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Add space cautiously

Making headroom can be the biggest issue in an attic renovation. In a small or low-slope attic with little headroom, most of the sloping main roof could be raised to create a single, nearly full-length dormer. This job involves some serious structural considerations because dormers interrupt roof rafters, which have to be reinforced. Before you commit to a dormer design, make sure you understand the impact. Some of the most visually appealing changes may not work in your situation or require expensive modifications.

Other attic considerations include ventilation and heat. Both have to be very effective or the space won't be comfortable. If you will use the area for a bedroom, add a bathroom as well. Going up and down the steps during the night might be OK for some members of the family, but others will find that trip difficult.

Good attic designs in . also take into account the special need for safety consciousness when you use isolated living space. Consider fire escape ladders, wired-in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, safety lights that come on if the power fails and accessible fire extinguishers. While all of these are good ideas in any part of the house, they are especially important on a third floor without a direct escape route.

Another issue worth thinking about is flooring that will muffle upstairs traffic above second-floor bedrooms.