How would I turn a 3 bedroom into a 4 bedroom?

stephfMarch 4, 2012

I'm usually pretty good at problem solving when it comes to design and renovations, but this one has me stumped so I'm hoping someone here can help.

Last week my husband and I had a look at a 75 year old house that needs a lot of work, but we fell in love with the charm and the layout. We currently have 2 daughters; an almost 10 year old and an 11 month old. We would like to have one more in the future. This house is only a 3 bedroom and we would like to find something we can live in long term. To tell you the truth, the only reason we agreed to look at this house in the first place is because we were hoping there would be a 4th bedroom option on either the main floor or in the basement. There wasn't, but we love it and want to find a way to make it work. We're also firm believers that kids should have a space to call their own (probably because we both had to share rooms with siblings when we were kids), and we would never make the 10 year old share with the baby. We would be a little more okay having the 2 young ones share, but if we ever had a boy....

So you see our dilemma. The bedroom sizes are 11 x 10, 13 x 13, and 13 x 12. Do you think it would be possible to turn one of the larger bedrooms into 2 bedrooms, or would that make the rooms WAY too small? Should we just forget this house and move on? It has SO much potential!

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You don't mention an attic--often you can make a bedroom out of one if it is tall enough. If not, I would pass on this one and keep looking.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 1:38PM
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Thanks for your response. I didn't really think about the attic. Beyond seeing where the attic access was, we didn't even think to go up there. Here is a picture of the house:

Unfortunately I don't really know very much about this style of house (or very old houses in general), so I don't know what the attic would be like at all. The listing does not advertise an additional loft space and there are no windows. Those 2 windows on the 2nd floor are for 2 of the bedrooms, and there is about a foot of ceiling clearence above them. Would anyone happen to be familiar enough with this style to give me an idea of attic size?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 2:53PM
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Is there room in the backyard (and in the budget) for an addition? If so, you could add a family room downstairs and another bedroom up.

If not, it doesn't sound like there is really any way to get four bedrooms of a decent size. The attic looks like it might not have the headroom.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 6:52PM
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There was a family room addition put on the main floor, but the 2nd floor doesn't extend over it. I suppose that could be an option, although a costly one.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 7:35PM
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Pretty sure the attic won't have the room, from the picture.

The house style is a 'Dutch Colonial', although that type of roof was actually a mix of Dutch and English styles around 1750s; not sure why realtors called it a dutch colonial, but the parlance has stuck to it.

If you can't afford to extend over the family room, then definitely keep looking.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 11:43PM
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The ability to extend over the family room is also dependent on whether the framing and foundation are sufficient to support a second story. It's something you'd have to speak to an engineer or architect about, and they may not be able to tell without doing some deconstruction.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:18AM
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I wish I'd had a third child so I am not here to discourage that but... at this point the third child is still a hypothesis, not a child.

Assuming it does become a real child, children, when they come along, sometimes turn out to be different people than their parents expect. For example, you will likely have two small children pretty close in age. They may enjoy sharing a room for several years, no matter what your expectations and beliefs are.

What you could do is buy this house and enjoy it, and IF it turns out you need the final bedroom, build the addition then. It simply has to have the potential for that addition to be built; it doesn't have to have four bedrooms now.

Check regulations and get ballpark estimates, and do the math, compare whether you can get something you love as much with four bedrooms for what this one plus addition would cost.

Heck, you might go buying a different house with the requisite four bedrooms, and then the third child might turn out to be twins!

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Cutting one of the bedrooms in half would make tiny rooms. Is there a possibility of moving the walls and turning two bedrooms into three?

I shared a bedroom with an older sister and turned out alright.

In 8 years your 10 year old will be off to college.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 4:37PM
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You can't cut any of those rooms in half and legally have them be called bedrooms as far as I'm aware. A bedroom, has to be a minimum size, have a window, and a closet.

I can't see how you possibly would be able to do that, and fit in even a twin bed and one dresser in a room half of one of those sizes. Basically you're asking your kids to have a bedroom the size of prison cell. Possibly even less.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 8:26PM
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I'm curious.. The 3 bedrooms are all 2nd floor? What is the layout of 1st floor? (Kitchen, family room, bathroom, ?).
Assuming there's an upstairs bath, also...
What takes up the bulk of the main level, that leaves no option for future bedroom there?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:47PM
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Making two kids share for 7 years doesn't seem like a justification for makign a major alteration to a home.

How is the basement? Does it have one? Might be worth finishing part of he basement. Teenager like that type of privacy. But you will need an egress window o add a 2nd underground entrance somehow. IT will still be cheaper than an addition and you're not modifying a historic home or changing it's character. Plus it's often easy ot add a bathroom. With 3 kids, the number of bathroom will be your primary problem.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:38AM
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How big is the family room? What else is on the first floor?

You might be able to use the family room as a master bedroom. Or divide it up and make two bedrooms out of it. Then use one of the upstairs bedrooms as a small family room/play room.

Or, if you never really use a dining room, that space could be re-purposed into a bedroom.

Rooms are rooms. Just because they get labeled doesn't mean you can't change the label.

And PPs have made a good point. Even if you have a third child right away, it's 8 years until the oldest goes off to college. Even if the new baby is a boy, there's nothing to prevent the youngest two from sharing a room for a few years.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Thanks for all the replies, it is much appreciated. We put an offer in on this house this morning. We feel that the potential for a 4th bedroom is there, so we decided to go for it. Yes, all 3 bedrooms are on the 2nd floor, as well as a 3 piece bathroom. The main floor consists of a kitchen and dining room that are open to each other, a living room, a 4 piece bath, and a small enclosed porch. There was an addition put on to the back of the house that has the family room (which we plan on using as a play area for the kids), and a main floor laundry.

Unfortunately, the basement is unfinishable. As it is, there is standing water down there right now and we don't know what it is going to cost to have that issue rectified. We're hoping to just get it to the point where there is no standing water and no mold growth.

I will keep you updated!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 10:31AM
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I bought a tiny home last August that has only two very small bedrooms. One is my bedroom, the other is my office. The attic is finished as a small 3rd bedroom. It isn't even tall enough to stand up at the perimeter of the room, but that is where I put 2 twin beds for my grown sons when they come to visit. A small raised area holds a large beanbag chair, and a small computer desk and chair.
Good luck, I hope you get it!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Standing water in the basement? I would be running away from this one.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 4:09PM
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We're hoping to just get it to the point where there is no standing water and no mold growth.



Use your inspection contingency and pull the ripcord. Get OUT of that deal NOW.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:30PM
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I would run from that too. Having visible mold growing in the basement, let alone the water situation, is a definite no-go for me. We get water in our unfinished basement occasionally, but have a drain in the floor which takes it out to the street rather rapidly. We've never had "standing water" other than the one time our entire area flooded out in a huge storm and even that was only about 1". We considered ourselves lucky when we found out nearly everyone else on the block were knee deep in it.

What a bundle of cash that's going to cost to remedy.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:55PM
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I'm sorry, but I have to respond with some sanity can't afford to add another bedroom above the family room, but you are willing to buy a house with standing water and mold? Be honest with yourself and understand you can't afford to buy this house! Falling in love with the character is one thing...I understand that, but buying above your finances will result in only one issue....and that will leave your girls without a bedroom to call their own at all :(

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Thanks for your dose of "sanity", but I think I should clarify a few things. First off, I never said we couldn't afford to add on, I said it would be pricey, which is true, but I didn't say we couldn't afford it. Secondly, when I said "standing water", I meant that there were three areas in the basement that had puddles on the floor, so obviously there is water coming in somewhere, but I would say that the puddles are less than an inch deep. With that being said, we have had a very mild winter and the ground never froze. In addition to that, we had a very fast melt and my guess is that there will be several basements with water this Spring. I'm sorry if I made it sound much worse than it is. As for mold, there is no visible mold, but it is obviously something we would like to avoid. We have our home inspection on Monday, and if we discover then that it is going to cost us more than we anticipate to fix the problem, then we will walk away from it, but otherwise, the house is ours.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 1:36PM
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For your sake, I hope the home inspection doesn't go well. I think you will be walking into a big headache. Basements should not collect standing water because the ground didn't freeze during the winter or there was a sudden melting.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 8:33AM
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Totally agree.

After a few years of tolerating a "small slow leak" near our basement fireplace we had a major flood in our basement from a spring quick melt a few winters back.

Wound up having to totally excavate the side of the house to waterproof the basement wall and chimney. Something close to $10K if I remember correctly when all was said and done; let alone all the ruined landscaping that went with it.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 3:10PM
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I'd be careful but wait until you hear the facts. Surely a good inspector can give an idea of how this happened and what it will likely cost.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 6:28PM
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How did the inspection go?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 5:44PM
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I know you will hate me for this, but please understand my view point. I am an old house LOVER! I also spent twenty years as a banker trying to talk people into understanding that their future home purchase had to be about love....and practicality. When you are in love with a house you think that the fact that it slapped around the last owners was likely because they were bad owners...they probably deserved it because they didn't do the maintenance you would do to keep it in check. You justify the little issues like the third eye as something minor instead of realizing that a third eye is not actually a normal thing and will require some seriously expensive custom lenses. You turn a wet basement into a couple puddles....

Ten years, lets make it five if you get the house....if you find that my pessimistic attitude was totally incorrect and your home turned out to be perfect beyond compare...please tell me I am wrong so I can learn a lesson. But if on the other hand my gazillion years of trying to make people understand that they should buy a home they love....but should equally involve their brains and heart in the equation turns out to make some sense in your potential chris brown like situation.....well be sure to share that valuable experience as well so that others can learn from you...and make light of your experience because "that will never happen to them".

I tried to buy the egg and I farm as a young wife ohhhhh so many years ago thinking that a house with walls falling down and a tree growing in the living room just needed our tender and inexperienced care to bring it back.....the bank laughed...thank god!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:37PM
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I appreciate your feedback and advice, but believe me when I say that we did not go into this blindly. We had a foundation expert check it out for us during our home inspection. We always knew we would have to put quite a bit of money into this place and we've secured $30,000 for renovations. We expected at least $10,000 of that to go toward fixing the water issue in the basement, but when our foundation guy had a look at it, he quoted us $5,000 max. The rest of the inspection went great! We close on May 31st

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Well good luck. I hope everything goes according to plan for you.

I expected renovations of my home to cap around $80,000.

I'm in it now for over $200,000 and still going.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 1:52PM
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Hey stephf, when I saw some of the posts on this thread, I thought, they're absolutely right, but here we go, we've been too heavy-handed, now we'll never hear from the original poster. But then you posted back! Kudos for that kind of pluck!

So, you've survived the initiation, please come and stay. Share your saga. And if some of us are a bit crusty, it's just a symptom of the oven we've been in ever since we bought an old house. It's all true--when I bought my house 5 years ago, I remember thinking, MAYBE I'd be willing to spend 15K to redo the kitchen, but really, taking the kids to Europe would be more important to me. Now I'm into the house for over 70K, and still no new kitchen. But, we've got 19 Hilton rewards nights, so Europe with the kids is still a possibility :-)

Hang in there, it's a wild ride. We've learned to cut a few corners in our budget in the meantime. I never thought I'd be cutting everybody's hair including my own. Or spend a weekend up a 34' ladder working on my soffits. I still get nauseous every SINGLE time I go up that ladder. Old houses--you never know where you're going to end up with them.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Lol, thanks for the vote of confidence! And I've never been one to shy away from heavy-handedness or crustiness, so I'm glad I passed the test! Although I'm not convinced entirely that my 1930's house even compares to some of the houses you guys are renovating in terms of age or condition, we are moving from a 1950's cape cod that we proudly brought back to life, so we are really looking forward to our next project.

Thanks for the invite, and I'll be sure to keep you posted!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 9:17PM
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I am excited for you and look forward to your updates, because you already have experience and hearing your adventures might help me figure out my own.
I think you deserve to have your own little housewarming celebration, you got a beautiful home.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 1:59PM
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