Clever Ways to Add Rooms to Your Home Without an Addition

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Houses are frustratingly permanent. A home with two bedrooms and one bath might seem palatial when you first buy it, but add in two kids, a dog, and a DVD of Frozen that never stops playing and you soon realize how small it really is.

Typically, that’s when you start looking to buy a new home or renovate your existing one. Adding an addition is a great way to expand your living space, and even a renovation that doesn’t add square footage can give you extra bedroom or bathroom or other defined space. But any home renovation involves money, time, and risking your emotional equilibrium.

What if your need for an extra room is temporary, or you simply don’t have the resources to hire contractors? If all you need is a defined space, there are ways to magically add rooms to your home without a renovation or addition.

When is a room not a room?

Before we get into some ideas for creating rooms, a quick note on legal definitions: For the most part, simply creating a defined room in your house and putting a bed in it does not make it a legal bedroom. There are likely laws on the books in your area that define what a bedroom is. They usually outline things like a minimum square footage, the requirement there be at least one window (or sometimes two ways of leaving the room), a minimum ceiling height, and climate control and ventilation requirements. You don’t necessarily need a closet to call it a bedroom. While these details don’t matter if you’re just ginning something up to solve a problem for yourself, if you later put the house up for sale, they are important to keep in mind. 

Ways to subdivide a space in your home

So, you need a third bedroom, home office, nursery, or other space that isn’t in your original floorplan. Here are some ways you can create a whole new room without adding square footage to your house:

  • A partition wall. Putting up a non-load-bearing wall is actually pretty cheap and pretty easy—especially if you don’t include a door and just leave a space at the end for entry. Framing with 2×4 framing studs might take you a few tries to get things perfect—but don’t forget you’ll be covering up your framing with drywall, so it can be ugly as long as it’s stable. This is the most difficult option in terms of labor and construction skills.
  • Use bookcases or shelving units. Depending on the ceiling height you’re dealing with, assembling a row of bookcases or shelving units can be a great way to create a new room. You can probably find extra tall bookcases that will reach (or get very close to) your ceiling—the iconic Ikea Billy, for example, comes in a 93+ inch version that will almost reach an 8-foot ceiling). Place your bookcases or shelving units in a row to form a partial wall and voila, a new room. You can attach your bookcases to the floor and wall, if desired, and even add trim to the top to complete the illusion. Heck, you could even add a piece of drywall and pre-hung door if you really wanted too, as long as you’re comfortable doing a little framing at the open end.
  • Sliding doors. A flexible way of dividing a room is to add a set of sliding doors. Ikea offers an affordable option with their PAX sliding doors; you can see how they can be used to divide a space by checking out this Ikea Hacker’s work. If you’ve got a half wall to work with, you can also simply add a sliding barn door to the space, which doesn’t quite create a separate room but adds a flexibility, creating a space that can be closed-off or open, depending on your needs.
  • Enclose a porch or patio. If you have a sizable porch or covered patio area, throwing up some walls and closing it in can be a quick way to add a “three-season” room to your house. Adding heat or other utilities would bring this project out of the “relatively quick & cheap” category, but if all you need is an office space or storage area, this could work. All it takes is framing and finishing some walls.
  • Finish the garage. You can either transform your garage into a usable space by adding a floating laminate wood floor and some drywall (if it isn’t there already) or set aside only part of the garage using one of the divider techniques suggested above. Most garages already have electricity, making them an ideal spot for a workshop, office, or crafts space—especially if you don’t need to worry about where to store your car.

The best part about dividing a room without a renovation? The work can be quickly and easily undone, reverting to your original floor plan, so if and when you get tired of the new configuration, you can try something different—or just out everything back the way it was.

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