Why Your Home Has An Attic
Why Your Home Has An Attic: If you live in one of the Bay Area’s historic homes, odds are your roof is significantly pitched. This was more than just a design feature. It was also a way to improve water-shedding, especially in an era that preceded the innovative water-resistant and moisture barrier products we have access to today. However, home and business owners weren’t keen on high vaulted ceilings because it made it more difficult to heat the rooms below.
Remember, these homes were all built before insulation and air-tight caulking and ceiling products were the norms. Plus, they relied on wood and coal rather than having the luxury of a forced-air system, so energy efficiency was just as important to them, if not more. Working too hard to heat the home meant physically or financially working too hard to secure burnable material for the woodstoves or fireplaces.
Thus, the smartest thing to do was build a ceiling that trapped heat in the living space, and that naturally created a gap between the ceiling and the pitched roof.
To hide bulky or unsightly home system parts
If you take a peek inside your attic, odds are you’ll notice HVAC ducts, pipes, and wires. This is because contractors love to hide home system parts and equipment that are hard to fit in smaller interior wall spaces or look unsightly (or be too noisy) if visibly exposed in the home.
Also, these contractors need as much room as possible when they need to physically repair or replace HVAC equipment or ducts as well as plumbing, electrical, or home A/V equipment, so a more spacious attic is a smart way to accomplish that goal. Even if there isn’t enough room to stand up or create a bona fide room, the space between the attic and the roof feels way better than crawling in between tight interior walls or crawlspace tunnels.
Extra storage (or living) space
Basements are great, but only if you live where they are affordable to build and relatively efficient to carve out. For those of us who live on ground or soil that isn’t conducive to a basement, an attic is a smart way to gain extra storage space. Again,
historic home attics were often used to store seasonal items, preserved foods and meats, and heirlooms.
Today, attic spaces continue to make ideal storage spaces or additional living spaces as long as homeowners take extra steps to make them safe, energy-efficient, and built or remodeled to the current building code.
Things To Consider When Using Or Converting Attic Space
There are things you need to consider before using or converting attic space.
Does your attic have rafters or roof trusses?
Depending on how your home/attic was built, you have rafters or roof trusses. Rafters are run horizontally and typically mean the attic has more usable space. Roof trusses have angled web framing that connects “top chords” to “bottom chords.” The former is typically the best design if you want to use your attic for extra storage or usable space; the latter doesn’t have the correct levels of structural support to support the weight of objects, people, furnishings, etc.
Know what you can store and what you can’t
Before you begin hauling things into your attic, learn what should and shouldn’t be stored there. Some items don’t make sense because they have the potential to start fires, infuse your living space with harmful toxins or airborne pollutants, or can lead to potentially harmful pest or moisture build-up.
Speak to your local building inspector
Never move forward with an unpermitted attic conversion because it can backfire down the road. There may be no way to build a permitted room or usable attic space in some areas or homes without significant modifications. This may or may not be worth it, depending on your budget. In other areas, failure to permit your attic renovation can stymie your ability to sell the home later on. At best, you won’t be able to advertise that square footage or count it as a “real room,” which can take away from your total sales price and forgo the possibility of earning your attic investment back. In worst-case scenarios, stringent Bay Area building departments slap you with steep penalties and fines. Your building department can also demand that you either tear the renovation
back to its original attic condition OR schedule inspections and redo any work (electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, etc.) that wasn’t built to code.
Schedule an attic inspection for your home
The best thing to do is schedule an attic inspection with a licensed contractor or attic professional and run your ideas by them. They’ll let you know what’s possible with regards to safety, and how you can go about it. This may require structural reinforcement. Contact Neo Attic Solutions to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We can look into your attic and crawl spaces to identify what if anything would make a difference for your comfort and peace of mind.