Remodeling an Attic? Get Ready with this Cost Guide

home-printHomeowners who want to increase the square footage of their home have choices between an addition, remodeling a basement and remodeling the attic. Of course, there are others, but the three mentioned are the most popular and easiest ways to expand space while working with your existing structure. The benefits gained from the extra space are many, and most important, is that you can retain 85 percent of the cost in value, while gaining extra space.

Moving on from the idea stage, you need to know how much usable space is available. Codes change from city to city, town and village, but the general rule is the homeowner needs 200 square feet of space, with ceilings at least seven feet high. If the attic space is smaller than this, the attic may not be the best place to spend your money. You should always consult with a Builder or Engineer, (click here for free quotes) who will need to inspect the floor joists to make sure they will bear the load of the extra weight, as well as take into consideration the location and feasibility of plumbing, HVAC, drywall, electrical and any other mechanical components you may require. Windows and the possibility of a required outside exit will also need to be checked. Finally, a fixed staircase will need to be erected to satisfy code in most areas.

If the walls, floor and ceiling are already in place, an attic conversion will usually consist of strengthening the floor joists so that they will bear weight, and of course, putting down flooring that will compliment the space. In some cases the roof will need to be cut to add a dormer in the attic. For insulation and prevention of added noise, carpet is the most common flooring used in attics.

If a small bathroom is in your plans, it will need to be located over existing plumbing on the floor beneath. This will be the easiest path to adding a bathroom in your attic without the walls being torn apart to relocate pipes. A small kitchenette can be located close to the bathroom so they can share plumbing. A plumbing contractor will be able to extend the plumbing into the attic space, paying special attention to sewer gases that build up in the pipes and making sure there is proper venting. An electrician will be needed to wire the attic to the breaker box, or install one dedicated to the attic space. A HVAC expert will check for capacity, and will recommend something if the existing unit won’t handle the attic. In many cases, you might choose to simply use window unit air conditioner or a heat pump unit versus hiring a HVAC company.

Consulting an engineer is imperative and will cost as little as $75 or as much as $150 per hour. If the attic is satisfactory for a refit, insulating it would be done before it is remodeled. Generally, installers earn $70 per hour. The spray foam insulation runs about $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot. Note to homeowners: there are power company and government incentives and tax cuts to help recoup the costs of upgrading the insulation. Electricians usually get around $75 to $95 per hour, with plumbers getting $55 to $75 per hour.

HVAC involves ducts, zones and other considerations. Experts say that if the ducts can’t be installed without tearing the house apart, than window air conditioning units and electric baseboard heaters are the next viable solution. Homeowners may expect to pay as little as $100 for a top-quality window unit. Electric baseboard heaters run about $150. Depending on how the staircase is erected, if the homeowner must take out a closet or part of a room to erect the staircase, he can recoup that space beneath the stairs. Prefab or modular stairs begin at $900 and go up to $3,000 for straight or circular stairs.

Designing an attic renovation, researching codes and hiring various contractors, including the general contractor who will finish the attic should take between 3-10 weeks, depending on the extent of your attic remodel

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