the first floor, which we can utilize strategically to minimize disruption.

Usually the first thing I look for when visiting a home is access to the attic.  Some homes already have usable stairways to their attic while others may have the pull-down steps or maybe nothing at all.  There are some options for constructing stairways.  One is using the space where the basement stairs are.  We can design steps that directly mirror those going into the basement, only up the opposite direction, thereby not wasting square footage on the first floor by putting another stairwell in.

The other thing to consider is making sure windows are sized properly.  There are codes for a percentage of natural light into the living space.  We can make an existing window larger, add a dormer or skylight.  If there is a flat roof adjacent, we can create a walk-out onto that roof.  The other important thing with an attic conversion is making sure there is egress – another means of exiting the area.  This too can be accomplished via flat roof walkout, or a skylight.  As mentioned in a previous blog, skylights come in two styles, a roof window and a balcony roof window.  A roof window has a 45-degree opening angle for maximum ventilation.  A balcony roof window allows the window to open out to create a small balcony.  Plus it can also be used as an emergency exit.

Before we can drywall, we need to insulate.  Usually we are installing drywall on rafter surfaces, which are part of the roofing system.  Typically, those aren’t deep enough or large enough to accommodate fiberglass insulation to meet code, so we use spray foam, which allows us to finish the space without changing that rafter system.

An attic conversion makes good sense economically because the structure is already there.  You are not having to put a foundation in, you are not having to put a new roof over it; it’s just a matter of converting it to a livable space, and making sure that it is conforming to code.

When you are thinking that you have outgrown your home, consider the attic for livable space.  We will be glad to come to your home and explain how it can work for you!




When More Living Space Is Needed, Don’t Overlook the Attic

By Dave Clark

When looking to increase your home’s living space, consider an attic conversion.

Attic conversions can suit any need, whether it’s for an extra bedroom, master suite, in-law suite, office space, playroom, or craft room.

It’s less expensive to remodel the attic than doing an addition because you are not excavating and doing masonry work.  The only masonry would be possibly removing a chimney or creating a masonry feature if desired.  It’s an alternative for many homeowners.

Almost any attic can be turned into usable space, but there are some things to consider.  First is the access to the attic.  If there isn’t a staircase, one has to be added.  When I design for a staircase, I try to put it above an existing one so as not to lose any square footage.  Even if you do have an existing staircase to the attic, if it’s a third floor attic, you will need a second means of exiting the space as required by building codes.  Skylights can also be added to let in more light and open up the space.   Another alternative is roof windows, which are available in two styles, a balcony roof window and a top-hinged roof window.  A balcony roof window allows the window to open out to create a small balcony.  A top-hinged roof window has a 45-degree opening angle for maximum ventilation.

Another consideration is that most attics were built for storage not as a living space.  When attics are converted, the floor joists need to be inspected for support.  In many cases, the joists cannot support live loads, so floor joists or floor trusses may have to be added.

Building codes also require that the majority of space in a conversion has to meet a seven-foot height requirement.  But you can use space under the lower eaves to incorporate a built-in bookcase, dresser, or even a window seat.  If you are bothered by angled ceilings and want everything to be flat, you may want to consider a dormer or addition.

To form a comfortable environment, insulation is needed.  I recommend spray foam insulation between the rafters, as it provides an increased R value, plus it seals every nook and cranny.  While it seals tight, foam insulation is very breathable so ventilation requirements are minimized.  With fiberglass insulation, baffles are needed between roof boards and insulation.  You can also add ambiance and comfort by installing a fireplace; attics can even be equipped with gas direct-vent models.

An attic conversion can be specifically designed to your wants.  You don’t have to convert the entire space; smaller designs are also possible.  Whatever your needs, attic conversions are a great way to create new living space that you’ll enjoy spending time in.