I was reading the paper the other day – newspaper, that is…they say the paper format is outdated but there is nothing like sitting on one’s deck having morning coffee and reading the paper.  Its just not the same staring into a laptop or iPhone or whatever.  Not to mention how easy it is to skim pages when they are full size…I’m just sayin’.

 Anyway, I was reading the paper and some syndicated (read ‘not from around here’) columnist was waxing eloquent about how homeowners were finally coming around to using space wisely and not necessarily adding square footage to their homes.  One idea for getting better use out of rooms was to repurpose unused rooms (how many of those do YOU have? Although I’m being a little small-minded about that cuz it is really a good idea to sit back once in awhile and rethink how one’s rooms are being used vs how one might have originally thought they’d be used.  But, that’s for another blog update).

 The other idea, and here is the reason for my rant, was to convert your attic space.  Well, in my book, that’s called ‘adding square footage’ not to mention the fact that, in our part of the world, you must do a lot to the lower story to make it earthquake-resistant, you may just as well add entirely new rooms to the house.  The existing structure has to be reinforced to meet the Building Code (often referred to as Code…as in “must meet Code”).  So, it’s frustrating to read a column and know that gazillions of homeowners are going to be asking about converting their attic because they read about it in the paper!  Yet, they can’t do it here – at least not very cost-effectively.  Thanks, Merc News, for blindly filling column space with irrelevant information. 

 When you think about it, it makes sense that the structure must be reinforced.  Your attic floor isn’t really a floor; it’s a ceiling, generally not built with the idea of somebody walking on it much.  And the walls aren’t built for the additional stress put on them by people living in that space.

Laundry room?

Crammed workstation

Here are a couple pictures of an attic conversion done by someone who had no design-sense at all, let alone common-sense.  You walk on a tiny bit of, what, floor?  shelf?  along the stairwell in order to get to the laundry room!  Imagine walking that tightrope…now imagine it with a laundry basket in your arms!  And there is an itty-bitty workstation tucked between the angled roofline and a wall.  The landlord converted these spaces illegally in order to rent them out.  Wanna take bets on how many other cost-cutting measures he took?

 Of course, there are times when converting the attic IS a good idea and here are a couple pictures of one.  The house is historic and the property is small so there weren’t a lot of options.  Three bedrooms and 2 bathrooms were tucked into the attic.  Since the entire inside of the house was being remodeled, the client wasn’t concerned about the destruction of the inside walls in order to add strength.  The exterior front picture doesn’t show you the dormer windows.  The other picture is one of the dormers from the inside, the angles at the roofline and the dormer.  The goal of a project like this is to gain living space without changing the front of the house much, so it retains its character without looking chopped up.

Attic conversion exterior view

Attic dormer


Sometimes converting the attic is the best idea, but not always, so find out what’s involved before you start slapping down plywood floors and installing drywall.