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Question DetailsAsked on 1/11/2018

How much to remove two trusses to build closet in attic?

We are wanting to build a walk-in closet behind our bathroom into the attic. We will have to remove two trusses. It is on the second level over the garage and we will not be changing the roofline. We are doing it so that we can convert our current master closet into a laundry room compared to a hallway closet.

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Because you are talking modifying structural elements, you need to have an Architect or Structural Engineer design the replacement support over the garage - and in most area to get a building permit you will need plans from an architect or engineer anyway, plus need them for the contractor to actully do the work. And you undoubtedly have an architect doing drawings for the piping and venting and electrical for the new laundry room, too.

"Removing" trusses for something like this is a MAJOR undertaking, and would require partly removing the roofing as well. I would talk to an architect about not only how to approach this, but also to be sure you are not doing something illegal or whih could dramatically affect your home value. For instance, in most areas, to be a legla (hence listable as such in the bedroom count come resale time) a room has to have a second egress in a differnt wall than the normal doorway, AND have a same-floor closet, so if this is going to be a step-up or step-down closet that might impact that situation.

Also, in some areas a house with 2 or more bedrooms is required to have a "hall" closet too - so converting that to a laundry room might violate that rule. An architect will much more up to speed on zoning code requirements like than a structural engineer. And can also help you with any HOA or condo association issues related to this.

The new closet, because it will be walked into, may likely need reinforcing some of the framing over the garage because that is normally not designed to be walked on, sonew floor joists and flooring will likely be required.

Now - as to the "remove trussses" - for something as small as a closeet, especially if not a large walk-in, I would be looking at modifying the trusses, ideally building just inside wo of them on the "walls" of the closet, and modifying the one or two which are currently occupying the closet space so they can carry the load OK but do not interfere with the closet spece. I have even seen this done once where the "interior" trusses were only slightly modified to provide entrance headroom, but the trusses themselves towards the center and back of the closet were unmodified and were jsut encapsulated by panelling with shoe racks and sock bins and such mounted to it - acting as a "bin and rack partition" interior to the closet, to avoid the cost of removing/moving the truss. Generally, removing part of one truss is not a terribly big thing - comonly done to put in large skylights for instance, though even that can require additional trusses in heavy snow country. Taking out two adjacent trusses is a much bigger thing, especially in snow or hurricane country, and most especially if you are trying to get so close to the roof that normal rafters or top chords of trusses cannot stay under the roof sheathing- commonly a sloping wall in the room or closet is used to retain the necessary clearance for rafters and ventilation under the roof..

Doing something like this can be cheap as a thousand or two $ in the best case (plus the probably $1000-2000 or so you are putting into the laundry room conversion of the hall closet) - can also run into the many thousands similar to what one would spend to build an entirely new room there- in difficult instances or with a large walk-in closet, potentially $10,000 ballpark plus any special cost involved in fitting out the closet interior itself (a la California Closet or such).

Also, insulation if the garage attic is not fully integrated into the house HVAC "conditioned space" - very, very rarely is. Also, you will need to be careful this closet is airtight and insulated or course, and that it does not block airflow through the attic. Also, you may need to ensure a more "open" design than normal to the room like a doorless walk-in, because if you put doors on it without deliberate ventilation (like a small HVAC duct to it) it will become dead air and may cause clothes mold/mildew from moisture accumulation against the colder outside walls and ceiling (and maybe floor if garage is unheated) -certainly have spacer strips or better yet lattice put in to keep the clothes away from the walls and provide airspace and protection from heat and cold. This sort of "outside the space" closet can be a real problem, especially in very hot or cold or damp climates- I hae seen some turn in actual mold farms - both in hot (think deep south or sticky hot midwest) and in wet (pacific Northwest) and cold (northern states situations, if not properly ventilated and provided with conditioned air circulation.

Also, you may need to replace/overlay the drywall in the garage and seal any ceiling penetrations, because while before you did not have living space over it now you will (the closet, being connected to the bedroom, is "living space") - so the drywall ceiling in the garage has to be properly fire rated - commonly 5/8" or 1/2" or in some areas even (rarely) 3/4" Type X (fire rated) rather than the maybe 3/8" or even 1/4" (and possibly not fire rated) drywall you might have now with only an unused attic over it. Generally, the fire code does not get too concerned with attics over garages catcdhing on fire if the garage does, as long as there is a fire rated wall between that attic and the main house attic over living spaces. Put "living space" over the garage and now you have to have full fire-rated ceiling just like the existing fire-rated common wall with the house now.

Any penetrations by pipes or electrical wires into the attic will also now have to be fire caulked, and if plastic pipes maybe have fire-protective sleeves put on them.


One other recommendation with a presumably upper-story laundry room, to protect against flooding, is use an automatic electric (turns on when washer is running) shutoff on the water taps, or at least self-limiting hoses to limit the amount of leakage in the event of a washer hose break or washer leakor overflow. I also recommend waterproof interior wall finishes or highly water resistant paint, and a waterproof floor with 4 inch or higher bullnose base all around - preferably tile or such with a front lip or sill at the front door to retain any flooding/ Though some people taking thios sort of precaution use free-floating laminate or such with a heavy water barrier under it, others (though this does NOT protect against faucet or all hose leak sources) put a catch pan under the washer like is commonly done with water heaters. Use plastic to avoid massive rattling during the spin cycle, and put rubber padding under the feet so they do not wear through the pan when the washer vibrates in the spin cycle.

I then run a 3" or larger floor drain and pipe down from it to a convenient place - sometimes to a ground floor or basement floor drain, but commonly to the outside. Cannot go to a sewer line unless you put in a trap and a deliberate trickle flow to it to keep the trap filled (because this pipe will normally be dry), which can be a hassle. (In most areas, this sort of flood water drainage directly to the outside is allowed for "graywater" like dishwashers and washing machines, just like if an overflow ran out of the wall onto the ground by itself) - but that owuld have to be confirmed for your area. I put a slide-off insect screen on the outlet which will pop off if the screen clogs with lint or such so pipe does not back up in the event of flooding. This detail can protect against a LOT of interior damage in the event of washer or washer supply pipe/hose failulre, especially when the laundry is sitting above other living space, but also in slab-on-grade homes where leakage can spread rapidly throughout the house on the slab.

Now - one other alternative to discuss with the architect, especially if looking at just a normal size closet - the cheapest solution, if visually acceptable from outside and legal with respect to setbacks and such, might be to just "hang" a closet on the outside of the building, as a bump-out to an exterior wall - which might be one-story, or you might carry it down as a downstairs closet space right below it as well. A 3-4 foot deep bumpout with say 5-6 foot wide doorway to it might well be cheaper than modifying the trusses, and carries much less structural risk, and does not involve turning the garage attic into a living space, which can be a fire code compliance nightmare in some areas. Bumpout closets like this have the same potentiall moisture/cold issues as an attic closet, but adequate insulation and provisions for ventilation, (at least top and bottom louvered doors, for instance - preferably full face louvers) can handle that. Actually, asimilar laundry room alternative might also be in the picture - done similarly but needs a bit more support under it, and in cold areas needs excellent insulation on the outside of any pipes in the exterior walls, but might work out better for you - plus potential flooding drainage control is much simpler.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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