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Converting an Attic Into Living Space

An older home often contains a great deal of character and charming detail, but sometimes isn’t suited for the expansive lifestyles of today’s families. If you love your home and love the neighborhood it’s in, consider gaining extra living space by converting your attic into a bedroom or bonus room.

Attic conversions have several advantages over traditional additions. First, you can preserve the original footprint of the home, which is particularly helpful if you’re locked into a small yard or the homes in your neighborhood are sited closely together. Zoning restrictions are more relaxed with this type of construction, as well. What’s more, adding living space in the form of an attic bedroom and small bath could lead to a recoup of up to 85% of your investment in the event you decide to sell your home.

How do you know if an attic conversion makes sense?

Consider these factors:

  • Ceiling Height – In general, you will need 7 feet, 6 inches over a minimum floor area of 70 square feet.
  • Floor Joists – Can the existing floor joists bear the load created by remodeled space?
  • Rafters or Trusses – The weight bearing structures that support the roof can present challenges.
  • Egress – Most building codes require a minimum of two methods of egress in the event of a fire. In this case, egress will be found through the windows in your remodel as well as the stairs.
  • Stairs – Is there room on the main floor for the necessary staircase leading to your attic space?

Attic Conversion Example: The Fowlers

Evansville homeowners Donna and David Fowler know all too well the particular challenges associated with converting an attic into living space. Their 1937 cottage was loaded with charm, but also came with small closets and a tight bathroom space, which caused daily tension for the couple when they both needed to get ready for work in the mornings. Above them sat a large attic space that was going unused, and in 2013 the Fowlers decided to explore opening up the space for a master suite.

Exterior of home before attic conversion

Exterior Before

After rejecting a plan to add a shed dormer due to the expense, the Fowlers worked with Greg Mullen of H.G. McCullough Designers  and designer Kip Farmer to develop a plan for the space within the confines of the existing roof structure. Once the end design was complete, the Fowlers worked with Popham Construction to bring the plan to life.

The design called for changes to the main floor of the home to make room for the attic conversion, including shifting a bedroom wall to make room for the stairs. In order to use the minimal amount of space for the stairs, Popham helped the Fowlers to work with the building commission to approve the design of the floor system, which utilizes doubled 2×6 laminated wood beams to maximize ceiling height while minimizing the length of the stair case. Popham also navigated plumbing challenges that called for routing plumbing into a narrower space than normal between the floor and ceiling.

Fowlers Bedroom Before

Bedroom Before

Popham’s lead carpenter, David Etheridge, was mindful of the fact that the Fowlers were living in the home while construction was taking place, and took steps to minimize the disruption and dust the couple experienced during this time. Etheridge constructed a temporary wall to seal off the construction area, and met with the Fowlers each morning to apprise them of the day’s plans as well as confirm any decisions that needed to be addressed. Says David Fowler, “He also took great care in keeping an eye on our dogs that would occasionally sneak out when a tradesman would leave the temp-wall door open.”

When construction was completed, the Fowlers had a wonderful new master suite in their former attic space. The roof line was altered to accommodate a southern-facing dormer that allows natural light into the room, and complements the original 1937 architecture.

Fowlers Exterior After

Exterior After

Amenities in the new master suite include a large bathroom with a double vanity, a large walk-in shower, a washer/dryer area, and lots of closet space. The repurposed space is also large enough to include a sitting area in the bedroom.

Fowlers Bedroom After

Bedroom After

For the Fowlers, the attic conversion means they can stay in the home and Eastside neighborhood they love, while enjoying an improved living space. This project is a great example of Popham’s ability to work with designers and homeowners to turn a vision into reality.  According to David Fowler, “Popham’s team was able to take our design ideas and conceptual drawings and then turn them into exactly what we had dreamed of.  We are thoroughly pleased with the results. “

Check out more pictures of this project on our Houzz page, and make sure to follow us if you are a Houzzer. If you are a dog lover, we think you’ll really appreciate the last picture.

***Special thanks go out to the Fowlers for sharing these pictures of their home with us.***

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Popham Company, Inc., General Contractor, Evansville, IN
4414 Covert Avenue | Evansville, IN

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