How can I expand the living space in my house on a tight budget?

How can I expand the living space in my house on a tight budget? We are a family of five and my middle child is 9 years old and has a serious illness involving medical equipment and support workers. As my oldest daughter enters her teenage years, she could really use a tiny bit of space for herself. Is finishing the attic an option for us? We’ve considered finishing the basement, but this space aggravates my daughter’s asthma.

Your attic might offer an option for expanding the living space in your home, and two technical factors determine whether it’s practical or not:

  1. Is the attic tall enough?
  2. Is the roof structure built with rafters?

skylight steve maxwellBoth these things need to be true for finishing to proceed. The simplest way to figure it all out is to climb into the attic and see for yourself. Can you stand up in a significant portion of the space? Is the roof structure free enough of angled lumber to allow movement? If you can answer yes to both of these questions, then finishing the attic is a possibility. You’ll need to create safe access to the attic space, you’ll need to insulate the roof structure, and you’ll need to provide ventilation and natural light. Openable skylights offer the best option for getting fresh air and light into the attic. Even with lots of insulation, a finished attic will be unbearably hot during summer without fresh air.

If your roof structure makes finishing the attic impractical, then look at the basement again. It may be musty now, but almost any basement can be made into a dry, comfortable and healthy living space. The process starts by removing everything organic from the basement – wall board, floor covering, cardboard boxes and clothing. As long as the basement is reliably dry, finishing floors and walls with mold-proof materials yields great results.