Renovating attic for train room

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by RobertInOntario, Aug 1, 2006.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I’m thinking of renovating our attic or loft space so that it could be used as a train room and for light storage.

    Our house is a small bungalow built in 1949. I hope to get some feedback and quotes from contractors to find out if this is at all possible. I’ve heard some folks here say that the structure up there may not be strong enough to support any extra weight. So, it would either not be possible or would require lots of reinforcing. I’m still open to any advice or feedback, especially from North Americans who might have similar, small postwar bungalows. Any rough ideas about the cost? ... I'm just curious to find out what other folks may have paid for such renovations?

    At any rate, we do have to add more insulation to reduce heating costs. In 1949, good insulation was not a priority! So maybe we could do the insulation and renovation at the same time.

    Thanks. Rob
  2. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Hi Rob you realy must want a Layout to go to that expence:thumb:

    I see a lot of these homes with bedrooms added on so it must be a regular thing to do a few years back.
    I hope its not to expensive,, You could always build a heated garage or store house with a bed, cooking stuff, a wash room, hey a club house,
    Just dreamingsign1
  3. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    You might find it's cheaper / easier / more effective to just add a room to the house, if the land provides the option.
  4. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I have my train room in the attic. My house was built around the turn of the last century, and the floor seems pretty strong. The only problem I have is the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter. But with a small AC and space heater, this problem was solved.
    Depending on your building codes(or lack thereof in 1949), you might be alright.
    But..Safer to find out first if your attic joists can hold it.
  5. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks! But by renovating the loft I should be able to avoid building permits. Also, an addition to the house would drive our taxes up, whereas renovating the loft is kind of like renovating a room in the house ... at least, I think or hope it is!
  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks. I think it's worth finding out. And yes, the strength of the attic joists is one of the key issues. Rob
  7. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, the other option WOULD be to have a completely new garage built instead. Our current garage is run down, in rough shape, and full of stuff. So, it might not cost that much more to have a 2-story brick garage built. The 2nd storey would not have to be that large. But I'd be worried about the extra heating and A/C costs, as well as increased taxes. I'm dreaming a bit but it's still feasible.

    Thanks, Rob
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Sorry, but any renovation over a certain value usually requires a permit. Also, if you are adding any electrical or plumbing, it is essential that you get the inspection(s) done for insurance purposes. You will not get anything from your insurance if your own electrical installation (that was not checked) burns down your house. I don't mean to be alarmist, but the small cost of the permit really does CYA in cases like this... And any reliable contractor is going to insist that you have the permits.

    Having said that, if you have the space, and the construction is strong enough - it would be great to get your own MR space in the attic.

  9. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks for that info about the permits, Andrew. So I'll obviously have to get appropriate permits if we go ahead with this. As you say, it's still worth looking into because it would be excellent MR space. I currently have a 4x6 layout but have to stow it away after use.

    Thanks, Rob.
  10. cpr_paul

    cpr_paul Member

    Your house sounds like it could be very similar to mine - small bungalow, built in 1939 (Toronto - Birchcliff area). Have you been up in your attic at all yet? If it is anything like mine it would be very difficult to use it for anything more than storage. I can't even stand up in my attic, and there are cross-beams that limit usable space. Plus, right now, its really stinking hot up there!

    While structurally it may be able to support the additional weight (probably has "real" 2x6 joists on 15" centre), based on what I know of the provincial building code I don't think you could get away with turning your attic into habitable space. The City of Toronto Buildings division website might give you some pointers.
  11. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, good points. My attic might be similar to yours in size. We're also in East York, so that is fairly close to your area. Yes, no one could stand up there in ours, but there no cross beams that limit space. It's also very hot up there right now as well! but hopefully insulation would improve that. We have to insulate it in any case. I'll have to get 1-2 contractors to have a look at it. Thanks again. Rob
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, good points. My attic might be similar to yours in size. We're also in East York, so that is fairly close to your area. Yes, no one could stand up there in ours, but there no cross beams that limit space. It's also very hot up there right now as well! but hopefully insulation would improve that. We have to insulate it in any case. I'll have to get 1-2 contractors to have a look at it. Thanks again. Rob
  13. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Whether you decide to remodel or not, think about some venting in your attic , if you don't already have some. Vents will help with that excessive heat buildup in the summer. A lot of older homes were not vented in the attic. It also cuts down on moisture and dry rot. As for putting a room up there, I'll only echo the comments of others. Its up to the local building code folks and/or your pocket book.
  14. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Now I'm totally confused :D (what else is new?)

    If you can't stand up in your attic, how in the blue blazes can you build
    a room there?? I think that I would reconsider adding on!! :thumb: :thumb:

    There were some discussions not too long ago about a wall- mounted fold-down
    layout, even maybe a magazine article. Does anyone remember??
  15. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

    i got it i got it, tear down the old garage - build a new one and build a room on top of the garage - i always wanted one of those...
  16. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Now yer talkin'!
    If the garage is getting a little decrepit anyway, it's the best idea!
    But whatever will you do with all that STUFF?? :D :D :D :D
    When I moved to TN, I garaged saled, gave away, and just plain threw
    out a mountain (2 mountains) of STUFF!! And I still have so much in my
    new (one car) garage that I can't get the car in! She who must be obeyed
    is not all that happy about her pride and joy sitting out in the rain!!:rolleyes: :rolleyes:
  17. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    I'm not possitive, but I believe the law in my area states that any structural changes have to be covered by permit. I wanted to put an opening in a wall to allow better people-flow through the house and was instructed to get a permit.

    If you're removing any structure (rafters to make room for trains? ;) ), adding electrical and/or plumbing, adding insulation and possibly air ducts, or adding flooring you are dramatically changing the current status of the house. For more than insurance purposes you should have it checked out and permitted for your own safety.

    I would like to do similar things with my attic. It's probably 25 x 25 at the floor, with nearly a 45 degree pitch roof all the way to the floor and it's walk-in. The problem is that the rafters are 24" appart and the center 3' of the room is the only space you can walk in. I think it's against code to attach tables to the rafters as well (not to mention filling the roof support with screw and bolt holes), so I'd have to build tables around the rafters. I could set up some interesting track, weaving in and out of the rafters, but scenery is practically a lost cause. Furthermore, in Arkansas during the hot months it gets upwards of 105F in the shade, and I wouldn't be surprised if my attic hits 130F. I would have to insulate and cool the space. Also, the only part of the attic with flooring (plywood) is the 3' wide path down the middle, so I'd have to floor the whole space which would add considerable weight.

    I think you're on the right track with a contractor. You don't want to destroy your house in the process of expanding your hobby :)
  18. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks. That makes sense. I'll still look into it but realize it might not work out. After all, it's not just supposed to be only a train room but also for storage. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
  19. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    No basement in your house? An attic where you can't stand up will get tired real quick. Chances are that your ceiling joists for the ground floor aren't suitable for a live load. Beefing them up is a big job, and, no matter how well you insulate, that space will be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The amount of insulation required to make this space useable will also cut into the space available for your proposed room. If your house needs more insulation, that's about all that you should put in your attic.:) I'd go with the garage idea, although brick will certainly add to the cost (not so much the brick, but the guys who lay them don't do it for nothing:D ). If you don't need a garage for your car, just replace the existing building with one about the same size for your train layout, or, if you need a place for the car, build a 1 1/2 storey garage. Don't bother insulating or heating the garage part, but put lots of insulation in the train layout part, add a couple of electric baseboard heaters to keep in warm in winter, and maybe a window air conditioner to keep it comfortable in summer, and you're all set. (And you don't have to heat or cool to the same temperatures that you would have in the house, except when you're actually going to be using the room. Even if your present garage is falling down, you're paying taxes based on the fact that it's there, so while your taxes will likely increase, it may not be to the degree you fear. Another thing to bear in mind is that it's easier to get a permit to repair or replace an existing building than it is to get one for new construction, especially in an established neighbourhood. Whatever course of action you decide upon, make sure that your contractors obtain the proper permits, as many who don't are ones whose work won't stand up to the scrutiny of the building inspector. Good luck.

  20. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    That may be the best idea -- it's just a matter of weighing the cost! We do need a new garage as the current one isn't in the greatest condition. Thanks.

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