Photo by Soupboy

Update: With homeowners being more cautious with their spending in the current economic climate, many are choosing to make the best of what they have rather than move house or embark on an expensive addition. One way to add more space to your home is to expand into existing spaces you don’t use that often such as attics, garages and basements. Finishing your attic instantly gives your home an extra level and is a pretty straightforward addition to make. There are of course some drawbacks with attic remodeling that you also need to consider.

When trying to increase the amount of living space in a home, there are several options to consider. Remodeling or finishing an attic into needed living space is certainly one option. There are others, as well. These include finishing a basement or garage or adding onto your existing home.

The decision about how you will add living space must factor in such considerations as cost, available space to place an addition, the intended use of the space, and the ability to provide appropriate access to the new area. You will need to think through each of these considerations in making a decision.

In considering cost, the critical points to review are these:

  • If you work with an existing space (basement, attic, garage) you should not incur the expense of a roof, exterior walls, or foundation, unlike a traditional addition or 2nd story, which may need a foundation, several exterior walls, and a foor
  • You should consider the return on your investment. If you can add a room, bathroom or other living space that increases your home at a small expense, it is likely to give you one of the highest rates of return.
  • Is it reasonable to include an additional bathroom? Adding a bathroom will increase the value of your home, but you must consider the costs incurred in building it. For example, will construction of a bathroom in an attic require reinforcement of the walls to support the weight?
  • If you wish to do the work yourself, are you better prepared to finish an existing space or build an addition? Do you know enough about insulating and wiring a attic or a basement?
  • What are the implications of your choice in terms of the adequacy of your current heating and cooling system? Will you need new ductwork or an auxiliary furnace or AC unit?
  • You can get an instant online estimate for finishing your attic by using our remodel calculator.

The next question is whether there is space for an addition to your home. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Will local building codes and zoning laws allow an addition?
  • How much yard will you have left after you build the addition?
  • Will local building codes and zoning laws allow the type of addition you are planning and the type of materials you plan to use?
  • How will you provide access from the existing structure into the new living space? How much change to the existing structure will be required?

The intended use of the new space might argue against a particular choice. For example, if you plan to use the new space as a home office, you might need to consider such things as:

  • Will you need external access to the space?
  • How much heavy equipment will be placed in the area? Will that weight require reinforcement of the floors or walls?

Alternatively, if the space is to be used as a bedroom or playroom, you should consider such things as:

  • Are there special accessibility issues (for example, someone with a disability or an aging parent)?
  • Do you need to add a bathroom, or is another bathroom close enough?
  • How will you provide adequate lighting (for example, adding a gable or a skylight)?
  • Does your basement offer a dry enough environment?

Finally, you will need to understand and accommodate access issues. A few of the more critical questions to consider are these:

  • Do local building codes require more than one means of access or egress from the room?
  • Can you plan for emergency escape?
  • How will you ensure adequate ventilation?
  • How much change to the existing home will be required in order to provide access to the new living space?

These are some of the major questions to consider when deciding whether finishing an attic is the best choice for your home and your family. By taking these factors into consideration you can evaluate whether finishing an attic is the best decision for your family and your current home. By calculating the cost, considering modifications to your existing home and yard, how the new space will be used, and what other changes are required to provide access, you can make a wise decision. If you are considering an attic remodel, I strongly recommend reviewing the Attic Remodeling Workbook available at to ensure that you understand the complexities and challenges involved.

Attic Remodeling is very likely to be the solution to your need for additional space. These questions will help you ask the most important questions and make a wise decision.