When my kids were young we often arranged our Shabbat meals together with other families whose children were of similar age. We encouraged them to sit as long as could be reasonably expected, certainly had them stay for discussions on the weekly Torah portion, but then they were dismissed—off to go play with their friends. It would be the oft-loved basement to which the kids ran to build their forts, throw things at each other and just generally be kids.
There was one family, in particular, that my children loved to visit. The eldest son had his bedroom in the attic and when my three kids first saw this it blew their minds. Living on a separate floor from your parents is not for every kid but for some it’s a dream come true. They looked at this boy’s room as though it was his own kingdom, “off limits” to adults and other unwanted people. A place to truly go to and be on your own, like your own apartment in the city. My kids would go up there and play for hours, letting their imaginations run wild in this penthouse room up in the heavens of Teaneck.
Of course, all this fun came with a cost. Immediately upon our return home my children started inquiring about our own attic. Why not turn it into a play space, where of course no parents would be allowed. I tried explaining that our attic was not finished and we didn’t have a staircase going up to the top floor. In truth I wasn’t even sure if there was an actual floor up there. After Shabbat I pulled the bessler stairs down, turned on the lights and we all climbed up the ladder only to get hit in the face with a thick wave of hot humid air. In most of the older houses in Bergen County, if you are lucky enough to have insulation, it is usually in the ceiling between the attic and the second floor, leaving the attic a truly unfinished space where on a hot summer day the temperature can climb to well over 100 degrees.
Even in a house where the insulation is in the rafters of the roof, in the summertime, during a week like we just had, a finished attic will still become much hotter than the rest of the house as it bears the brunt of the pounding hot sun.
For those contemplating new construction (assuming your town allows a finished attic) or renovating an existing attic, spray foam insulation has dramatically changed the calculation of this space during the summer heat. These new products paired with an efficient cooling system can bring the temperatures in your attic to very comfortable levels while lowering your energy costs for cooling the rest of your home all at the same time.
We still haven’t finished our attic and my kids are no longer asking to play up there as they have all moved to homes of their own. However, not so long ago my daughter finished her attic space to put her eldest boys up in their own kingdom far, far away…
Nechama Polak is the broker of record and owner of V and N Group LLC located at 1401 Palisade Ave in Teaneck. [email protected] 201 826 8809.