Barndominiums can be converted barns or new constructions embodying a barn style. Both are known for their high ceilings and pitched roofs, making them ideal for an attic space.
Most barndominiums have the structure and space for an attic. Barndo owners can use this space as storage or as an additional habitable area. Converting an attic into a liveable space has its own challenges and requirements.
This article will discuss what you might find in your barndo attic. I’ll also walk you through the steps and different requirements you need to consider if you want to convert your attic into a living space.
Most houses include attics, including barndos. An attic refers to the space right underneath your roof. It can even be a tiny story that encompasses the whole of the top floor or just a part of it.
The question is if these spaces are habitable or not.
Converted barndominiums, especially those made from older traditional barns, are likely to have haylofts. These haylofts were spaces located above a barn’s stables used to store hay or other agricultural supplies.
These lofts can be considered the attic portion of some barndominiums.
Newly constructed barndominiums can have attics that can range from narrower crawl spaces to more expansive storage spaces and additional living areas or rooms.
Most attics are a result of the extra space between the roof and the ceiling. Many of these spaces serve as somewhere to run wires, pipes, or plumbing.
If you look into your attic, you will likely find exposed joists, trusses, rafters, and some fiberglass, mineral wool, or cotton insulation.
An attic can be converted into extra living space for your barndo. However, some requirements must be met before even considering renovating your attic.
You can’t convert your attic into a habitable space if you can’t even move around in it. The minimum required floor space is 70 square feet (6.50 square meters).
In addition, to help prevent the creation of awkwardly shaped spaces, the minimum dimension should be 7 feet (2.13 meters) in any direction. That would make the minimum area of a habitable attic 7 ft x 10 ft (2.13 m x 3.05 m).
You also need to be able to fully stand in your attic for it to be habitable. The minimum clear height from floor to ceiling is at least 7 ft (2.13 m) for at least 50% of the required floor space. There needs to be at least a 5 ft (1.52 m) clear height for the rest of the required floor space.
Attics aren’t usually made with the idea of supporting live loads or moving objects. At best, the support framing can hold the dead loads of a storage area.
Usually, there isn’t even a floor, and attics will have exposed joists.
If you plan on converting your barndo attic into a living space, you need to ensure that the support is enough to carry the weight of furniture and items you want to put in your attic room. This includes the weight and movement of people.
Flooring can also be installed on top of the joists after any required additional reinforcement, pipes, and wiring. Enlist the help of a professional engineer and contractor.
Building codes and regulations applicable for attics and attic conversion can vary from state to state. Check your local regulations or Homeowner Association (HOA) if you plan to convert your attic into a living space.
Stick to these codes and restrictions as they exist for your safety. Attic conversions are regulated for a reason. Attic fires are not an uncommon occurrence. The United States Fire Administration estimates that in 2006-2008, nearly 10,000 attic fires occurred in residences.
Once you’ve checked that your attic space passes the basic requirements stated above, you can take steps to convert it into a living space.
Attics are known for their less-than-ideal temperature control. These spaces can be hot and stuffy in the summer and quite cold in winter. That’s why proper insulation and ventilation are essential.
Insulation and a well-sealed attic also help make your home more energy-efficient when it comes to heating and cooling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can save around 30% on utility costs.
Ventilation probably exists in the form of a small exhaust fan or simple louvers. Additional ventilation is usually needed to facilitate the proper circulation of air, especially for a living space.
You may need more windows for your attic to let in more light and natural ventilation. It is required for an attic to have another exit point aside from the main access stairs. This may be provided through a window.
If you cut through your roof to make skylights or additional dormers, they’ll need to be reinforced with proper framing.
The main access to your attic can’t be a ladder or pull-down stairs. Your attic’s access stairs have to be code-compliant:
- At least 36″ (91 cm) wide.
- Minimum of 6’8″ (2.03 m) headroom throughout the entire length of stairs.
- Minimum 10″ (25.4 cm) depth of treads.
- Minimum 7 ¼” (18.4 cm) height of risers.
As long as you follow building codes and regulations, the design of your attic space is pretty much up to you.
You can use the perimeter of your attic for storage spaces or short shelves and cabinets. This way, the middle of the room (where the highest headroom is) will be free for you to decorate.
Let’s go a little further into how barndominiums are built. You definitely need a plan, but the question is whether any house plan can be barndo. Find out the answer in my guide.
Most barndominiums have attics, but not all can be habitable. Other attics are only suitable as crawl spaces, while others are wide enough to be used for storage. With some additions and building code requirements, some barndo attics can be converted to living spaces.