Space-deprived homeowners should be looking in one direction

There is a compounding set of reasons, in period houses that have decent capacity under the roof, that creating attic-level accommodation is becoming the quite the thing to do:

The kidults won't move out, or have returned to the nest because life out there is unaffordable.

The aging parents are moving in displacing children who legitimately still rely on you to provide a roof over their heads. And because the old folks need the ground floor, the kids with the sound knees can move up a level or two.

You dream of more room but daren't sell your property because you fear you'll never replace it in your favoured neighbourhood. And stamp duty seems such a silly thing to throw good money at.

With such a set of pressures on property, the number of people relocating is diminishing - down from 5.2 per cent in 2015 to 4.5 per cent in 2016 - and ever more are opting to stay put and renovate. Research shows that over half of all homeowners did some sort of renovation in 2015-16, even if just a paint job.

ABS figures from the same time show the national annual renovation spend as $7 billion and rising. And one company riding the trend with the stay-put improvers is The Attic Group, whose marketing manager Liz Stewart has seen a surge in custom and inquiry in the past two years.

Attic expansions that work best are in Victorian, Federation, Edwardian houses and the California Bungalows built in Sydney (but not so much in Melbourne). And especially adaptable are period houses jammed onto small blocks.

Liz Stewart explains that a suitable roof volume for a conversion, that can cost "as little as $40,000 for a room accessible via an attic ladder, to $150,000-$250,000, which is an average spend to gain 20-60 square metres of extra space", is at least 2.2 metres of pitch at the highest point.

This, she explains, often precludes the Cal Bungs built in Melbourne that had shallower roof profiles than those in Sydney. If the roof is too low, the game is up and you do need to do a more expensive second floor addition.

Stewart says that the "most in demand attic conversions are for an extra bedroom and bathroom, or an office with an internal staircase".

In an already large freestanding Federation home in Melbourne's Toorak, The Attic Group, in league with its regular architect Cheng Teo of Teo + Perperis???, recently pushed up into a roof cavity with a three metre peak to create enviable extra amenity incorporating two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a new living area and an outdoor balcony overlooking the tennis court.

"Obviously an aspirational build," says Stewart of the project taht "added 30 per cent more space" and commensurate equity in the home. During the job, except when the new staircase was being structured, all the materials and workmen accessed the space via external scaffolding, he says.

With a new Dormer window projection, the formerly "dark, dingy, dusty roof is now a beautiful space with timber-lined ceilings and a charming character that is in keeping with the house".

Another fantastic conversion Stewart cites was in an old, top floor Manly apartment where an owner added a new attic level bedroom, kitchen, laundry and balcony "with views of the water. It doubled the size of their home".

"The clients needed more space but realised they couldn't afford to move within Manly. So the attic conversion became a great story for them," he says.

This story Space-deprived homeowners should be looking in one direction first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.