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Old 06-22-2012, 01:33 AM
 
Location: Warren, OH
2,747 posts, read 3,627,716 times
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And which is less expensive? Finishing an attic or a basement?

Saw a really nice home today. It's price was obscenely low. It had an original kitchen with yellow red and black tiles. Stained glass windows flanking an art deco fire place and two more in the dining room. Four bedrooms.

HUGE Living family room and formal DR. Great spacious foyer. Really nice 1920s home. I think it's a 4 square house.

Draw backs - ONE BATH! And we would need a family room so we'd need to finish the attic or the basement. Both are stand-up and the attic is floored.

It's a tempting house at under 60 thousand. Even for this area that's low. Not sure what to do.
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:49 AM
 
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I live in PA so my answer will probably be the most accurate you'll get compared to people who live in higher cost of living areas.

Finishing the attic will be easy. It's just a matter of installing and finishing drywall, and having wiring run for electrical outlets and switches. If we did this ourselves in a normal Pennsylvania 4 square, it would cost well under $1500 in materials. If you hire someone, count on them charging a few thousand. The basement would be more expensive to finish for a family room because you would need to install studs before hanging the drywall. The attic already has the studs.

The bathroom will be the trickiest depending on where the water and sewer line are located in the house. It's not really clear where you would install it. Basement would be easiest and least expensive. If you put it in the 1st or 2nd floor, there will be additional costs of tearing out walls, matching existing woodwork, etc. The second floor would be more expensive than the first floor because you'd need more plumbing to get to the basement. The 3rd floor wouldn't have those additional expenses because it's unfinished, but it would require some work to be done on the 1st and 2nd floor for the plumbing. We priced toilets, sinks and bathtubs last week. They're are available at all price ranges. If you go low end, you can get a bathtub for under $200, a pedestal sink or small vanity with sink for $200, and a toilet for under $250. The main cost is going to be installation, drywall, finishing, tile, etc., and the plumbing will need to be run through the house which means that walls and trim in rooms on the 1st and second floor might need to be adapted, along with the ceiling in the room under the bathroom might need to be dropped to accomodate the plumbing.

I'd say you can hire someone to finish the attic with a full bathroom for under 10k-15k, as long as you stick with the cheapest materials and aren't having the bathroom fully tiled. I don't recommend finishing the basement for a family room since Pennsylvania basements tend to have water issues, but putting the bathroom down there would be the cheapest bathroom installation location for the house. So if money is an issue, it will be cheapest to put a bathroom in the basement and the family room in the attic.

Last edited by Hopes; 06-22-2012 at 06:06 AM..
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Old 06-22-2012, 06:23 AM
Status: "But in the aggregate..." (set 26 days ago)
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
31,330 posts, read 69,465,060 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warren zee View Post
And which is less expensive? Finishing an attic or a basement?
It's a tempting house at under 60 thousand. Even for this area that's low. Not sure what to do.
Unless there is some other space above the attic to lay in the R30 worth of insulation,
and otherwise provide for the ventilation you need from that space...
and of course the ceiling height and framing issues involved...
the only practical choice (which still has lots of limiting factors) is the basement.

Ceiling height? HVAC? Stairwell dimensions? Egress?
and of course the plumbing itself.

If most of the stars align in your favor it'll still be a LOT of labor hours...
and many thousands of dollars.
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Old 06-22-2012, 08:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MrRational View Post
Unless there is some other space above the attic to lay in the R30 worth of insulation,
and otherwise provide for the ventilation you need from that space...
and of course the ceiling height and framing issues involved...
the only practical choice (which still has lots of limiting factors) is the basement.

Ceiling height? HVAC? Stairwell dimensions? Egress?
and of course the plumbing itself.
You've never been inside a 100 year old four square, have you?

The attics have windows and normal stairwells. The ceiling height is substantial except on the sides. There's plenty of room for insulation between the roof and the drywall (and there is room for ventilation elsewhere). There is limited need for framing since the wall studs are already there (whereas, the basement will require full framing). And since the foundation is likely standstone, the basement is not the most practical solution for a family room by a long shot anyway.

The biggest attic drawback is heating and air conditioning. These houses usually have boilers and radiators and no air conditioning. The attics are usually comfortable in the winter without having a heating source but it's necessary to have heating available for the super cold days. It would be unwise to put a radiator up there because it would get too hot on most days. The best solution is a separate electrical baseboard heat that can be turned on and off as needed. Since most of these houses don't have central air, a window air conditioner is a must in the summer for the hottest days. Of course, if the house has central air, there will be the additional cost of ductwork, etc.

We finished the attic in our 100 year old house located in Pennsylvania so I know first hand.

Last edited by Hopes; 06-22-2012 at 08:40 AM..
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Old 06-22-2012, 08:59 AM
Status: "But in the aggregate..." (set 26 days ago)
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
31,330 posts, read 69,465,060 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopes View Post
You've never been inside a 100 year old four square, have you?
Nope. Not ever. Not even once in my entire life. How could you possibly know?

We finished the attic in our 100 year old house located in Pennsylvania so I know first hand.
Good for you.
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Old 06-22-2012, 09:07 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MrRational View Post
Nope. Not ever. Not even once in my entire life. How could you possibly know?
Because your entire post was a big clue that you didn't know how a 100 year old foursquare is built.
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Old 06-22-2012, 11:07 AM
 
Location: Johns Creek, GA
14,519 posts, read 54,794,690 times
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For a '20's 4sq I wouldn't even attempt to finish the basement- there's just no way it's going to be, or has been, bone dry.
The attic is the way to go. The only thing that would/could be an issue is egress. All the mechanicals can be done in one way or another.

To answer the questions-
"How expensive would it be to finish an attic or basement or add a bath?"
It would basically come down to how many sq/ft you would want to finish.
Sometimes "adding" a bath can be as expensive as a bare-bones basement finish. All the mechanicals are involved, +++.

And which is less expensive? Finishing an attic or a basement?
The basement. Exterior walls are existing- load bearing walls are usually NOT removed- everything is basically already in place- just a matter of finishes (d/wall, trim, paint, flooring, etc.).

An attic requires walls, windows, mechanicals, insulation, finishes, etc., etc.
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:09 PM
 
43,012 posts, read 97,919,296 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K'ledgeBldr View Post
For a '20's 4sq I wouldn't even attempt to finish the basement- there's just no way it's going to be, or has been, bone dry.
The attic is the way to go. The only thing that would/could be an issue is egress. All the mechanicals can be done in one way or another.
Totally agree. As I said, sandstone basements are not dry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by K'ledgeBldr View Post
And which is less expensive? Finishing an attic or a basement?
The basement. Exterior walls are existing- load bearing walls are usually NOT removed- everything is basically already in place- just a matter of finishes (d/wall, trim, paint, flooring, etc.).

An attic requires walls, windows, mechanicals, insulation, finishes, etc., etc.
So much of this is not true. I have finished basements and attics.

The basement needs studs before drywall is added. You can't put drywall right on sandstone. You need to frame in walls all around. Heck, we even needed to frame before drywall in a concrete block house foundation we once owned. You shouldn't put drywall right up against a foundation of any kind without framing. And basements don't normally already have insulation for the walls, but it's wise to add insulation if you are finishing it to use as living space.

The attic already has exterior walls, studs and windows. It only needs drywall. No walls need to be removed in an attic of a four square. The insulation should already be there. If it isn't, it would need to be done anyway to make the house energy efficient.
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Warren, OH
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Thanks! It is a Four Square and a typical PA four square. I sometimes get them mixed up with craftsman homes.

Checked with my wife.

The bathroom is between two upstairs bedrooms the ones that you face when you come upstairs. That would be pretty much over the Living room. Not a great place foe a half bath. The kitchen is small as it is and their is no laundry room. Typically around here the half bath would be in the laundry room. I know that may sound strange if you are not from PA. , but it's common here

What I can't understand is why the house was built with so much detail and ornamentation - the stained glass the staircase etc and only one bath. Many homes of this type have one and a half or even two baths.

The ceiling in the attic is high except around the eves. There are four dormers. The stair case to the attic is in the smallest bedroom which we'd use as a computer room/library guest room if we bought it.

The hardest thing remains the bathroom We would hate to see this original kitchen ripped out.
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Old 06-22-2012, 01:34 PM
 
Location: Warren, OH
2,747 posts, read 3,627,716 times
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It's right near the Susquehanna River on Old River. Although the basement seemed pretty dry, I think it would be best to leave that alone.

We really do need to attic to be finished as another bedroom for our oldest sons and a place where the kids could entertain.

Now we need to decide if we can live with no bath (guest bath) on the first floor.
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