Planning Your Remodeling
In your basement is an area equal to the area of your whole first floor. And in your attic, if you have one, is a usable area of about half the area of your house. These spaces might be called your other house.
How are your basement and attic being used? If you are like most of us, they're just places to stash junk out of sight. You don't show guests through them. You'd be too embarrassed, right? So your family only uses half of the house.
If that's enough, fine. But if you need space for practically any use at all, the cheapest and best place to get it is to expand into your other house—the attic or basement. The floor, wall and ceiling structures are already there. All you have to do is give them some style and utility.
With a fast-growing family and a slow-growing budget, remodeling an attic or basement to gain space for living makes good sense.
The cost of basement or attic remodeling depends largely on how far you go. A family room can be built in the basement with enough money left over to kick it off with a party.
The cost of one such improvement, a do-it-yourself project on a 12x21-foot room, was: furring strips, molding, staples and
ceiling tile; cork flooring tile and adhesive; paint; built-in cupboard; drapery material; electrical rewiring, ceiling fixtures and other miscellaneous items. The total cost was not bad considering the usefulness of the room for hobbies, homework, eating, entertaining, reading and relaxing.
The first step in basement or attic remodeling is to decide what kind of space you need. Is it more bedrooms? A recreation room? A large room for entertaining? Or small rooms for hobbies.
Next decide where you can best get the needed space. Consider needs for plumbing, electric wiring, heat, storage, accessibility, light and comfort.
The attic is the best place to remodel— better than the basement—if you hope to increase the value of your home.
The usable space in an attic is limited by the slope of the roof and the height of the roof structure. If the collar beams—horizontal 2x4's usually, that tie the roof rafters together—come across the room too low, it can ruin your chances to use the attic without major structural changes to the roof. There should be about seven feet between the finished attic floor and ceiling.
Some city codes require the 7-foot minimum. If you are not restricted by such a code you should at least consider 6 1/2 feet as a minimum. Good for youngsters, but when your tall friends visit, they will have to remove their heads.
The usable attic space can be increased by building a dormer out one side of the roof. A shed dormer in which the roof is raised for most of its length on one side, does the best job of increasing attic space. Little dormers, which look like overgrown doghouses, are all right for adding light or ventilation to an attic where it is needed. They aren't very practical otherwise, considering their cost.
An attic roof that is too low to be helped, even by a dormer, can be raised and new walls and rooms built under it. If the floor joists in your attic are 2x4's or 2x6's, they will likely have to be beefed up. This may be a job for a carpenter, involving house structure.
Where the attic ceiling and floor get within four feet of each other, knee walls are built. These walls run the length of the attic. They are the limit of your usable space. The area behind the knee walls can be devoted to storage.