Monthly Archives: March 2020

Steps to Turning Your Unused Attic Into Your Dream Library

If you’re looking to optimize your current space, transform your unused attic into a dream home library. Give yourself and your family a reader’s retreat, a place perfect for learning and relaxation.

We’ll break down the features and the steps to converting your attic into a library:

The attic should be building code compliant

When converting an attic into a living space, it must meet requirements set by the building code, like any other living area in your house.

Overall floor space

  • Floor space: The attic should have a minimum of 70-sq ft of floor space.
  • Floor dimension: It should have a floor space of at least 7 ft starting from the center. The reason behind this is to prevent homeowners from occupying strangely configured spaces. If you have a 70-sq ft attic space with a 4-ft x 17.50-ft dimension, it will not be code-compliant.
  • Ceiling height: At least 50 percent of usable floor space should have a ceiling height of 7.50-ft or more so owners can stand up comfortably with enough headroom.

Accessibility

Note that both fixed ladders and pull-down ladders aren’t code-compliant stairs for an attic. If your attic doesn’t have a staircase, your design will require one. According to the building code, an attic staircase must:

  • Provide a minimum of 6-ft 8-in of headroom in its entire length.
  • An individual stair must be at least 36-in wide.
  • Treads must be at least 9-in deep.
  • Risers should be no more than 8 1/4-in high.

Secondary egress

Attics can be the worst place to be in during a fire because heat can rise rapidly; that’s why it’s necessary to have a secondary exit. Attic egress openings must:

  • Have a minimum net opening area of at least 5.70-sq ft.
  • Have a height of not more than 44-in above the attic floor level.
  • Have a minimum opening height of at least 24-in.
  • Have a minimum opening width of at least 20-in.

Roof frame

Most roofs are framed either using trusses or rafters.

  • Trusses aren’t ideal for converted attics because it’s hard to get that needed walkable open space.
  • Rafters provide a better attic environment because of the clear space they provide below the frame.

You can go to your local permitting office to get a permit for your attic renovation. Usually, permits are needed only when there’s a need to alter electrical wirings or ventilation or if the renovation will affect the overall structural integrity of the house.

Start building your dream home library

Top-to-bottom attic renovation, unless you’re a handyman, is rarely a DIY project. Be realistic about your skill level when planning to do all the work yourself. Hire a professional for the renovation, especially if this is your first time to remodel.

Check the roof for leaks

The attic is the spot in your house that’s most likely to suffer from moisture infiltration. Moisture can cause substantial damage to wooden shelves and books.

  • Ensure that the roof is completely water-proof. Apply a waterproofing compound to prevent the penetration of moisture in the roofing material.
  • Check the walls for moisture. Mold and mildew thrive in moisture-filled, humid walls.

Minor roof repairs can cost from $150 to $400; $400 to $1,000 for moderate repairs; while $1,000 to $3,000 for major repairs.

Proper insulation

The temperature in a standard library should be around 70°F (21°C) and the room should have a relative humidity of between 30-50%. Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity may contribute significantly to the deterioration of books and other archival materials. The damage may include cockling paper, flaking ink, warped book covers and cracked emulsion on photographs.

Attic insulations maintain the desired temperature in the attic. Consider the following insulation methods:

  • Wall insulation – This seals gaps in walls effectively, ensuring stud widths are snug tight. This keeps outside temperatures at bay.
  • Spray foam insulation – This guarantees there will be no gaps where indoor air can escape, as the constant exchange of air between inside and outside the home can lead to high energy bills.

library

Attic wiring

An electrician should check if all the wiring installations meet building code requirements. Doing this without the guidance and advice of a professional increases the risk of electrical breakdown and fires. Your electrician will install electrical wiring across the walls and the ceiling, with one outlet available for each wall.

If your attic doesn’t have existing ductwork, you’ll need to find out whether your current HVAC system will be able to support a new room.

Thick subfloor

You can only proceed with subflooring once all electrical, ventilation and insulation installations are finished. If wood joists are visible on your attic floor, you will need a subfloor.

Choose a thicker subfloor panel to reduce the sound coming from the room below the attic. You can also add an insulation layer beneath the subfloor.

Inspiring wall color

You can start now with the decorating part. Since your home library will be your sanctuary for relaxation, go with inspiring and soothing hues.

  • Neutral colors like ivory, light blue, light purple and muted colors of green will create a soothing ambiance.
  • Warm neutral colors (light shades of brown and grey) will make the attic cozy and will give the library a cocoon-like effect.
  • Pure white walls will give a Scandinavian-inspired feel.
  • Black walls will result in a sophisticated, upscale finish.

More vibrant shades can be used for a few accent details to spark creativity and imagination. Avoid bright colors that invigorate, like sunny yellow, bold fuschia, bright orange and lime green. If these hues are your favorites, you can tone down and substitute with mellow gold, pumpkin, warm berry or olive green.

Reading nook

Pick a special corner that will serve as your reading nook. Place your favorite chair or couch, and hang select art pieces for inspiration. Surround the space with more shelves and cozy furniture.

Bookshelves

Bookshelves are the key ingredients to turning your attic into a full-fledged library. When choosing your bookshelves, go with those that will give maximum functionality and storage space.

  • Traditional bookshelves are made from wood and come with classic features like crown molding, built-in lighting and picture frame doors. You can stain them to match your home library’s design.
  • Modern and minimalist bookshelves have wooden and metal accents.
  • Built-in shelves and floating shelves have become more popular in modern homes. They have a sleek design, saving on floor space. They can store everything from books, pictures to CDs.

How much would it cost to convert an attic into a library?

According to Home Advisor, the average cost of attic conversions is $50,000. Here’s a breakdown of the cost (note that the costs are rough averages):

  • Windows – $2,200 for a five-window installation.
  • Dormers – $1,800 for a DIY dormer installation; $2,500 to $20,000 for professional installation.
  • Heating and cooling – $1,000 for duct and vent installations; $4,000 for a furnace installation; $300 for a window air conditioner; $150 to $200 for an electric baseboard heater; $500 to $1,600 for an attic fan installation.
  • Stairs – $2,200 to $3,100 for a professional staircase installation.
  • Walls – $1,900 for a professional wall installation; $1,600 for a drywall installation; $500 for a typical wallpaper.
  • Ceiling – $1,600 for a professional ceiling installation.
  • Flooring – $4,400 for hardwood; $1,500 for carpet; $ $2,800 for laminate flooring; $1,600 for ceramic or porcelain tile.
  • Lighting – $50 to $200 for recessed lighting; $90 to $220 for ceiling-mounted lights; $90 to $230 for wall lights.
  • Electricity – $1,300 to $3,000 for new electrical panel installation; $50 to $100 an hour for the service of a licensed electrician.
  • Plumbing – $1,000 for plumbing installations.
  • Bookshelves – $2,500 for a standard built-in bookshelf; $1,250 to $4,000 for a customized bookshelf.
  • Chairs and couches – $300 to $1,000 for upholstered furniture.

home library

Why have a library at home?

A child growing up in a home with at least 80 books has a higher chance of developing greater literacy and numeracy in adulthood. The study found that high school students who are exposed to a wide selection of books can become as literate, numerate and technologically bright as college graduates who grew up with only a few books.

Another study found that growing up in a home with 500 books could propel a child up to 3.2 years further in education.

Fun fact: Scandinavian families (Norwegians, Swedes) have the biggest book collections, with a minimum of 500 books in their homes. Chile, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Singapore are the only countries with homes having 80 books or fewer.

A home library is an excellent investment for your child’s future. Reading at home can improve your child’s reading and math skills, potentially eliminating the need for additional classes. Lastly, a child who grew up in a family rich in books is 19% more likely to finish college than a child who didn’t.

Trust A+ Insulation for your attic’s insulation needs

Did you know that an under-insulated house can lose between 20 and 30 percent of its energy? Trust your insulation needs to us at A+ Insulation. When it comes to insulation, we’re the experts to answer all your needs. We’ve been insulating homes and businesses in the Kansas City area since 2004.

Our spray foam method has been proven to reduce energy loss and lower electricity bills. Because it’s made of foam, it expands to fill entire holes, leaving no gaps in your walls. Feel free to request a quote or call us today for more information.

Get the Most Out of Your Insulation by Air-Sealing Your Home

Air leakage happens when outside air enters your house through openings and cracks. These drafts replace the conditioned air in your home, affecting the indoor environment you try to control with your heating and cooling systems. But there are also less obvious spaces that let air in and out of your home. These gaps can be anywhere on your walls, basement, attic, and even ductwork.

Why Air-Seal Your House?

Some homeowners rely on drafts to try and improve their ventilation, but this is an unwise strategy. Too much cool air can enter your house during the colder months. And when the warm season comes, humid air can make your home feel hotter, creating an uncomfortable indoor environment.

Air leakage also carries moisture into your house. High levels of moisture can damage your home’s foundation. Water vapor settles on various surfaces, causing wood to rot, paint to peel, and electrical wirings to malfunction. Pest infestation also becomes more probable, since termites, cockroaches, and other bugs thrive in damp areas.

Aside from compromising your home’s structural integrity and your health, indoor moisture can cause your energy bills to soar. Humid air feels heavy on the skin, forcing you to up your cooling system usage thus increasing your utility bills.

Finding and blocking those air leaks is imperative to reducing your heating and cooling costs, helping you achieve maximum energy efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that air-sealing your home can cut 15 percent off your heating and cooling costs.

With summer still several months away, now is the perfect time to conduct a thorough air leak detection in your home.

How to Detect Air Leaks

ventilation

You can either perform the inspection yourself or hire an energy auditor to do it for you. A home energy audit provides the most accurate measurement of air leakage in your home. Some home insulation companies offer energy evaluations to determine areas in your home that aren’t properly insulated

Home Energy Audit

A qualified technician will conduct an energy audit to see the whole picture of your home’s energy use. This assessment determines how much energy is used and lost, as well as the problem areas you need to address to make your home more efficient.

The professional energy auditor will do a blower door test. A powerful fan will be mounted into the frame of an exterior door. It pulls the air out of the house, decreasing the pressure inside. The outside air, which is higher in pressure, will rush in through the unsealed cracks. A smoke pencil will be used to locate the openings.

If you’d rather assess the house yourself, you have two ways of locating air leaks: visual inspection and the pressurization test.

Visual Inspection

Below is a checklist of all the areas of the house where gaps commonly form. These are spots where two different building materials meet. Due to poor construction or craftsmanship, the two surfaces may have lined up unevenly, creating spaces where air can pass through.

Outside the house:

  • All exterior corners
  • Faucets connected to exterior walls
  • Joints where chimneys and the siding meet
  • Areas where the foundation and the siding or bottom exterior brick meet

Inside the house:

  • Baseboards
  • Vents and fans
  • Door and window frames
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Electrical outlets
  • Switch plates
  • Fireplace damper
  • Attic hatches
  • Mounted conditioners
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Cables that extend outside

Make sure the weather stripping and caulking, especially around doors and windows, are applied properly. If you can rattle your windows or doors on their frames, it means they’re not properly fitted into the wall.

Pressurization Test

You can perform a simpler version of the blower door test on your own. Decrease the pressure inside your house to increase air infiltration through the gaps. You can achieve depressurization by doing the following steps:

  1. On a windy day, shut off all combustion appliances, such as stoves, furnaces, and water heaters.
  2. Close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues.
  3. Turn on all exhaust fans that blow outside to suck the air out of the house.
  4. Pass a lighted incense stick around the common leakage spots. If the smoke is sucked out of the room, there’s a draft.

Once you’ve located the air gaps, it’s time to reseal them. Below is a rundown on best air-sealing practices for different areas of your house, from the attic and basement to the exterior.

Exterior Air Sealing

Siding panels, especially vinyl ones, expand and contract due to changes in temperature. That’s why you have to nail the cladding down with enough room for the panels to move accordingly. Otherwise, they’ll get warped.

Warped siding creates spaces between the panels where air and water can get in. Repair the damaged part immediately to seal these gaps. You don’t have to replace the entire siding system if the deformation is concentrated on one area. You can cut a small portion from a new, similar panel and patch it onto the affected part.

Another method is to replace individual siding planks if the damage is too big for the cut-and-patch technique. But a system replacement may be necessary when a large part of your wall cladding has been abused by time and temperature changes.

For the outside of your home, you also want to examine the exterior sheathing, or the nailing bed of the siding. If your house is slightly old, it probably uses solid board lumber for its sheathing. This material is prone to shrinkage and cracks, so be sure to check for air gaps. Caulking can easily seal these holes, reducing air infiltration.

Wall Air Sealing

Apart from the exterior of your house, the walls are also known to have tiny cracks that let air in and out.

When it comes to interior walls, your first line of defense against drafts is insulation. It helps maintain a pleasant temperature in your home by preventing the warmth from passing through the walls. Aside from reducing heat transfer, insulation seals up the spots where cool air can enter.

Insulation comes in a variety of options. Choose from loose fill, spray foam, batts, or rolls. Consult a professional to determine which type is most suitable for the structure and location of your house.

Strengthen your wall’s defense against air leakage further by installing foam gaskets behind all light switches and electrical outlets. These minimize the air flow between the indoors and outdoors, reducing the chances for leakage. Child-proof plug covers also perform the same function, keeping air from passing through unused outlets.

For wall air sealing, replace all windows that are more than 20 years old to increase their energy efficiency. Because they’re made of glass, windows absorb more heat during summer and lose more in winter than any other surface in your home. Installing storm windows further reinforces your home’s insulation and airtightness.

Attic Air Sealing

does-your-attic-need-insulation

Another part of your house that’s prone to air leakage is the attic.

Warm, humid air rises naturally since it’s lighter than dry air. The airflow going up the attic and out the roof draws cold breeze into the openings at the lower part of the house. This phenomenon is referred to as “stack effect,” which is how drafts get into your home.

Prevent the consequences of the stack effect by insulating your attic. Blanket insulation comes in rolls or batts, so they’re easy to install by yourself. But this type only works for attics with evenly spaced beams and joists. The large space ensures that the batts of insulation fit the vents tightly for maximum efficiency.

If your attic has plenty of obstructions and very limited space, loose-fill insulation would be the better option.   The loose material easily stuffs tight spaces, effectively insulating even the smallest nooks and crannies of your attic.

Meanwhile, spray foam insulation offers the most impenetrable protection from drafts. With foam cells that expand, this insulation creates a solid barrier against air leakage. But unlike blanket insulation, spray foam requires professional tools and gear. Hire an insulation technician to make sure that the foam is installed properly.

Basement Air Sealing

To fully safeguard your house from the stack effect, insulate your basement as well for further protection from drafts.

Your crawlspace has a close relationship with your attic, since the two spaces push air in and out of your house. You need to air-seal both the top and bottom parts of your home to eliminate the sources of airflow.

The rim joists, or the lateral support of your entire floor, normally has plenty of holes for wires, pipes, HVAC lines, vents, and other utilities. Block these openings by caulking them. Air-seal the rest of the rim joist cavities with spray foam insulation. The expandability of spray foam ensures that every crevice in the joists are well insulated.

For most parts of your house, insulation is the optimal solution to air leakage. But insulation systems depend on your home’s foundation, style of construction, and the local climate. An experienced insulation contractor will help you determine which air leakage solution is best for your home.

A+ Service from A+ Insulation

A+ Insulation is a trusted insulation expert in Kansas City. Our team of experts will examine your house to locate the air leakage, so we can arrive at the best solution. We use only quality materials and tools, guaranteeing the longevity of your insulation.

Schedule an appointment today and have one of our consultants do a free, no-obligation home energy assessment. Contact us here.