It happens to most homeowners at one point or another – they simply run out of space. Space for guests to stay. Space for family members to spread out and enjoy their favorite hobbies. Space to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily activities elsewhere in the home. But before you start marking chalk lines in your favorite flowerbed as a place for a possible home addition, you may want to look up – literally!
Unfinished attic spaces – both those built above a home’s main living areas and those placed above a garage – provide a very economical and often overlooked option for expansion. These projects are cost-effective for several reasons, the main one of which is that most of the pieces are already in place. The foundation has been built, walls are in place, and a roof system is overhead. While these pieces may need to be adjusted or reinforced – think raising a roof line, adding windows or reinforcing floor joists to hold additional weight – the basics are already there. Likewise, utilities (heating and cooling systems, electric and plumbing connections) may already be in place or may be easily accessible and alterable. The square footage you gain in return for your investment can be quite substantial. (At 22’ x 22’, the space above an average two-car garage will give you a gain of 484 square feet, while untapped attic space can be even larger!)
One of our favorite attic projects was done for a family with lots of children and grandchildren. They had a small, cramped bonus room over their garage that, due to it’s heavily slanted roof lines, didn’t have much head room – family members were literally climbing over things to access different parts of the space. The family initially called us to inquire about adding a shed dormer. Instead, we suggested raising the roof and going vertical to allow them to access all that valuable space. The difference was remarkable. We put in a full bath, so the space could serve as a second full master suite if needed. We added plentiful space for the homeowner to pursue her quilting hobby. There’s a widescreen TV and viewing area where the adults can unwind, and a raised platform where the grandkids can play. Since we raised the roof, we gained substantial natural light and added appropriate artificial lighting to make it a bright and functional space. Remarkably, the horizontal space was already there – we actually added a mere six feet to the front and back sides of the living area. It was the vertical height that transformed the area from glorified storage space into this family’s favorite living area with a nine-foot ceiling height!