Exploring Attic Renovations

Exploring Attic Renovations

There are typically two reasons to consider an attic renovation for your home. “The first involves improving energy efficiency of the space, and the second involves utilizing the space as a new living area,” said Paulette Sodemann, designer with Callen Construction.

Usually energy improvements with the attic space involve high quality insulation and enhancing fire resistance. Alternatively, transforming the attic into an extended living space is a more extensive process, but it allows homeowners to increase their living area while incorporating their own tastes.

If your home has a smaller attic space, you may want to consider renovations that improve energy efficiency. “Not only could this update improve air circulation throughout a home, but it could save homeowners money on their energy bills as well,” said Paulette. When thoroughly insulating your attic space, you need to pay particularly close attention to any areas where the attic is separated from the living area of the home by ceiling and support joists. It’s also wise to check for air leaks between the attic and the highest level of the home. Blanket insulation or loose fill are highly recommended materials for this job to significantly improve energy efficiency. Homeowners should also consider installing roof ventilators or fans for better airflow in the attic. They work by circulating warm, muggy air out of the attic while drawing cool air in.

On the other hand, homeowners with larger attics can transform the space into a living area of their choosing. For instance, a bedroom renovation is one of the most popular types of attic conversions. When you consider the unique shape of an attic, it’s easy to see that the space is ideal for a child’s bedroom. “You can take full advantage of your distinctive attic space when decorating to really accentuate the architecture of the room,” Paulette said. Plus, children don’t have to worry about practicing extra caution when maneuvering their way around a room with a sloped ceiling. If you have older children, this space is also optimal for teens that wish to have the privacy of their own room and the independence that goes along with it. This space could also serve as a spare bedroom for guests. In this case, you may want to consider adding a bathroom, but be mindful to situate the bathroom above an existing bathroom for plumbing reasons.

Another common attic makeover is a recreation room. The attic is a fitting entertainment space and your design options are limitless, from a colorful and bright children’s playroom to an adult-sized game room. “The slanted ceilings allow you to really bring out your creative side and spark your children’s imagination,” she said. For instance, you can incorporate intriguing pieces of furniture and chalkboard walls for endless fun. If you wish to create a room specifically designed for adults, this space is more than suitable for an entertainment loft featuring comfortable seating, gaming and other entertainments systems, a pool or Ping-Pong table, or even a bar.”

Need a quite place to get more work done? Well, an attic space can be turned into a home office. In this case, you’ll want to be sure to plan for proper lighting and windows. It has been proven that natural light has a direct impact on our mood and motivation. Plus, it’s always refreshing to have the windows open from time to time to circulate extra air into the space. “When installing windows, it’s important that they are well proportioned and align with the overall look and feel of the house; an operable skylight is always a nice touch to consider,” Paulette said. As mentioned previously, it’s imperative to select high quality insulation to ensure that the space is quiet, so you can stay focused on your tasks.

In some cases, attics are peculiarly shaped, making it somewhat of a challenge to renovate them for traditional use. So, if you’re looking for a more exclusive redesign, a home theater is an excellent option. Converting your attic space into a home theater is essentially like adding an extra living room, so everyone in the household can watch their favorite show or movie without having to argue over the remote. “Remember to install high quality insulation and soundproof flooring to greatly reduce the noise in your attic,” said Paulette. If you really want to feel like you’re at the movies, you can add some dimmer lights and install a surround sound system in the crawlspace behind knee walls. For extreme comfort, think about integrating casual seating into the space, such as oversized floor cushions.

If you want the attic space to be a little more personal, you may want to contemplate a walk-in closet. This is perfect for fashion lovers or homeowners who have a reach-in closet in their master bedroom that is no longer adequate. “Shelving can be installed for your footwear and extended railings can be added to display your entire wardrobe to make everything easily accessible,” she said. You can also incorporate wallpapered panels on the ceiling for added style. For that custom walk-in closet feel, think full-length mirrors and sizeable upholstered ottomans for seating.

Attic renovations are an excellent option if you are in need of extra space, but prefer not to do a home addition. It is typically a less expensive option that gives you the freedom to customize the space to serve your individualized needs,” Paulette said. “So, before you decide to simply use your attic for storage purposes only, consider transforming it into a unique space that not only expresses you or your family, but also adds value to your home.”



Tips to Recreate Your Lower Level

By Jeff Billstrom

Lower levels, those below grade areas that house the washer and dryer, holiday decorations, old furniture, and more, are increasingly getting makeovers to add function and value to homes. Media rooms with bars and mini kitchens, play areas for the kids, exercise room, project room or home office. game rooms, guest suites, or all-around living space, add function and value to your home.

Callen Blog - Transform Your Basement 061316“Basements are ideal spaces to add overall square footage to your home without expanding your dwelling’s footprint,” said Callen Designer Jeff Billstrom. “When we are asked to create living space in a lower level, we always ask how the space is going to be used, and then we can design efficiently and incorporate the items homeowners want to fit the space. We also want it to transition nicely from the main floor living area. Opening up staircases and putting in balustrades and handrails make it feel more like upstairs.”

Even though they may be a blank slate, because they are below ground, basements present challenges to be addressed such as moisture, air quality, and dehumidification. “You want to make sure the basement is dry,” Jeff said. “If there are cracked foundation walls, which are allowing moisture to seep in, that needs to be corrected first.”

Air quality also needs to be addressed. No one wants to be in a basement where the air is musty and stale. Air exchange systems draw outside air in, filter it, and exchange it with the indoor air. It can be connected to the furnace and the home’s duct system or put in separately with its own ducting. Air exchange systems also eliminate off-gases from new furniture, carpeting, and other household materials.

Dehumidification also is important in the summer months. Portable dehumidifiers work, but the optimal way to ensure dehumidity is through a permanent system that works through duct work. Dehumidification also is key to installing wood flooring or wood laminates, to prevent warping. If you install a tile or stone flooring, consider radiant floor heating for added warmth.

Another matter to be aware of in lower levels are supporting beams and mechanicals. “With a lower level, you can’t avoid I-beams,” Jeff said. “Depending on the layout, I try to build them into the wall. That’s not always possible; in that case we can disguise the I-beam by turning it into a column. We also can work around the furnace and hot water heater, but they can be relocated too.”

A key focus in converting a dark basement is to make it light and bright. “We look for opportunities to get as much natural light as possible,” Jeff said. “However, recessed lighting, canned lights, pendants, and wall sconces can create any mood from bright white to gently lit.”

Egress, or exit windows, bring natural light in. When converting lower level space to a bedroom, egress windows are required by code to create an emergency exit. Even without a bedroom, an egress window is a nice choice because it leads to a brighter interior and it can be opened to allow cross ventilation.

“The advantage to a lower level remodel is that you can use the space for anything you want, since all significant living areas are above ground,” Jeff said. “However, it’s always a good idea to leave some storage space for tools or seasonal home goods, or other miscellaneous items you might have stashed in crates or boxes.”

Callen’s design specialists have plenty of ideas on how to create a lower level that best utilizes the available space. Call Callen, the leading remodeling company in Brookfield, for inspiration on how to get started.



Lower Levels a Good Opportunity to Increase Living Space

by Dave Clark

A lower level is a good alternative to an addition because you don’t have to dig a foundation or budget for a roof extension
When we are asked to do a lower level, we always ask how the space is going to be used. Then we can design efficiently and incorporate the space to fit the items you want, perhaps a queen-size bed, a game table, a bar…with everything sized accordingly, there won’t be any dead space.
Lower levels can be anything you want them to be; home office, playroom for the kids, media room, craft room, kitchen, guest bedroom, or all-around living space that can incorporate all of the above
When remodeling a basement, you don’t have to “finish” off the entire space. It’s always a good idea to leave some storage space for tools or seasonal home goods, or other miscellaneous items you might have stashed in crates or boxes.
A powder room and a bar area are commonly requested amenities in a lower level remodel. Powder rooms are evolving from two-piece fixtures to inclusion of a shower or steam shower, especially if there is a bedroom. Bars run the gamut from small service bars or snack stations to bars that resemble the corner tavern.
Fireplaces are a nice feature to add and they can now be directly vented. Years ago, there were concerns about make-up air because the furnace and hot water heater had exposed flames. That is not as much of a concern now with sealed combustion units; however, make-up air is still required by code when a lower level is remade into a living space. Make-up air also is necessary to avoid air becoming stale and to dissipate any volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Depending again on your budget and what you want to use your lower level for, there are just as many cabinetry options as for a kitchen or bathroom. Flooring choices are varied too. Carpeting is very popular; it’s usually less costly, soft, and warm. But laminates can be used as well as long as there is a substrate so moisture doesn’t affect it.
When you do a lower level remodel, no matter its use, you want it to transition nicely from the main floor living area. Opening up staircases and putting in balustrades and handrails make it feel more like upstairs.
The biggest thing when doing a lower level conversion is bringing in as much natural light as possible.  This can be done with enlarging windows to egress windows. Egress is also required if you have a bedroom as part of the project.
Because ceilings are a bit lower in the basement, I don’t recommend halogen lighting because you will feel the heat when you are under them. Instead, I recommend four-inch LED lighting. They are slightly more expensive to install, but they have a long shelf life, as much as 50,000 hours.
While recessed lighting certainly can brighten the space, I also like to add pendants by the snack bar or service bar for more of a statement. Sconces, crown lighting, down lights, and rope lighting are other lighting accessories that add a little bit of flair as well as adding warmth to the space.
Basement “rec rooms” that many of us grew up with featured drop ceilings. Now drywalling is preferred, not only for a more finished look, but because it makes the room an extension of the main level living area. However, I still get requests for  dropped ceilings from homeowners who are worried about having access to mechanicals. We can accomplish the access to mechanicals in different ways and disguise them so you don’t know the access panel is there.

With a lower level, you can’t avoid I-beams. Depending on the layout, I try to build them into the wall. As that’s not always possible, we can often disguise the I-beam by turning it into a column. We also can work around the furnace and hot water heater, but they can be relocated if necessary.