Complete Guide to Attics and Basements: Projects: Getting Started: Introduction

Although many attics and basements are good candidates for finishing, not all are suitable. Some spaces are simply too small or have very low ceilings or problems like flooding that make the investment too risky If you’ve been thinking about remodeling, chances are the space is usable, but it could require some expensive preparation work to ensure safety and structural integrity over time. Of course, it’s best to know this early in the process. Therefore, the first step is to evaluate the space to find out what you have to work with, what changes are necessary, and how much everything will cost.

The primary gauge by which to measure your attic or basement is the local building code. This code describes all the requirements for livable spaces in your area, and it governs every aspect of your project. There are code specifications for everything from minimum headroom to how many electrical receptacles you’ll need in our new family room. For personal reference, you can probably find a copy of the building code at a local library, but for the most part, you’ll learn about the requirements from the officials at the building department. They can also warn you about problems specific to your area, such as a high water table or expansive soil.

This section shows you the basic elements to look for as you evaluate your basement or attic. Much of this you can check out yourself; other matters may require professional examination. If your attic or basement passes your evaluation, hire an architect, engineer, or building contractor to have a look at the space and the elements that will be affected by the project. You can also use your home’s original blueprints to learn about the basic structure of the house and locate mechanical rough-ins without cutting holes in the walls. If you don’t have blueprints, contact your home’s builder or the city office to get a copy of them.

When you’ve finished the evaluation stage and are ready to start remodeling, take some time to plan the project and draft a construction schedule. This step includes designing the space, getting the building permits, and establishing an order for all of the construction that follows. It’s a challenging part of the remodeling process, but creating an effective plan is essential to a successful project.

Next: Evaluating Your Attic

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