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Attic Conversions of the Stars

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 8, 2010

I spent many childhood hours trying to see through the haze of Los Angeles evenings with a small-powered telescope, and still caught Jupiter and her moons in the crosshairs. I even took astronomy courses in college, until the math caught up with me. In my dream house, I'm converting the attic into a workshop with a skylight for the summer and a stellar room for observing the Milky Way in the months of dark skies.

Technically, you just need a converted attic with a skylight or two and a beginner's telescope to tour the heavens in comfort. Call in a licensed contractor with skylight and roofing experience to ensure that the skylights are tight and your roof sealed from damaging elements. But if your structure isn't up to snuff, Repair Home reports that you may need additional funds to add a stairwell, dormers, and electrical conduits to complete an attic conversion.

Custom home skylights can further your quest of the heavens. You might want to add a heater, fan, and ventilation. And getting a good set of lights on a dimmer can help your eyes adjust to sudden darkness.

Skylight Considerations for the Converted Attic

Consult with the local college astronomy department to determine the best alignment for your skylight. You also need to consider roof thickness when planning skylights. Some people prefer creating trapezoidal-shaped shafts to bring more light into the bottom. One thing you don't want to do is have the skylight cut through trusses or the ridge of the roof. Plan carefully to install them between structural members.

Whenever cutting through rafters to install the skylight, be sure to add temporary supports with two-by-fours. Your contractor should use roofing cement outside the flange and attach new shingles around the perimeter of the skylight. If you plan on doing the attic conversion on your own, be sure to arrange for required building permits and inspections, depending on your community.

Of course, in summer months I'd prefer to sit outside, away from city light, at altitude. But that takes a sweater, good mosquito repellent, and good planning with a star guide. There are plenty of online guides, too, that you could access with a computer sitting on your attic desk. Stargazing can be budget friendly after you complete your stellar attic.

There are two potential pluses in converting space for stargazing: you can get your kids away from the television or cell phone for a while, and your home value could rise as certain as the evening star.

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