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Thanks to Blake and his entire crew for doing such a great job and being so helpful throughout the whole process."  — Betty Green

Attics and Basements Can Provide Cheap Square Footage

We live big these days.  Even the small house movement thinks “bigger” and “more” than was common 60 or 70 years ago, when many houses in Durham were built.  Our possessions continue to grow, but our houses often do not, which is why home additions are the largest portion of our business.  If you are thinking about creating more living space in your home, first look to your unfinished basements and attics because this is the cheapest square footage you can create (not always the best solution, but should be the first place that you look).  It often does not involve foundation or structural framing, and usually has minimal demolition costs.  So here is a quick checklist of things to look at and evaluate if you are thinking about converting your unfinished attic or basement into living space.


  • Is there a current set of stairs?
  • Are the stairs to code? (“to code” means at least 36” wide, step tread of at least 10” and a rise of less than 8”.)
  • Creating a space for a new stairwell is often the most challenging part of converting attics and basements.  If you are looking for a place to put the stairs you will to find a ~4’ wide by ~12’ long space to build the stairs.  This may add to your scope of work and may involve renovating some rooms on the main floors.
  • Make sure the stairs have proper headroom throughout (6’8”) and 7’ at the top and bottom of the stairs.


  • Are there moisture or flooding issues?  If so this will need to be remedied with waterproofing and a drainage system, either exterior or interior.
  • Mechanicals: Plumbing drain systems often require a pump when the new drains are lower than the drain that connects to the sewer system. Attics
  • Insulation is the key to comfort.  Spray foam insulation is often a great solution (though more expensive); but 12” of r-38 fiberglass batts will work as well (but this often involves adding to the thickness of the rafters to ensure that there is plenty of room for the new batts).
  • Mechanicals: A chase may need to be built in the lower floors to create a place to bring the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems up to the new floor.

I hope this quick list helps you start to weigh your options as you start planning your next expansion project.  Again I do want to reiterate, that unfinished attics and basements are not always the best solution, but should certainly not be overlooked during your early exploration and planning.

© 2011 Innovative Renovation, LLC. All rights reserved.
801 Gillbert Street, Suit 101Durham, NC 27701(919) 943-6214