Rethinking Space Needs as Families Grow

Checklists are guides for remodeling, adding on, or moving

Photo: homeguides.sfgate.com

As a family matures, space needs change. Noise levels alter. A need for privacy arises. Entertainment choices diverge. Family gathering spots are still important, but so are places of refuge.

Facing Facts
Deciding how to accommodate the teen years becomes a matter of sorting through facts, figures, and emotions. An older child who had bunked with a younger brother or sister may now want a separate bedroom. Another bathroom may become important. Study space is now vital as is computer access. A place to hang out with friends may not be necessary but would be nice.

Repurposing space offers a good chance for parents and teens to team up and get to know one another better. Together, start by compiling a list of how older children impact family activities. Next, develop an inventory, room by room, of spaces that no longer serve their purposes. The great room, living room, basement, attic, or garage may be ripe for redefinition.

Teen Space
Teens need their space. As young adults, they are learning to become separate, to interact with their own friends and activities, and to select their own styles. Still, with concerns over the Internet and media, many parents understand the need to keep independent space accessible and open. When designing a room for teens, start by working together to create a checklist of desired activities. Music, video, television, studying, games, gathering space, or crafts may be on the list. Based on the activities list and your available space, decide whether a new, separate teen living room can be created.

Designers often select lofts, attics, basements, or spare bedrooms for these activity areas. Accessibility, a bathroom, and perhaps snack space should be included. Consider what media will be involved and whether wiring should be updated to accommodate data, phone lines, or multi-media. Parents may also choose to buffer the rest of the house by soundproofing the new space. Replacing hollow doors with solid doors, insulating the walls, providing acoustic ceiling panels, and decorating with sound-absorbing fabrics, carpets, and furniture will help to reduce noise spillover.

Family Space
As the family matures, the activities they share change. While young children enjoy game, puzzle, and reading space adjacent to family centers, older children and adults often enjoy a getaway room where they can play games, rough house, listen to music, or watch movies. Family rooms are often multi-media rooms with music, video, and movie capability. Video gaming is also a popular activity that is shared between all ages.

Designers frequently select basements for family game rooms because they feature ready-made space that is often open and easily adapted to various uses. Basements offer the opportunity to rewire readily, insulate between the floor joists, apply acoustic ceiling tile, and construct insulated walls, so that this space can be as rambunctious and fun-filled as you like without disturbing the people upstairs. Attention to safe secondary exits, approved wiring, and moisture control are recommended when remodeling basements.

When planning family space, focus on the activities you share. Have each family member compile a wish list of family activities then rank them according to priority. Have a group discussion to see which activities are at the top of the list, then look for the space to accommodate those activities. For some families it may be garage workshop or craft space, for others it is music and reading areas, for many it is game and media centers. Make sure you design your space to make family time work for you.

Adding Space
If the space just isn’t there, adding square footage may be expensive but necessary. An in-law apartment for teens, with a bathroom, bedroom, and sitting area, may answer immediate demands and meet future needs for space to accommodate an elderly parent.

Talk with two or three construction firms, set up a visit, and provide a copy of the ideas detailed from walkthroughs. Ballpark estimates should be fairly well aligned. If not, check to see where the discrepancies lie — you may actually discover a structural obstacle or flaw that was overlooked by other builders. Finally, be sure to check with local building and zoning officials to make sure that adding on is possible.

Deciding to Move
If remodeling and additions are out of the picture, another home might be the answer. Keep in mind that the teen years do not last long. Purchases should be made with future space needs in mind.

Moving or remodeling also costs money. Homeowners should not add on more than 10-15 percent over the average home value in their neighborhood. Moving will incur expenses for the new home, taxes, and moving, plus closing costs and an added commission for the realtor. So develop a financial worksheet and weigh the options before you decide.

A popular option for families with teens is a walkout ranch, according to Pat V. Combs, past president of the National Association of Realtors. Older children get the walkout lower level for their space, and when they move out the parents have their main home on one floor and space for visitors on the lower level.