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Attics and Basements – Good Idea?

April 17th, 2013

AtticAttics and Basements – Good Idea?

You’ve decided to add on to your home instead of trading up. And we all know adding in additional bedrooms, bathrooms, and a living room can pay off with increased living space. But what about finishing a basement or an attic?  And what if you don’t have them? Should you add them in?

Existing Basements

Finishing off an existing basement can give you safe storage room for holiday decorations, and get them out of your garage. In addition, if you expand the basement to be full height (7′ or more), you have additional living space such as a playroom for the kids, or a place to put in your media room with a large screen television and surround sound. Think how great it will sound with the thick walls. The main things to ensure you take into account for any basement are:

  • controlling moisture
  • adding ventilation and light
  • finding a way around existing drain lines, ductwork and wiring

Finish off a basement is less per square foot than adding on an addition.

Adding In Basements

The only time it would probably ever be a good idea to add in a basement is if you needed to replace the foundation. To add in a basement, you’d need to lift up the house and dig it out, which could get very expensive.

Finishing Off an Attic

The first thing to do before finishing off an attic is to evaluate the space carefully. If you have rafters that are in the shape of a W, you won’t be able to finish off the space, but if it’s in the shape of an upside down V, you’ve got the possibility for a hidden attic hideaway.

The next thing to think about is how you’ll get up there. If you put in a staircase, how will that affect the rest of the house, and the amount of space in the attic.

Finally, you’ll need to think about headspace. Like the basement, you’ll want at least 7′ across most of the attic space.

You may need to add in skylights or windows to allow for better lighting during the day. And like the basement, you’ll want to look into ventilation and working around existing wiring, ducts, etc.

Plus, in an attic, you’ll need to add in flooring, and ensure that the extra weight will be distributed correctly so the ceiling doesn’t buckle below.

Adding In an Attic

The best time to add in an attic is when you’re re-roofing. You will need a professional to evaluate your home’s structures to ensure that you can add in the attic, and what type of roofing you should add on afterwards. They’ll look into:

  1. Can the foundation handle more weight
  2. Do you have any local restrictions against 7′ dormers added on to the roof
  3. Changing out the framing in the attic to be able to meet code for insulation
  4. Additional reinforcement or reframing to maintain the integrity of the home

So, the bottom line is, if you already have the space, it may be cheaper to finish it off than to add on to the house.  But if you don’t have the space, it could be very expensive to add it in unless you’re already going major renovations.

Would you prefer a finished basement or finished attic?

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