Converting To A Home Office

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A home office can be an entire room.

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Metro Service photos

A home office can be an entire room or a desk and a little storage in part of a room.

With the flurry of activity that accompanies tax preparation season, some may have decided it is time to create a home office.

In a Question and Answer piece from the On The House syndicated column, that subject was explored.

Question: We are considering converting one of our bedrooms to a home office. Will you discuss some of the relative merits in doing this and what some of the changes that we may need to make in order to do this? — Francis

Answer: This project is especially popular in densely populated urban areas where a good portion of the work day for an average homeowner is devoted to traveling to and from work on freeways and expressways that are jam-packed with bumper to bumper traffic. While many working professionals can’t spend every work day in a home office, thanks to the home computer, the fax machine, and other assorted modern business machines designed for home use, more and more people are able to trade the stress of commuting for the comfort and convenience of an office at home. And, a real bonus is converting commute time into time for added productivity, relaxation, or time with the family.

Converting a bedroom to a home office is simple and will typically not require any structural changes. The following are some suggestions on where to begin:

• Electrical – Additional electrical receptacles will probably be required for various business machines. A separate electrical circuit should be added for a computer and for a fax machine. This will help to protect against lost or damaged data due to surges in power. Also, ceiling lighting will most likely need to be added. The best office lighting comes from surface mounted fluorescent fixtures. Recess lighting and surface mounted track light can also be added to improve the artificial lighting in the room. A couple of telephone lines may also need to be added, one for a business telephone and the other to be shared between a modem from the computer and the fax machine.

• Ventilation – Proper ventilation is one very important aspect of working in a home office. The proper exchange of air will make the space more comfortable for the user, and provide adequate ventilation for the business electronics that create an intensity of warm air. A window or door that opens, a vent fan, or an air conditioner for the summer months will make the space infinitely more comfortable and safe to work in.

• Acoustics – Privacy is another extremely important feature in making the home office arrangement successful. The need to keep conversations confidential and distracting noise from coming into the space is of prime importance. Replacing a single pane window or sliding glass door with a new double pane model will not only diminish the amount of outside noise, but will improve the energy efficiency and comfort of the space. A new solid core door in place of a hollow door will also add to the privacy of the space. A threshold and weather-stripping can also be added for additional privacy.

For homeowners requiring an added level of noise reduction, a layer of 5/8-inch drywall can be added to the walls and ceiling (if there is a second story above). This will further diminish the transfer of noise and can be added to only the walls that are potentially a problem like a bathroom, another bedroom, or a family room.

Plush carpet and a thicker than average pad will also improve the sound quality of the space.

• Built-ins – A built-in computer desk with pull-outs for printers and a key board will help, in limited space, to double as a regular writing desk. Built-ins for books, manuals, and files are another added convenience that will help make a small room manageable as a home office. Also, consider removing wardrobe doors and the closet shelving and install built-ins or other office organization systems in its place.

• Decorating: The space shouldn’t look like a bedroom. Personalize the space with paint or wallpaper. Make it cheery and a pleasant place to spend the day. And, don’t forget to add a plant or two. — James and Morris Carey

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