You can add substantial space with full headroom to the unfinished attic of a Cape Cod or any home with a 12-in-12 roof pitch by building a shed dormer across the entire back of the roof. If you wish to complete the second story yourself, now or in the future, you can purchase a panelized dormer package from the manufacturer that will be assembled by the set crew. It is very important to have the second-story floor plan drawn with the dormer included so you can correctly locate the windows on the back and side of the home. The floor plan will also show you where to add a beam to make a large front-to-back room, which you may wish to do with your master bedroom.
Modular Full Shed Dormer
If you need the space finished immediately and would like the manufacturer to complete as much of it as possible, you can order an additional module for the rear of the second story that will serve as the dormer. When you purchase an additional module, the space under the sloped ceiling in the front half of the second story will come unfinished. The general contractor will need to finish this area to maximize the second-story space. Also, the floor of the second-story module will be 8 to 12 inches higher than the floor of the unfinished space because of the height of the additional module’s floor system. The GC will need to build up the floor area in the unfinished space to make the floors the same level. If you decide to have the manufacturer build the shed dormer as a module, you can have the manufacturer also build the front of the cape, with its sloped roof, as an additional “wedge” module. The second story would then be built completely by the manufacturer.
Bathroom Shed Dormer
Another way to make use of a shed dormer when you do not need all of the space or cannot afford to build it across the entire back of your home is to make a smaller shed dormer that is just big enough for a bathroom; a gable dormer can accomplish the same thing. The reason this is worth considering is that you are likely to want to put a bathroom across the hall at the top of the stairs. In a home with a width of 27 feet 6 inches, and a second floor hall of 3 feet, there will be only about 9 feet 6 inches across the back to build the bathroom. Without a dormer, the ceiling will begin to slope down within the first two feet of the bathroom, and the kneewall that supports the roof will likely provide only about 5 feet of headroom. This is not enough room to build a comfortable bathroom. A small dormer will solve this problem. Such a dormer can be especially helpful with a 24-foot-wide Cape Cod. If there is no room in the budget to build a dormer right away, it can be built on site at a later date.
Yet another option is to add a shed dormer on the front of the house to create a faux saltbox look. You can do this with either a panelized dormer or an additional module.
Gable dormers (also called A-dormers and dog-house dormers) are another very popular option with Cape Cod homes, since they add space inside and character outside. They come in small and large sizes, with one or several windows. They can be dressed up with shutters and with circle-top windows or decorative moldings. Choose the size carefully, since it will affect how the home looks and how the second floor can be used.