My tiny house project: the necessary loft


One of the most common (and appealing) tricks in tiny house construction is removing ceiling joists to expose the attic volume, creating a “cathedral ceiling.” In McMansions such extra space can be cold and regal, but within a small frame it gives the eye some room to travel and permits the addition of a sleeping or storage loft.

Consider this before and after pair from my garage-to-granny-house conversion:

garage interior before ceiling joist removalgarage interior after joist removal and rough framing of loft

Nothing in the dimensions of the building has been changed, but there is clearly much more usable space in the “after” version.

However, in a conversion, you can’t just knock out joists willy-nilly; the place might fall down.

Structure must be considered. Notice those new-looking rafters? They double the old ones. And that massive beam coming down the middle? That’s going to transfer some of the weight to beefy posts in the end walls. The post in the left side of the “after” shot is just a temporary support. Also (not quite visible) the back end of the loft crosses the whole 14-foot width of the structure, providing some stiffness that the joists previously provided. It’s all tied in to new 4-foot deep concrete anchors dug into the floor.

Expensive? Definitely. Overkill? Probably. It’s once consequence of doing things legitimately.

But there’s no question the loft is going to make a huge difference to the building. Here’s a tour of the loft in progress:

The back corner:

very back corner of loft, 12/7/06

Turning around to look out:

looking from loft out to front door, 12/7/06

Looking down a bit to the loft floor:

looking from loft down to front door, 12/7/06

And knee wall to the left:

knee wall on sleeping side of loft 12/7/06

Notice how there’s sheet rock inside the framing? That’s because this is a fire-rated wall that has multiple layers of sheet rock and insulation. Another requirement of legitimacy, but one that probably makes a bit of sense since this granny house is in an urban setting: there are other buildings very close nearby.

Anyway, even in its roughly framed version above, you can see the loft contributes more than just 140 more square feet. It’s a PERCH for sleeping or storage, and adjacent to that rarest of things in small houses: empty space. It’s all meant to relieve the sensation of being compressed in a small space. Once we get a few windows in, I’m pretty sure it’s going to work.

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