Attic Remodeling Tips – Structural Problems

Every once in a while I come across to an attic that has been remodeled but hasn’t been remodeled correctly. The homeowner looks up in the attic and realizes that there is enough room for a new bedroom and possibly a bathroom. They don’t realize the structural problems that they’re about to encounter or the problems that could be passed on to the next homeowner. Most ceilinged joist aren’t designed structurally to carry the load of a floor and that’s actually why they’re called ceiling joist instead of for joist. Even if you install larger floor joist, the building foundation might not be strong enough to carry the additional weight that’s going to be provided by the new room. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact a structural engineer, instead of a contractor, if you’re seriously thinking about creating a new room or remodeling your attic. Contractors that are hungry for work can usually fit your budgets into their contracts and this might not benefit you or your family. If a contractor tells you that your new room can be built on top of your ceiling joist, I strongly suggest that you go back to my first suggestion and hire a structural engineer.

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  1. gregvancom
    March 10, 2010

    Thanks, structural framing might not be a subject for everyone, unless your planning on moving a wall or remodeling your attic.

  2. gregvancom
    January 3, 2011

    I'm sorry about that, I live in the United States and assume that everyone else does also. When I'm referring to 2 x 8, I'm talking about a piece of wood that's an inch and a half by 7 1/2 inches.

    Don't forget that most attics aren't designed for storage, even though people store things up there anyway. I'm not suggesting that you can't store things up there, just don't forget that they're not designed as storage areas.

  3. gregvancom
    January 3, 2011

    @netofuschini I'm sorry about that, I live in the United States and assume that everyone else does also. When I'm referring to 2 x 8, I'm talking about a piece of wood that's an inch and a half by 7 1/2 inches.

    Don't forget that most attics aren't designed for storage, even though people store things up there anyway. I'm not suggesting that you can't store things up there, just don't forget that they're not designed as storage areas.

  4. astranine
    September 22, 2011

    You can add 2 x 6's to the top of the existing 2 x 6' ceiling joists which will give you a 2 x 12" floor joist (2' x 11' is the actual size.) Cut some OSB to 10" x 2' and nail to the sides of the new joists on alternating sides. Use construction adhesive when applying the OSB to make the floor more rigid and quiet.

  5. gregvancom
    September 23, 2011

    @astranine That is a fantastic idea, even though I cannot justify doing its, because it could create structural problems or problems for the homeowner, when they plan on selling their home. Any remodeling work that has not been approved by your local building department or a structural engineer, could become a financial nightmare, when it comes time to selling your home. Even though something will work, doesn't mean that it won't create problems eventually.

  6. Mayan Queen
    January 19, 2012

    Hi, I noticed that there is fiber glass dust that escapes from the attic and would like to seal it. I was planning to cover it it with plywood to cover the fiber glass that is exposed. Can I still do that or will that be against code? I just don't want to call a professional that will charge an arm and a leg just to do that but I don't want to do something that can damage the property. Is there anything else I could do to stop breathing all those particles? attic is close particle still escape.

  7. gregvancom
    January 19, 2012

    @mrsmayanqueen I would think that plywood would be okay and you definitely wouldn't need to hire a professional. If it's the type of access opening I'm thinking of, then a piece of plywood should be okay. However, it wouldn't hurt to call your local building department, just to make sure. Building codes are different in different areas.

  8. joseph10704
    April 25, 2012

    hi i live in yonkers NY and i want to put a home theater in my attic so i wanted to ask can u give me a good contractor to help me out with this room i would like to make .thank u

  9. gregvancom
    May 1, 2012

    I wish I could, but realistically don't know anyone in New York who is a contractor. The best advice I can give you is to start asking everyone you know, for a good contractor and to get at least three bids.

  10. joseph10704
    May 2, 2012

    what if i did this say i get the permits from were i live and i can do the project i want to do ,but i want to build my project myself will the city of were i live let me do it by myself with just the arctec by my side .or do i have to hire a contractor because of the law if there is a law stateing i MUST hire a person who knows what he is doing.let me know thank u

  11. gregvancom
    May 7, 2012

    It really depends on your local city, county or state building departments requirements. It wouldn't be a bad idea to call your local building department for more information. In California property owners are allowed to work on projects like yours and wouldn't require a contractors license, but might require a designer and structural engineer.

  12. joseph10704
    May 7, 2012

    man i wish i was liveing there lol i called up my local building code and they told me that all i have to do is get 2 blue prints of my house and a price of what i want to do and then pay for the cost witch is not much at max 600 or less for what i want to do but 2 contractors told me the price point at 30,000 bucks and i dont have that kind of cash lol so that why i wanted to do it myself or hell have the contractor just do the frameing of the room and i will do the rest .

  13. gregvancom
    May 8, 2012

    I know most local building departments can be a nightmare, but they really are looking out for everyone's best interest, including any future homeowners. Those are the ones who usually suffer the most. However, it is amazing how much you think something's going to cost and how much someone charges. Best of luck.

  14. Russ Tanner
    November 16, 2012

    What if I want to take out my standard 8ft ceiling and use the relatively small attic area to create a higher ceiling? Is there any structural engineering that would be necessary for something like that?

  15. gregvancom
    November 19, 2012

    Yes, I would contact a contractor in your area or your local building department for more information. Most of the time, the ceiling is used as a structural component, to hold the walls together and without it, the building could start to spread apart.

  16. PSU 18
    June 15, 2013

    I don't agree. The only thing the local building departments are good for is wasting tax payer money. Its amazing the shit they get away with because they are under the protective umbrella of the government and can't be fired. They would not last one damn day in the real world.

  17. gregvancom
    June 18, 2013

    Knowing what I know, I would have a difficult time arguing with you.

  18. Marc A
    June 25, 2013

    If I just want to lay a few pieces of plywood down for light storage in garage attic, is it ok to attach directly to the joists? I am still researching but I believe the area is rated at 10 lb psf live load. Am I correct in my understanding of what this means (see next sentence). If I lay 4×8 plywood then it would support 270lbs (32 sf x 10 live load psf minus 50 lbs of plywood = 270 lbs). Thanks, Marc

  19. gregvancom
    June 26, 2013

    I wish I could provide you with more information, but if I told you that you could do this and your building fell down, you probably wouldn't be happy. I've done this before myself and have seen plenty of others do it also, but that's about all I can say. As far as the plywood rating goes, it would all depend on the thickness, but you're probably on the right path.

  20. Doride Pinheiro
    October 2, 2013

    Greetings from Brazil. Very nice of you talk about structural problems so oftenly "forgotten".

  21. gregvancom
    October 3, 2013

    Greetings from the US my friend and there are enough structural problems all over the world, to keep us talking for hours. Thanks for visiting the site.

  22. gregvancom
    October 11, 2013

    I know this isn't what you want to hear, but roof trusses, no matter what shape they are designed, probably aren't designed to support any type of additional weight, like a new floor for an attic conversion. Don't forget you're not allowed to cut parts of these roof trusses and I strongly advise contacting a structural engineer, before doing something like this yourself.

  23. Kosmos Erdem
    November 1, 2013

    I hate how Americans speak in old Imperial Units. I mean you kicked the red coats out, the rest of the world adopted the metric system because it makes sense, but you guys stayed with imperial units. I just hate it and its never going to change is it.

  24. gregvancom
    November 2, 2013

    Give it some time my friend, because good ideas eventually lead to the necessary changes.

  25. bingobongo445
    January 20, 2015

    What if you just want to put a new floor in your attic,because the old floor are dangerous.

  26. Nadira Ali-Mohammed
    April 9, 2016

    I'm having a problem deciding weather I should use construction or marine plywood for my attic. help?

  27. Sam Thomas
    August 15, 2016

    I had a 90 year old house with 2×6 joist. before my 18×20 room addition, I just doubled the joist with additional 2x6s. I completely agree with people not realizing the structural problems that could occur. A very easy step in doubling up the joist resulted in an extremely stout floor and zero problems.

  28. Vale
    August 22, 2016

    We're thinking about remodeling our attic, it's about 90 years old and has old wooden flooring that''s original to the house (the attic was originally built as a large storage space. Currently the attic is filled with stuff and we haven't seen any sagging on the ceilings or anything, and the floors are really strong. I know there's old insulation under the floors which is my main concern with taking them out and looking to see how strong the joists are, would putting new flooring in really add much more weight on the floor than there already is? (being that there's tons of old furniture and boxes up there already) Is there some other way I can find out how strong the joists are or if I really need to reinforce them?

  29. 757WN
    January 25, 2017

    Greg, great points! The guy down the street from me, did exactly this!! Here is my question though…

    Do you recommend strongback use?

    I've got a 600sqft cottage and have it gutted as a remodel. The attic is 2x4x12 joists. While it will not be used for living space, during a past remodel someone added a large pull-down staircase and used the space for storage.

    I've removed that pull down and 're-joisted' the area. The joists are 24" apart and there is evidence of flex (popped drywall nails in original drywall).

    So what I've done so far is….added a very small access point next to the top plate near the peak. And sistered 2x4x12s next to each of the existing 2x4x12s in the ceiling. Those new 2x4x12s are sandwiched at 3 points (center) and both ends at rafters.

    I know 2x4x6 or 2x4x8 would be better, but again this is to strengthen the attic, not use it.

    Thanks for the informative video!

  30. Ern Dog
    February 16, 2017

    Ty Mr Obvious

  31. Kevin Ping
    April 16, 2017

    is it safe to just storage some items though? I'm not talking about a couch or a piano, just some off the season clothing and unused closet doors etc.

  32. bluewater454
    July 18, 2017

    Glad I watched this. Exactly what I have in my attic, with the additional problem that the joists are not milled on top(built in 1920). They vary from 2*6 to 2*8 rough cut lumber, and I was going to marry them up with 2*8 milled wood before I installed the flooring.

  33. Helen White
    September 18, 2017

    Good point well made -but you didn't tell us how to fit the larger joists!

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