Remodeling Plans: The Attic Or The Basement?

As soon as we found out we were expecting Baby #2, we knew “more space in this house” was something we wanted to pursue in order to better accommodate our growing family — and over the past few weeks, we’ve gone through a number of plans, backup plans, and setbacks in trying to make this happen.

Firstly, the goal: we would ideally like to add two bedrooms and a bathroom. This may sound like a little more than we actually need — one extra bedroom would mean enough for us, Lillian, and baby to each have our own room, and the bathroom arguably isn’t necessary — but we’re trying to think about space and comfort for staying in this house for the long term.

Right off the bat, we knew that a major remodeling project would not be the sort of thing we could reasonably expect to DIY, what with us being busy working parents with virtually nonexistent construction skills (not to mention all the permit and building code related stuff to navigate). So we started shopping around for some local remodeling companies, and have 95% settled on one in particular we’d like to work with.

When it came to the question of attic vs. basement, the basement seemed like the easier way to go — due to the lack of headroom, the attic would require work on the roof to add dormers or otherwise make it higher, plus the existing floor up there wasn’t really designed to do anything but hold up the ceiling, so that would require some work to reinforce as well. The basement, on the other hand, wouldn’t need any structural work at all, just the interior finishing and reconfiguration.

(A photo of our basement with an imagined reconfiguration poorly superimposed on top.)

(A photo of our basement with an imagined reconfiguration poorly superimposed on top.)

We got as far as drawing up plans and applying for a home improvement loan before realizing the extent to which rooms added to the basement don’t actually add much of anything home value wise. Apparently rooms below grade don’t count, and when the appraisal based on the proposed basement improvements came back at almost the same value as our house is currently, the loan wasn’t approved.

So that was a bit of a setback. Plan B is to do an attic improvement instead, and despite being more involved structurally (and therefore more costly), it should at least “count” in the sense of adding to the value of the house. And that part is important, since we know there’s no way we can afford a project of this scale without a home improvement loan of some sort, and a bank is very unlikely to approve a loan for construction that doesn’t actually add to the value of the house.

The downside is that we’re effectively starting over from scratch, losing the precious weeks we spent pursuing the basement changes. But the upside is that the attic was really our first choice to expand into, and cheaping out was the only reason we passed on it in the first place — so in a way, the change in plans is actually kind of a good thing. (Aside from that one little detail about how we’re on a bit of a deadline — unfortunately it’s looking less and less likely that any hypothetical remodeling work will be completed in time for baby’s arrival!)

So that’s where things stand now. At this point everything’s still up in the air, and it’s yet to be fully determined how feasible this will be for us right now, especially as far as the loan and financial aspects are concerned. But we should know more in the next few weeks, and I’m sure I’ll blog all about whatever ends up happening!


  1. Well, that’s kind of a bummer, to get that far and then get a setback. But I know it will work out in the end. You’re doing the right thing, to consider all your options, and make good choices. I’m proud of both of you! Love You!

  2. I agree. It’s good to take it slow and do all the research before making a final decision. Bill does that before making a major purchase, and things always turn out great. I have every confidence that whatever decision you make will be great! Love to you all!

  3. Remember that children, especially those only 2-3 years apart in age, have been sharing bedrooms for ages without any problem! Well, except for the occasional swat on the rear meant for the sibling who just “swapped beds” with you (ask Grammy Lyle about that story)! You are doing the most important thing – taking what steps you can, and NOT GETTING DISCOURAGED. The older I get, the more I find that while I rarely end up where I PLANNED, I somehow always end up where I need to be. Good luck, and whatever you build, I am sure Lillian and little sib will have wonderful memories of growing up with it, because it was built with love!

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