Do New Houses Typically Have Attics?

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Many people grew up with attic spaces, and heading up to the attic could be as creepy as heading down to the basement. Full of old holiday decorations and relics from the past that just couldn’t be parted with, attics provided an additional storage space in our homes.  If you’re wondering whether new homes still have these spaces, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve researched whether new houses have attics and have an answer for you!

It is not as typical for new houses to have attics. Newer homes are often built with trusses instead of rafters. There will likely be an “attic space,” but using it for anything other than space above your ceiling is unlikely.  Because of the new construction method, a new home will unlikely have an attic that can be used for storage.

Now you know that you might be without a usable attic space if you buy a newly built house. However, keep reading as we elaborate on why this might be the case more below. We’ll also answer some additional questions you might have about attics and what’s required to convert one into a livable space.

Nearly finished loft conversion with beams still exposed, and new wooden floor, Do New Houses Typically Have Attics?

Attics In New Houses

Unfortunately, using an attic as storage space may soon be a thing of the past. New homes are now constructed differently, allowing little room for an attic.

Many new homes are lacking attic spaces because they are being built with trusses instead of rafters. Rafters allowed for storage space. However, trusses are not able to support the weight of storage. Builders switched to trusses because they are easier to work with. 

In some cases, basements have replaced attics. Since heat rises, it could be challenging to control the climate in the attic, and many people realized basements were easier to manage. Not to mention, it was often easier to carry items down to the basement than up the pull-down stairs to the attic. 

Can You Build A House Without An Attic?

If you think an attic will likely just be wasted space, you can build a house without one. There are plenty of homes that do not have an attic. Many people like the idea of having an attic for extra storage space, but storing items in the attic can be a fire hazard. 

Some attics are used as spaces for HVAC units. You’ll have to find somewhere else for yours to go, so be sure to have alternative plans.

Attics can make a home more energy-efficient. However, there are steps you can take to make your home more energy-efficient without an attic. Consider the materials you plan to use for the roof and insulation. 

How Tall Should An Attic Be?

Attic height varies and depends on what you want to use your attic for. Additionally, how tall your attic should be also depends on whether you plan to convert your attic to a livable space.

An attic with more than 30 inches of vertical height requires an access door of some sort. However, if you plan on using your attic as a livable space, you will need at least fifty percent of it to have a vertical height of 7ft. So, an attics’ vertical height can range from 30 inches to 7ft plus. 

How Do You Know If Your Attic Can Be Converted?

If you need more living space, but you really don’t want to leave your current home, you may be wondering whether your attic can be converted. After all, the possibilities for the extra space are endless. The best way to find out is to hire a contractor to evaluate your attic for you. However, to get a general idea, some of the main requirements can be assessed by you.

Weight Bearing

Unfinished private dwelling house

Before you jump into converting your attic space, you will need to figure out whether the frame is designed to hold an adequate amount of weight. Most attics aren’t designed to hold the weight necessary to make the attic a livable space, so you’ll likely have to add in some more structural support. Fortunately, there are ways to do this, so not all hope is lost. 

Livable Space Requirements

Architecture interiors, modern house

You’ll also need to make sure your attic has enough space to convert. Any livable spaces in a home should meet the building code. For an attic to be converted to livable space, your attic will need to have a usable area with a minimum of 70 sqft with ceilings at least 5ft tall. Of the livable space, another fifty percent will need to have ceilings at least 7ft tall. You can install skylights or a dormer to increase the space. 

Stairs

Attic interior

Don’t forget to consider how you’ll get into the attic. You should plan to install a permanent set of stairs leading up to the attic. You’ll need to make sure there’s plenty of space on the story below to do this. 

Windows

Attic modern bedroom with white bed and skylight

For an attic to be considered livable, it must also meet code requirements for windows. This is mostly in case of a fire. Your attic will need to have enough windows to account for at least 8% of the square footage and should open to the outside. 

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Is An Attic Considered A Story?

If you look at any home listing, you’ll notice most homes are listed as one or two-story buildings. These homes often include attics as well. However, attics are not considered a story unless they meet the requirements to be considered a story.

For an attic to be considered a story, the roofline must be higher than the windows. Since most converted attics have skylights or dormers on their slanted ceilings, they are often classed as half-stories. 

If an attic isn’t considered a story, can it be considered a bedroom? Check out another one of our blog posts to answer: Does An Attic Count As A Bedroom?

Is It Code To Have Attic Access?

You’ve probably realized by now that there are codes for everything when it comes to homes. That includes attic access. It is code for any building with an attic greater than thirty square feet with a vertical height of more than 30 inches to have access to the attic. Any attic less than this size does not need to have attic access, though it can still be beneficial. 

Do All Houses Have Access To Attics?

As we mentioned above, some homes are not required to have access to the attic. Attics that are less than thirty sqft and have less than 30 inches of height between the top and bottom are not required to have access. 

Even though they should as per building code, sometimes homes that do not meet the requirement still do not have access to the attic. Homes are not often built without access to the attic. Therefore, it often means the previous attic access has been covered up for some reason or another.

Not having access to an attic can be indicative of a fire in the past. The previous homeowner may have drywalled over the damaged wood and attic access to conceal the home’s history. If you are in the process of purchasing a home, make sure you or an inspector locates the entry to the attic so that it can be properly inspected. 

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Final Thoughts

Attic with wooden beams inside a new house under construction

You’re less likely to see attics in newer homes mainly due to new construction methods. If you do have an attic and want to convert it to a living space, hopefully, our article has offered some insight into what might be required. It’s always best to contact a professional to be sure you are following all building codes. Good luck!

For more reading on the topic of attics, check out our other blog post: 5 Types Of Attics You Should Know.

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