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Other than Brewing => The Pub => Topic started by: phillamb168 on December 01, 2010, 01:41:01 pm

Title: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 01, 2010, 01:41:01 pm
Hey everybody,

The wife and I are thinking about refinishing our attic to be a family room, with a part set aside for a keezer and some pub-y stuff. Anyone have experience doing this? We've got a slate roof that's uninsulated (the house is about 150 years old), and would need to of course repair some leaks in the roof first. There's 50 m2 of space (500 sq feet ish) available, which I feel like is enough. One other point, and you may call me crazy: we're renting. Our landlord lives next door and is a super cool guy, and we're on a standard 3x3 French lease, which is to say, we're locked in for 9 years with 3-year intervals for renewals, rent increases, etc. Before doing ANYTHING I'd get something written that guarantees he wouldn't jack our rent or kick us out to try to get more money for the place (although there are laws in place that make it really difficult for him to do something like that). As I said he's a cool guy, so I'm not really worried about it, but I figure it'd be good form to do it anyway. We've already done a bit of refinishing in the basement (knocked out a brick-supported old old old sink, and installed a whole-house filtration/anti-hard-water system) that cost us about 700 euros, he didn't bat an eye although I assume he was pretty happy.

Am I crazy?
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: kerneldustjacket on December 01, 2010, 01:58:02 pm
No, you're not crazy. Assuming you will be in the house for something like 5 years or more, then you should get a return on your "investment." Which is to say, if you look at how much you'll spend and then look at how long you'll get enjoyment from it, then it may indeed be worth it. Heck, if the "per-hour" enjoyment you get from it is less than the cost of a family trip to a movie -- popcorn, drinks and all -- then you're certainly ahead!

<snip> Before doing ANYTHING I'd get something written that guarantees he wouldn't jack our rent or kick us out to try to get more money for the place (although there are laws in place that make it really difficult for him to do something like that). As I said he's a cool guy, so I'm not really worried about it, but I figure it'd be good form to do it anyway.<snip>


I've heard a story where a guy's son was renting a house that was in need of extensive repainting. So he asked the landlord if it was OK for them to do it, using their own money. Landlord said "sure!"
When it was done, the landlord tripled the rent, claiming "I can get more for it than what you're paying." His son refused and moved out, and they lost the money they spent repainting the place.
But that was here in the US and things may be different there, both in terms of laws and landlord attitude.

Good luck...and post pics if you do it!
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: oscarvan on December 01, 2010, 03:05:54 pm
I know things are different in Europe, but human nature is human nature. I would visit Monsieur l'avocat (or Madame as the case may be) and get advice. Maybe draw up a very simple piece of paper that spells out who can, and will do what, and what not.

Peace of mind for a few Euros.

After that, have at it. Insulation is #1. Working under slate is tricky. The slate needs to breathe so you can't go right up to it. But, 4 or 5 centimeters is enough. I would think a foil faced foam board installed between the rafters and then finish it across the rafters with either a gypsum board or tongue and groove wood. You'll need heating too. Since you're so close to the roof you may be able to install a thermal solar panel. (depending on orientation). Wouldn't that be cool......"green" beer.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: Mikey on December 01, 2010, 03:20:48 pm
I've had rental property over the years and I never had renters offer to do extensive remodeling, as you described. In most cases I wouldn't have trusted them to do it anyway.

If it was me, I'd never put money into someone else's investment. If the landlord was willing to reduce the rent by at least the cost of the materials alone, then I might possibly be tempted, but probably not.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: Malticulous on December 01, 2010, 03:33:59 pm
I've thought about doing something with my attic. The ceiling joyce are much too small to support a floor. Framing and subfloor would be most of the work.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 01, 2010, 03:53:56 pm
I've thought about doing something with my attic. The ceiling joyce are much too small to support a floor. Framing and subfloor would be most of the work.

Thankfully mine's already finished and "walkable."

I know things are different in Europe, but human nature is human nature. I would visit Monsieur l'avocat (or Madame as the case may be) and get advice. Maybe draw up a very simple piece of paper that spells out who can, and will do what, and what not.

Peace of mind for a few Euros.

After that, have at it. Insulation is #1. Working under slate is tricky. The slate needs to breathe so you can't go right up to it. But, 4 or 5 centimeters is enough. I would think a foil faced foam board installed between the rafters and then finish it across the rafters with either a gypsum board or tongue and groove wood. You'll need heating too. Since you're so close to the roof you may be able to install a thermal solar panel. (depending on orientation). Wouldn't that be cool......"green" beer.

Yup, that's the idea - get a lawyer to make things 'tres propre.' For heating, I was actually thinking about going with a wood-fired stove since it doesn't need to be hot all the time in there - http://www.castorama.fr/store/Poele-a-bois-HF-3930-PRDm993298.html?navAction=push&navCount=19&categoryId=cat_id_370&sortByValue=&isSearchResult= (http://www.castorama.fr/store/Poele-a-bois-HF-3930-PRDm993298.html?navAction=push&navCount=19&categoryId=cat_id_370&sortByValue=&isSearchResult=)

Solar panels are a great idea, but I dunno if the roof can handle the weight. Eventually I want to build my own house, colonial row-house style, somewhere near here, but land prices are $$ and building materials are $$$,$$$,$$$,$$$.$$ so that project is a ways off - once I do it, though, I'm definitely using solar and putting up a wind turbine. Construction material costs are the real trouble, honestly, and it's high on my list of reasons I miss the US and A.

Oh, yeah - I forgot to mention, in the vein of modifications - I built a deck on the property already. Wood is SUPER EXPENSIVE here, I used treated polish pine and it came out to about 900 euros for wood alone. I remember a Lowes quote at something like $200. Here's the finished product:

(http://www.philliplamb.com/deck.jpg)

So, he knows I do a good job when I go to do something, so hopefully that'll swing in my favor.

If it was me, I'd never put money into someone else's investment. If the landlord was willing to reduce the rent by at least the cost of the materials alone, then I might possibly be tempted, but probably not.

Yeah, that's one thing for sure - I'll ask him to split the costs with me, by rent reduction if necessary.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: oscarvan on December 01, 2010, 04:35:19 pm
For heating, I was actually thinking about going with a wood-fired stove since it doesn't need to be hot all the time in there -

Don't know how much frost you get, but if you're going to have liquids up there....
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: MrNate on December 01, 2010, 05:45:24 pm
For heating, I was actually thinking about going with a wood-fired stove since it doesn't need to be hot all the time in there - http://www.castorama.fr/store/Poele-a-bois-HF-3930-PRDm993298.html?navAction=push&navCount=19&categoryId=cat_id_370&sortByValue=&isSearchResult= (http://www.castorama.fr/store/Poele-a-bois-HF-3930-PRDm993298.html?navAction=push&navCount=19&categoryId=cat_id_370&sortByValue=&isSearchResult=)

So you're thinking about using a fuel that, by your own admission, is regionally scarce and expensive? I'm just sayin.

Is any fuel cheap there?
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: oscarvan on December 01, 2010, 06:38:48 pm
Lumber is scarce......dead branches are not.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 01, 2010, 06:42:32 pm
Lumber is scarce......dead branches are not.

Yup, exactly. And re liquids, it doesn't get that cold up there because warm air rises and my radiator returns go up through there. It's cold but never freezing. Plus, most of the liquids I'll have up there will have alcohol in them which lowers the freezing point ;-)
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: EHall on December 01, 2010, 08:03:21 pm
I'm with Mikey, why would you want to invest in someone else's property?! Save your money so you can get your own place sooner. How much of these improvement do you get to take with you?
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 01, 2010, 09:19:32 pm
I'm with Mikey, why would you want to invest in someone else's property?! Save your money so you can get your own place sooner. How much of these improvement do you get to take with you?

Thr reason I was even thinking about doing this is because I thought the price wouldn't be more than €5-7k - and it's going to cost us about €400k to build a house - so I was thinking that if we're in the place for 9 years and it costs no more than even 10k, that's only 1k per year, which isn't too bad. I see what you're saying but there's (I think) an order of magnitude of difference between what  this'll cost me versus the cost of te home. Again maybe I'm lowballing the work needed... If it's more than 10k I ain't doing it.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: tschmidlin on December 01, 2010, 10:31:19 pm
Thr reason I was even thinking about doing this is because I thought the price wouldn't be more than €5-7k - and it's going to cost us about €400k to build a house - so I was thinking that if we're in the place for 9 years and it costs no more than even 10k, that's only 1k per year, which isn't too bad. I see what you're saying but there's (I think) an order of magnitude of difference between what  this'll cost me versus the cost of te home. Again maybe I'm lowballing the work needed... If it's more than 10k I ain't doing it.
I think as long as you can get the landlord to sign an agreement that he cannot raise the rent based on improvements that you've made, then the enjoyment you'll get out of it for the next 9 years is worth it.  The amount you're talking about spending is a small fraction of what you need to save anyway.  Just consider how long it will delay your goal to spend the money now - adding 3 or 6 months to the end of a 9 year wait doesn't sound terrible considering the benefits, adding 2 years does.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: weazletoe on December 01, 2010, 11:30:05 pm
When we lived back in Ohio, my mancave was in the attic. I'll tell you from experience, it gets cold in the winter, and cold in the summer. If I were you, I'd put the brakes on the wood stove idea. Holly is an ibsurance agent, and she knows form dealing with it, unless the house was built with the idea of having a stove, you insurance will be null and void should anything happen. In my old mancave, I put a 40$ electric heater in there, from Wal-Mart. I kept it on low all day, and turned it up, when I was in it. It was comfortable. In the summer, I put a small window a/c unit at one end, and a fan at the other end, to pull the hot air out, and cool ait across the room. It was bearable this way. It was also insulated very well, wich is something you must do. If you heat your attic, and are not insulated properly, snow will melt on the roof, and the water can run down into the walls, freezing there, or behind the gutters, and pull them down. Again, insurance is off the hook, because it is a flaw in the workmanship.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 02, 2010, 10:04:16 am
When we lived back in Ohio, my mancave was in the attic. I'll tell you from experience, it gets cold in the winter, and cold in the summer. If I were you, I'd put the brakes on the wood stove idea. Holly is an ibsurance agent, and she knows form dealing with it, unless the house was built with the idea of having a stove, you insurance will be null and void should anything happen. In my old mancave, I put a 40$ electric heater in there, from Wal-Mart. I kept it on low all day, and turned it up, when I was in it. It was comfortable. In the summer, I put a small window a/c unit at one end, and a fan at the other end, to pull the hot air out, and cool ait across the room. It was bearable this way. It was also insulated very well, wich is something you must do. If you heat your attic, and are not insulated properly, snow will melt on the roof, and the water can run down into the walls, freezing there, or behind the gutters, and pull them down. Again, insurance is off the hook, because it is a flaw in the workmanship.

The house was built with wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys on both sides, so I know it's had wood burned in it before. But that's a great piece of advice, to check with our insurance first. Thanks!

For summer, I'm not too worried. We get about a week of an 85-degree "heat wave" and then it settles to 75-78 for the entire summer, so I think I'll be ok. Sure beats the heck out of the Arkansas summers I grew up with. 90 deg f, 70% humidity. No thanks.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: oscarvan on December 02, 2010, 10:24:18 am
Ya'all need to realize this is happening in another country. Blanket statements that apply in the US re. land lords, insurance etc do not apply. Many more people in Europe do not own their homes. My grandparents lived in the same rental home for 50+ years. and spent money on the place several times.There are strict regulations regarding rents, raising rents etc etc.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: EHall on December 02, 2010, 03:53:01 pm
You're saying 400 euros to build a new house, understood. Is it possible to buy a 'used' house there? There's gotta be houses on the market for sale that are much lower priced?! And do you get a mortgage over there to buy a house like you do here?
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 02, 2010, 04:21:16 pm
You're saying 400 euros to build a new house, understood. Is it possible to buy a 'used' house there? There's gotta be houses on the market for sale that are much lower priced?! And do you get a mortgage over there to buy a house like you do here?


Oh you can for sure find stuff lower than that, but here's an example of what you can get for less, nearby my current house:

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobilieres/158139270.htm?ca=12_s
http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobilieres/121289264.htm?ca=12_s
http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobilieres/101540577.htm?ca=12_s

The thing is, if I'm going to spend upwards of 350k on buying something that already exists, I want it to be the house of my dreams. These houses are most definitely not that. What I want to do, in the end, is build an American colonial row-style house with a wraparound porch and lots of yard space. Anything that was built around here after 1945 has the same aesthetic appeal as cranberry sauce shaken from a can.

Mortgage, yup. But given the global economy, I want to put at least 50% down before I buy something.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: Mikey on December 02, 2010, 05:07:11 pm
From a resale point, wouldn't building an American style, colonial house be risky? Seems like the locals might frown on that.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 02, 2010, 06:23:07 pm
From a resale point, wouldn't building an American style, colonial house be risky? Seems like the locals might frown on that.

It wouldn't be something I'd want to ever resell.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: EHall on December 02, 2010, 08:31:55 pm
Cmon now! You don't like purple kitchens?! So are you going to be able to find a piece of land to build your dream house on in that area... I'm assuming there's alot of farmland around? is it even possible to zone it out for what you want? and whats wrong with buying one of these existing houses and remodling it a bit? You seem to like to remodel....
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: weazletoe on December 03, 2010, 12:42:45 am

The house was built with wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys on both sides, so I know it's had wood burned in it before. But that's a great piece of advice, to check with our insurance first. Thanks!

For summer, I'm not too worried. We get about a week of an 85-degree "heat wave" and then it settles to 75-78 for the entire summer, so I think I'll be ok. Sure beats the heck out of the Arkansas summers I grew up with. 90 deg f, 70% humidity. No thanks.

It's not even so much the chimney that is the concern, but what is on the walss where the wood burner will be placed. Also, keep in mind, 75* outside, means 90* or better in the attic. I'm you'll get it all straight and be comfortable.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: capozzoli on December 03, 2010, 12:46:42 am
I love cranberry sauce shaken from the can.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: weazletoe on December 03, 2010, 01:41:15 am
I like turtles.
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: EHall on December 03, 2010, 04:24:09 am
I have a turtle head poking out!
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: phillamb168 on December 09, 2010, 01:24:43 pm
A quick update - we had dinner with the Landlord the other night and talked about our plans. He was planning on redoing the entire attic and putting plumbing, new windows, etc sometime in the next five years. Basically, we offered to pay for up to 10k of the cost (which may end up being +- half of the total cost) in exchange for our rent not being raised for the duration of our lease. Obviously we need to get it in writing, but this seems like a pretty good deal to me. 10k spread over 8 years is about 100 per month, which would be less than what the rent would go to otherwise, since adding an extra floor to a house would bump it up 300-500 per month, typically. What do you think? Is it a good deal?
Title: Re: Finishing an attic
Post by: tschmidlin on December 12, 2010, 08:58:09 am
It's up to you really - you've got to decide if it's worth it.  Although from my perspective your math is off, you've got to consider the payment plan and how much the money would be worth in 8 years if you invested it rather than spent it.  It still might be worth it to you, that's your call, it's just how I would think about it.