Attic into Living Space

Hi,

Has anyone here converted their attic into a living space? How did it go as far as permits, contractors, project time? Any information would be helpful. Thanks.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

I looked into building out my attic and was surprised when the architect told me that before the attic conversion could start, I needed to put in a new foundation that could support the extra living level. My foundation is 90 years old and it didn’t make sense to simply reinforce it. Additionally I would have to reinforce the load bearing walls. The problem was that either internal or external wall coverings (ie plaster walls or shingles in my case) have to be removed in order to reinforce the walls. Let’s just say that the structural additions cost far more than the work in the attic. Plus I though I could live in my house while the attic was finished. But there was no way to live there during the structural work. 

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

We did convert our attic into living space, and it's my favorite space in the house. However, it was part of a major remodel of an old house where we had to lift the house, install a new foundation, etc so I can't break out the price for you. One thing a lot of people don't realize about attic conversions is that it depends on your roofline AND your foundation - if you don't have the proper supports above and below (or are willing to pay for them to be upgraded) it's not possible. Good luck!

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

Hi,

While we didn't end up going through with the project, I am an architect, and did a pretty thorough assessment for building out the attic, drawing up plans and estimating time and materials. In summary, it didn't make sense for us at the time, but who knows what might change in the future. It's a great opportunity to gain habitable space, while retaining most of the character of the house itself.

In summary, a couple important things to consider:

  1. We looked into dormers that would increase our living space by approx 500 SF. Note that the Planning Department will be involved if there is major change to shape/height of the house. We mirrored the house next door to make the planning process potentially a little bit easier.
  2. You should find out whether your foundation is ready to support three levels. Ours was retrofitted in the '90s but only for 2 stories (basement and main level). As such, we would need to have an engineered solution and new foundation work.
  3. Think about where a stair might go and how it eats up main floor square footage.
  4. We were going to do a majority of the work ourselves, hiring engineering and a laborer for a good part of the project.
  5. Our estimate for the project (materials, time, engineering + permitting) was around $200k. Note, that the more I thought about it, the need for me to quit my job factored in, and I estimated 6 months of lost pay as well. Also note, this was a preliminary estimate. If you were to hire this project out, I would assume adding another 50% or more. Hopefully that is a ROM that you can work with.

So just a few notes for you to consume as you think about next steps. Let me know if you have any other questions or ideas.

Cheers,
Zach

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

Our architect said he's gotten this question a lot and not once has a home owner gone through with it. Usually its the same cost as building a second story due to foundation updates, ceiling updates to support a living space, plumbing, roof updates to add insulation etc etc etc. I'd also like to know if anyone had successfully done it. 

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

We did this about 12 years ago and now have a 3rd floor with a bedroom and bathroom and small amount of attic space.  Our house is 100+ years old. The architect brought in a structural engineer. Our foundation was OK but he recommended moment frames for the exterior walls and strengthening the ground floor walls, which meant tearing out interior walls in the kitchen and dining room. We ended up remodeling the kitchen at the same time since half the kitchen was going to be affected. It was twice as expensive than we originally thought.  This project took about 8 months and we stayed in the house while the work was going on, with a 2 year old, cooking on a camping stove on the back porch! We have a big house so it was not too bad. You'll want an experienced contractor who will be able to advise you on the permits you need. 

RE: Attic into Living Space ()

We looked into converting an attic with an architect. What we found was that since our 10 year old foundation was only meant for 2 stories, adding living space in the attic will require retrofitting the foundation. Because we had tenants living on the ground floor level that was a no go for us. The other problem was finding space for an interior staircase, our living space  simply wasn't big enough to accommodate a staircase. We ended up with a small addition in the back of our house. We enclosed an existing deck and added a room and added a new deck.