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posted: 6/15/2013 4:00 AM

Attic space over garage is not counted as bedroom

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By Dwight Barnett

Q. We listed our home as having four bedrooms. After it was inspected, we were informed we could list only three bedrooms because the room over the garage did not have a door. This has lowered the value of the home. If we were to add a door, could we again list the home as having four bedrooms?

A. The simple answer is yes, as long as the room also has an operable window that is no higher than 44 inches from the floor and has a minimum opening width of 20 inches and a minimum opening height of 22 inches. This is the requirement for an emergency egress window, as bedrooms must have two potential exits in case of fire.

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A bedroom also requires a closet and, because the room will be considered an addition, the room will require a smoke alarm. Also, make sure the door opens into the room and not over a step.

You must be describing a two-car garage because the attic space of a one-car garage is not wide enough, even with a steep-pitched roof, to have a living space above it. All too often, I find a garage attic that has been converted to a bedroom or a bonus room without giving consideration to how much weight the floor can support for a 22-foot span. A typical garage attic floor is designed to support the weight of the garage ceiling only.

To convert the attic to a livable room, the attic floor will need to be reconstructed to support the weight of floor's covering, the furniture and the occupants. A typical 22-foot wide garage will have 2-by-8-inch ceiling joists set 16 inches apart. To convert the attic to a room, the floor joists will need to be replaced with 2-by-12-inch select wood joists set 12 inches apart or a beam and posts will have to be added in the garage to support the existing 2-by-8-inch ceiling joists.

Before adding a door, have the floor joists inspected further by a qualified home inspector, contractor or engineer.

• Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.

Scripps Howard News Service

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