Large Bedroom and Hallway Upgrades

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From adding a bay window to creating a master bedroom suite with bath, the large upgrades described here can transform a bedroom into a cozy, private retreat. Adding a skylight to a dark hallway can create a bright, airy passageway. Large upgrades cost more than $4,000, although some can be completed in a day or two.

Installing a Bay Window

Replacing an existing window, a bay window is an attractive way to bring more natural light and views into the bed room. There are few places that ne would rather be on a cold, rainy day than curled up on a nay window seat surrounded by fluffy pillows and engrossed in a good novel. At times like this a bay window is a perfect hideaway.

A bay window can also serve as a delightful place to display a collection of dolls or stuffed animals, making it the focal point of the bedroom.

Installing a bay window is considerably more difficult than installing a conventional window, primarily because it projects out from the exterior wall and often requires special framing and a roof. Bay windows that contain window seats must also have adequate underpinnings.

Most bay windows are constructed of wood, although some are made of aluminum. Like other wood, windows, bay windows are available with aluminum- or vinyl-clad exteriors for low maintenance. Prefabricated metal or copper roofs are another option.

Unless you’re experienced with these kinds of projects, installing a bay window is best left to a professional.

Adding a Skylight in a Hall

In most hallways, which are interior and have no windows, the only means of letting in natural light is a skylight. It can transform a dark, uninteresting passageway into a cheerful space.

A 2-foot-square skylight is all that's necessary in a short hallway. For longer passage- ways, you may need to add a skylight at each end to create a bright space. If you need added ventilation, install an openable, or ventilating, sky light. It can exhaust unpleasant and musty odors and create a better air flow in summer.

In a house with a sloped roof and a central hallway (that is, a hallway that's not on an outside wall), the hallway is likely to be under the highest point of the roof. This necessitates a tunnel, or chase, that extends from the ceiling of the hallway through the attic to the roof. In most cases the chase will range from 6 to 8 feet in length. You can minimize the tunnel effect by flaring the sky light at the ceiling opening. For example, the opening at the ceiling can be 2 feet by 3 feet, tapering to the roof opening (the skylight itself) of 2 feet by 2 feet. For hallways wider than the typical 3 feet, the ceiling opening can be 3 feet by 3 feet.

To ensure an installation that's energy efficient, the entire perimeter of the chase should be wrapped with R-30 fiberglass insulation, from the ceiling to the roof, and the sky light itself should contain more than one layer of glazing. A double-dome acrylic-lens sky light with a bronze, anodized aluminum sash is a good choice. These are widely produced and hence offer the biggest selection of sizes and lens styles: clear, tinted, or opaque.

You must install adequate roof and ceiling support for the skylight in order to maintain the structural integrity of the house. In addition, you may need to relocate plumbing, heating, and wiring to make room for the chase. It is also important that the skylight be installed with proper flashing, which usually includes top and bottom saddles, custom fabricated by a sheet-metal shop, and step flashing for the sides. Due to the complexity of the installation, this project is best left to a professional.

Installing French Doors

All the details involved in installing a sliding glass door apply to French doors as well. French doors, which are usually made of wood, can give a bedroom an elegant look that's hard to achieve with an aluminum sliding glass door.

French doors constructed of wood are sold in a variety of finishes. Whereas wood is the most common interior finish, the exterior can be clad with vinyl or aluminum. Clad exteriors have become increasingly popular due to their handsome appearance and their excellent weather resistance. Clad exteriors are more expensive but are worth the added cost because of the ongoing maintenance and painting that wood requires.

French doors cost about one third more than aluminum sliding glass doors, due mostly to the initial cost of the doors in addition to the need for painting and hardware. However, the return is more than double that of aluminum sliding glass doors, because French doors are highly valued by potential home buyers.

Building a Closet Addition

A closet addition is the best way to increase storage space if a closet won’t fit into the existing floor plan.

One of the simplest and least expensive closet additions is a pop-out under the existing roof overhang of a one-story house. New construction is minimal: The existing over hang serves as the new closet roof, and using a raised floor allows the floor to be cantilevered rather than necessitating a foundation. A cantilever is also possible on a two-story house, but you should consult a structural engineer to deter mine whether additional sup port is needed.

Cantilever construction is used primarily on floors that are framed and where there is plenty of earth-to-wood clearance. With slab construction, which has no wood framing to cantilever, the slab is extended under the proposed addition and tied into the existing masonry.

Additions work best when the cantilever is 3 feet or less. A cantilever usually is not advised for larger additions, such as for a walk-in closet. This type of project would be handled just like a room addition and requires the same level of planning.

Among the considerations for a closet addition are setback requirements. The setback is the minimum distance a structure must be from the property line. These distances vary at different sides of the house and from neighborhood to neighborhood. A local building official can pro vide this information, as well as information about building permits, which may be required for this project.

Make an inventory of needs to determine how large the closet should be and how it will be organized. If other storage space is lacking in the house, you could make the closet addition large enough to hold linens, towels, luggage, and sporting equipment in addition to clothing.

Treat the interior and exterior of this addition like any other addition to the house— always match the existing finishes as closely as possible. This will ensure that the addition doesn’t look hastily tacked on but rather enhances both the value and appearance of the home.

A closet addition alone will probably not be cost-effective; however, when combined with a bedroom expansion or bath room addition, the relative cost of the closet addition will drop dramatically.

Adding a Bathroom

Bedrooms with a private bath—called bedroom suites— have become increasingly popular in order to meet the needs of the modern family. In fact, many families with older children or elderly parents living at home need more than one bedroom suite. The answer is to add a bathroom off an existing room. A likely place to look for bathroom space is under the attic stairs, if the bathroom door could open into the bedroom.

Since this project has become so popular, it's an improvement that not only makes a home more comfortable but also makes it exceedingly attractive to potential buyers.

Enlarging a Bedroom

The need for privacy, for work and study space in a bedroom, and for accommodating elderly parents are just a few of the reasons for expanding existing bedrooms.

The master bedroom in to day’s home has become a private sanctuary for relaxation and unwinding from a hectic work schedule. A sitting area with space to read, watch television, listen to music, or sip coffee in the morning is at the top of the list for master bed room expansion projects.

Tract homes are notorious for bedrooms that are so small that a bed and a dresser are the only major pieces of furniture that will fit into the room. Al though this may be tolerable when children are young, teen agers need more space—for a desk with space for a computer, space for a television and stereo, a place for books and other school-related material, and a place for hobbies.

If older or infirm parents should come to live in your home, part of what will make them feel safe and comfortable in their new surroundings is the ability to furnish their new space just as it was in their old home. Enlarging the bedroom and adding a private bath may be the answer. A couple of feet in one direction may be all that's required, or you may find that expanding in two directions is the only way to properly furnish the room.

Avoid creating a long bed room. It will look odd, be difficult to furnish, and diminish the value of the house. It would be wise to enlist the help of an architect, designer, or space planner to assist you in the design of the room.

The process of planning to enlarge a bedroom is an opportune time to consider many of the other improvements discussed in this section. For example, if the enlargement will involve removing a wall with a conventional window in it, consider replacing it with a bay window, a sliding glass door, or French doors. This is also a good time to consider additional closet space, built-in cabinetry, and new lighting.

Combining several projects into one major improvement saves money in the long run.

Converting a Spare Bedroom to a Home Office

Making a spare bedroom into a home office is an increasingly popular upgrade, especially for people who must work at home because they have small children or want to avoid commuting. A bonus is that commute time is converted into time for added productivity, relaxation, or time with the family.

Although this upgrade may not bring a high return at re sale, it can have a desirable and significant impact on your life style. It usually does not re quire any structural changes to the space. Following are some suggestions on where to start.

Additional electrical outlets will probably be required for various electronics, such as a computer, fax machine, copier, and typewriter. If possible, put computers on a separate circuit to help prevent data loss. The outlets should have surge protectors to prevent damage to the machinery itself as well as loss of data due to power surges.

You will probably need to add ceiling lighting. The best office lighting comes from surface-mounted fluorescent fixtures. Recessed lighting and surface-mounted track lighting can also be added.

You may also need to add telephone lines, one for a business telephone and the other to be shared by a modem and a fax machine.

Proper ventilation is a very important aspect of working in home office. The proper exchange of air will make the space more comfortable for the user and will provide adequate ventilation for electronics, which generate warm air. An openable window or door, a sent fan, or an air conditioner for the summer months will make the space a more comfortable and safe place in which to work.

Privacy is important to make home office an efficient work pace. The need to keep conversations confidential and keep out distracting noise is of prime importance. Replacing a single pane window or a sliding glass door with a double-pane window will not only diminish the amount of outside noise but will improve the energy efficiency and comfort of the space. A solid wood door in place of a hollow-core door will reduce noise infiltration from else where in the house. Installing a threshold and weather strip ping will further diminish sound transmission through the door.

For additional noise reduction, you can add a layer of ¾-inch wallboard to the walls as well as to the ceiling if there are rooms above the space. This can be done only to the walls that are potentially a problem, such as ones that adjoin a bath room, another bedroom, or a family room.

Plush carpet with a thick pad, and lined draperies will also quiet the space.

A built-in computer desk with pull-outs for a printer and keyboard can double as a writing desk in a room with limited space. Built-ins for books, manuals, and files are another added convenience that will help make a small room function well as a home office. Also consider replacing closet doors and shelving with built-ins or other office organization systems.


The homeowners minimized costs when transforming a spare room into this library by using paint-grade plywood and inexpensive doors, but top-quality paint and attention to detail, such as the bookcase trim and faux finish walls.

Adding a Fireplace

The addition of a fireplace is at the top of the list of home improvements in terms of cost versus value. Aside from the family room, the bedroom is one of the most popular places to install a fireplace. It makes the room a cozy place to spend time and unwind after a busy day. It can also add significantly to the comfort and energy efficiency of the room. With an insert, the fireplace can be used to heat an entire bedroom suite or bedroom wing of a house.

One of the most appealing aspects of this project is that it does not need to diminish the floor space in a room. The most economical way to proceed is with a cantilevered pop-out and a prefabricated metal firebox. This will require a minimum of structural work, which is expensive, yet will maintain the integrity of the house, both structurally and in terms of appearance.

Obviously, a small amount of wall space will be lost to the fireplace, but this can be a minor trade-off when plenty of other wall space exists.

Converting an Attic Space to a Bedroom

One of the easiest ways to gain additional space for a bedroom is by converting unused attic space. The requirements are a steeply sloped roof and a convenient place to locate the stairs. Converting the attic is an especially important alternative for homeowners who need added space but can’t add on to the house because of setback requirements or lack of space.

An important consideration is whether the house can sup port the additional floor load. This and other pertinent questions can be answered by an architect, a design-and-build contractor, or a structural engineer. Because of the complexity of this project, you should con- suit one or more of these professionals to determine its feasibility, even if it will be a do-it-yourself improvement. See below for other issues to consider when planning such a conversion.



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Updated: Saturday, March 12, 2011 6:52