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I bought a house where the main attic is accessible, but a later addition to the house has an attic that isn't access from the main attic. I believe the two connect over the garage, but I'm not sure if it's safe to cut through the covered roof into the addition, or if that will affect the integrity of the roof.

How would I safely connect the two attics so that I don't have to use the addition's attic access? We think it's located outside, in the eaves of the house, with light fixtures which would need disconnected. Obviously, we can't really use it going into winter.

I'm tempted to just cut through with my reciprocating saw, but I'm worried that I might mess something up if I do that without getting advice.

  1. Interior of Addition

Addition Layout

  1. Main Attic, where I want to cut through

Main Attic Meeting Addition's Attic

  1. Outside picture of roof pitch

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  1. Addition's Attic Access (we think)

enter image description here

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  • "I haven't checked every possible place but maybe there's not access" -- since it's a code violation to not have access, I'd check fully before assuming that. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '20 at 18:45
  • Is the second attic over a garage at all? On my state, a fire barrier well must continue to the roof between living space and garage. – Jon Dec 23 '20 at 5:34
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I think it's a code violation, but there may actually be no access in the addition. Access at the eaves would be rather difficult and very tight. A gable vent you have to remove to get in is more common, as miserable no inside access access goes. But I've seen more than one "just sealed up and you have to cut your way in" job over time.

The main risk (so long as you stick to cutting the roof sheathing, not the rafters) will be encountering a wire on the side you can't see. Always better to be able to look at both sides, and start with drilling a few holes so that you are sure how both sides line up before you cut - but wires can be repaired, once the excitement dies down. I guess with modern toys you could drill a hole (relatively low-risk) and put a borescope or small camera through to look for hazards before cutting more.

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  • I'll try drilling through before just cutting through. We were thinking the access might be underneath the eaves there, as when we took the fixture down a week ago, it looked like you might be able to crawl in through there. I don't have a ladder, so I never checked if there's a gable vent / access. – Goldentoa11 Dec 22 '20 at 16:05
  • I don't think there's tons of wires in the attic, as there's barely any overhead lighting. I don't think I'll run that risk, but good point. – Goldentoa11 Dec 22 '20 at 16:06
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The Building Code requires an attic access in combustible attics when the height is 30” or more. (See ICC R807)

There is no requirement to connect multiple attics nor is there a requirement to provide a certain size “crawl space” between the two attics.

However, the attic access must be a minimum of 22” x 30” with the height inside the attic being 30” located somewhere in the attic opening. (See ICC R307.1)

One issue for you to understand is that the higher you cut the opening on one side it’s going to make it lower on the other side. That is to say, the height of the attic on one side is directly opposite the height of the attic on the other side. Choose the location wisely.

Structurally it is not important as to the size or location of the access, because you have a “new” roof diaphragm above the opening.

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