finishing attic: which option - A or B?

Bridget HelmJune 25, 2011

So we have approx 1900 sf house in Baton Rouge, LA and are having our 4th child. If it's a boy (we find out Tuesday) then our son can share a room with the baby. But if a girl, we need to make more room as our 2 girls are already doubling up. We love our home, built it 4 years ago custom, so I really don't want to move.

I've spoken to a contractor who has yet to give me any definite numbers on costs of our 2 options. I'm more confused than ever, but I really like him, but the numbers are what we need. We are an a sort of tight budget since school tuition is high.

So here is our first option, OPTION A:

go up into the attic over our current living area which will cause us to:

1) have to lose my sons room to the stairs (half would be left, so would become storage area - his room is only 12x12)

2) have to move the entire AC unit in the attic over to another part of the attic to make way for the stairs

3) need 2 rooms upstairs since our son would lose his room

4) we already have 2 dormers on the roof that are non operable, so we'd need to add operating windows

5) we'd need a small separate AC unit for the upstairs

6) we'd make bathroom up over the downstairs bathroom where plumbing would line up

7) one hurdle is that fact that we have difft level flooring in the attic (our den is 12 ft ceilings while the rest of the house is 9 ft, so this is a "complication")

8) we'd have to move to mother in law's guest house while construction is going on

Okay here is OPTION B:

to add room up over our garage. This would require the following:

1) possibly an additional water heater

2) narrowing our garage to make room inside to fit stairs

3) raising the roof over the garage, which means more stucco or brick wall on the exterior.

4) at least 2 windows

5) a separate AC unit for the upstairs only

6) bathroom would line up over our laundry room plumbing

7) we wouldn't have to move out sine the contruction is not right in the middle of all of our bedrooms

8) contractor is acting like we may as well put 2 rooms up there while we are at it, but since we won't be losing our son's room, i'm thinking that's dumb as it will cost more. the one main pro of option B is not having to do 2 rooms, right???

9) contractor seems to be leaning toward option B more as it seems more convenient with less hurdles (the multilevel floors, the AC unit needing to be moved, not having to maneuver around preexisting wires and pipes and insulation as they would have to do with option A)

Soooooo, with all of that being said, would any of you please chime in with your opinions of which option sounds the CHEAPEST to you.

My common sense says option A since the actual structure of the exterior of the home wouldn't be messed with. But maybe I'm wrong since the floor levels are difft and the AC would need to be moved??? Ahhhhh, so confusing.

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To get good advice you would probably need to draw both schemes and post them and some photos.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Bridget Helm

we aren't going to hire a draftsman to draw it up until we are sure which route we want to take. seems to me that changing the exterior of the home would be more expensive, but i don't know, so i'm looking for opinions. the contractor likes that option more i think because it will be less of a hassle for the crew, but i'm not sure it will be cheaper, which is what is most important to me.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 4:19PM
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Option B will certainly be cheaper because most attics are only built to accept storage items, not the weight of a living area. You'd have to reinforce the attic joists in order to meet structural requirements, and that would intrude into your headroom. Also, even if you did plan from the beginning and installed larger joists, unless you have around 9' of ceiling height, you won't have room for a living space and the required insulation. You'd have a lot more construction complexity with this choice.

Option B will also need all of the above mentioned alterations, plus additional insulation in the garage ceiling, but it would undoubtedly be cheaper than option A. However any of these projects will require a lot of work from licenses trades to accomplish. Creating bathrooms close to an existing plumbing stack does help with some of the plumbing costs, but we're talking the difference between 15K and 12K for your plumbing bid. In the overall numbers of the project, 3K isn't a lot of difference on a 100K project in order to have a bathroom where it works best for layout functionality.

Option C would be to take the 100K that the project would cost and add that to the amount you could realistically sell your home for and go shopping for an existing home with the additional space you need.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 4:32PM
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Bridget Helm

Ok, well we were thinking more like 50,000 for a bedroom and a bathroom. If 100,000 then we will definitely have to move as our house is the smallest in the neighborhood, and still dumping 100,000 would put it over the price of the larger homes. that wouldn't be smart.

our joints won't need to be reinforced and because of the pitch of the roof, there's enough headroom in option A.

here's a pic of the house during construction (before shutters etc. - looks better now, of course) you can see the dormers as well as alll the way to the left of the screen you'll see the garage wing. it's brick.

here's a picture of the side of the house which shows the garage wing much better

another one of the back of the house

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 5:04PM
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The disadvantage of hipped roofs is that they contain little usable floor space under them and are expensive to modify.

I've designed a lot of rooms in attics and I would strongly recommend hiring an architect in order to get the most for the project cost.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 6:47PM
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Bridget Helm

Both of the contractors that came out said that the pitch of the roof was high enough (the part over main house/option A) that we wouldn't have to modify that roof. option b, we'd have to raise the roof. raising the roof makes me nervous. i'm tending to lean toward option A since the house remains the same on the outside. well, actually, now i'm leaning toward moving as so far the opinions here are making it sound like it's not going to be any sort of picnic.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 1:02AM
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Congratulations on your new baby.

I agree with previous posters that B will cost less than A.

Essentially A is an interior remodel, and B is an addition.

Moving the guts of the house, like hvac ductrwork, stairway, etc is expensive.

Also agree that 50 K is an unrealistic budget, and 100K will be closer to actual expense for well designed quality work done done to code.

Suggest going to some open houses in your region and look at homes with the space you would achieve and see what you think and evaluate the cost/benefit of improve vs move.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 11:01AM
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Bridget Helm

Thanks everyone for your input and thanks JulieKcmo for the congrats. This is why this site is so great. I came in thinking one thing, but everyone else seems to be in agreement on another thing.

I never thought about the expenses of moving around the ductwork etc. So I guess we will go with B - will most likely be easier on everyone - IF we do in fact add on rather than move.

Off to look at the local listings.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:43PM
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