When you need more living space in your home, converting your garage into a room can be an attractive option. Although costs will vary according to your location and specific plans, a garage conversion will generally cost about half of what you’d spend to build a home addition from scratch. However, before you start stockpiling insulation and tearing off garage doors, there are some things you’ll need to consider.
Garage Conversion: The Basics
There are many important updates required to turn an area that was never meant to be habitable into a living space. The basic tasks involved in converting a garage into a living space are:
- Raising the floor to install insulation and a moisture barrier underneath.
- Insulating the walls, floors, and ceiling (if they aren’t already insulated).
- Enabling heating and cooling, either by tying into the house’s system or installing an independent system.
- Adding outlets and ensuring your electrical system can handle the additional load.
- Removing garage door(s) and installing an insulated stud wall.
- Adding windows and, if needed, an exterior door.
If you intend to turn the garage into a studio apartment, you’ll also need to install a kitchenette and bathroom—which means ensuring your septic system is up to the task and the space has access to water lines.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to time ask yourself a few questions to determine whether a garage conversion is the right way to meet your family’s need for additional space.
Question 1: What Zoning Laws and Permits Are in Play?
It’s essential that you fully understand local zoning laws before you begin drawing up your remodeling plans. There may be laws regulating how you must heat and cool the space, where you must now park your car, and much more. If you plan on creating a studio apartment, there may be restrictions on how many people can live there (for example, only a single occupant). You can find the laws for your area by visiting your city’s website or contacting your city’s building department.
Also be aware of all the permits you’ll need to complete your garage conversion. Generally, in order to get the necessary permits, you’ll need to draw up your overall plans for the remodel, then take them down to city hall to be looked over and approved. If a contractor is handling all of the work, a reputable one will take care of the permits for you.
Question 2: Will It Lower Your Home’s Value?
Converting a garage into a room can add significant value to your home—if you live in the right neighborhood. If you don’t, though, the loss of a garage can lower your home’s value and make it difficult to sell. So, scope out your neighbors’ properties. If nearly all the homes in your neighborhood have garages, then getting rid of yours may not be a good move. For a more “scientific” assessment, consider contacting a real estate agent to get their opinion.
Question 3: Where Will You Put Your Car?
Once your garage is gone, do you have room elsewhere on your property to park? If not, are you comfortable parking on the street? Keep weather considerations in mind, too. If you live in a snowy area, will having to un-bury your car all winter be a fair trade for the extra space?
Question 4: Will You Have Enough Storage?
Most of us stuff our garages with, well, stuff. So, before you convert your garage into a room, you’re going to have to downsize. Your best bet may be to rent a residential roll-off dumpster. You’ll likely need to rent a dumpster anyway to deal with construction debris, and renting one early to deal with your junk removal will allow you to get the job done quickly.
But don’t forget about the items you’ll need to keep. Make sure you have alternate storage lined up before remodeling begins, whether in your basement, attic or another outdoor area such as a shed or a space under your porch.
Question 5: Will It Still Look Like a Garage?
Your goal should be to make your newly-remodeled garage look like it was always a part of the house. Possible ways to achieve this include:
- Removing or rerouting your driveway, so that it doesn’t lead to what is now a blank wall.
- Raising floors to the same level as the rest of the house (not required, but generally recommended).
- Sound proofing the space.
- Adding additional windows.
- Adding architectural elements to match the rest of your home.
Garage Conversion Alternatives
If it turns out that converting your garage into a room won’t work for you, you still have options:
A basement remodel: You’re still working with an existing structure, so you’ll still save money. However, converting your basement will mean potentially giving up even more storage space than converting your garage.
A room over your garage: Keeping your garage and building a room over it instead will generally be more expensive than converting your garage or basement, but will look more like a natural part of your home.
Before making a final call, consult with contractors and other professionals to determine whether a garage conversion or some other option is the best way to accomplish your space-enhancing goals efficiently, safely and with the value of your home intact.
Doing a little home improvement? Take a look at our Home Project Guides to learn how to handle junk removal, frame a wall and more. Have a few tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!