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How To Convert Your Garage to a Comfortable Living Space

Project Planning
January 31, 2019

Looking for a little more living space? A garage conversion can be less expensive than an extension and usually less of a headache, too. Take a look at the various projects involved with a garage remodel and keep these essentials in mind before you get started on renovations.

What Do You Need Out of Your Garage Conversion?

A garage conversion is one type of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). An ADU is an extra living space that’s been added onto a home’s lot, which can be attached or unattached from the actual main house. In the case of a garage conversion, your living space is often attached to the existing building.

If you’ve decided to complete a garage remodel to create additional living space, first assess the scope of your projects. Before you start tearing down shelves, consider your motivations to convert a garage into a living space.

There are plenty of different ways you can make the most of your garage conversion and extend the living areas of your home, such as:

Space for a relative

If you decide to take in a loved one to help them get back on their feet or take care of them due to a decline in their health, an ADU can be the perfect solution. Living with family is often the more comfortable option, but sharing close quarters can sometimes cause tensions to rise.

A “granny flat,” or a self-contained living space, named because they’re often used for aging relatives, allows your loved one to live comfortably while holding on to their privacy and autonomy. In certain jurisdictions you may be able to add a bathroom and even a small kitchen during your garage conversion so they have everything they need.

If an elderly relative is moving in to your ADU, make renovations with any necessary accommodations in mind, such as installing safety grab bars wherever necessary, or low-height cabinets that they can easily open if they use a wheelchair to get around.

Rentable unit

If you’re not getting much use out of your garage, consider making an income out of it. You may be able to convert a garage to an ADU which a tenant can rent out, adding a little extra cushioning to your finances.

When remodeling your garage into a rentable ADU, you may want to consider adding a bathroom so your tenant doesn’t have to go in and out of your home. You might also consider adding a small kitchen. You should also think about a separate lock system to give them both privacy and security.

Play space for kids

Every parent whose living room is drowning in a sea of toys has probably tried to think of a convenient storage solution at least once or twice. Although you might lack a method for keeping the endless piles of books, blocks, Barbie’s, and balls organized for more than 30 minutes, you might be able to exile them from your living room into a room of their own.

Creating a play space for kids with a garage remodel can give your children a safe area to have fun in, sparing Mom and Dad from the chaos. Remember to childproof when you convert the garage to a living space, being mindful of sharp corners and any potential toxins.

Home office

If your dining room table is often covered in documents, unopened mail, and to-do lists, a home office might be in order. Adding an office can help you stay on top of your agenda without worrying over a misplaced statement or accidentally spilling your morning coffee on a critical piece of paper.

When you don’t have extra space inside, a garage conversion can be the perfect place to get things accomplished in peace and quiet. Check the range on your router and see whether you’ll need a WiFi extender to get your computer up and running.

Man cave or she shed

Looking for a little repose? Whether you need a quieter place to read, play video games, or enjoy football season, a garage conversion can turn into your own personal sanctuary.

Take your interests into consideration and plan how you can make a garage renovation for when you need a little “me time.” Think about TV mounts, couches, and other essential comforts for your accessory dwelling unit.

These suggestions just scratch the list of possibilities for garage conversions. The most important thing is to consider the unique needs of your specific ADU remodel.

What Kind of Projects Are Involved with a Garage Conversion?

Now that you know your end goal and all its demands, you can begin to think about the various projects involved with your garage remodel. When building a garage with a living space, keep in mind the following jobs:

  • Insulation: Insulating your garage conversion can help you create a living space that is both comfortable and energy efficient. This project is more important if you live in a region with extreme temperatures. Ask your contractor about insulating your floors too to help prevent heat from escaping through the ground on those chilly winter days.
  • Heating and cooling systems: If insulation isn’t enough to keep your garage remodel warm and cozy, you might consider investing in heating and cooling systems that can keep the area temperate. Your options run the gamut, from electric space heaters to infrared tube heaters.

  • Some garages may not have air vents connected to the interior HVAC system, meaning it could get pretty hot and stuffy during the summer. Consider installing ceiling fans, a swamp cooler, or mini-split air conditioner in order to keep heat at bay.

  • New walls: Does your garage conversion require you to build new walls? If you want to add a closet, bathroom, or change the floor plan in your ADU, you’ll probably need to put up new walls first. It's recommended to find a contractor to assist you with this part of your project.
  • Doors and windows: Think about how you might need to retrofit your garage conversion by adding doors and windows. Maybe you need to install a closet door frame or would like to add a side-service door for convenience. Plan the timeline of your project accordingly to work smarter, not harder, and map these out during your wall construction.

  • Windows can provide natural light and increase the ventilation in your garage conversion. Keep in mind that anytime you’re working on your home’s exterior, it may be best to enlist a professional.

  • Replacing garage doors: Depending on how you intend to use your garage with a living space, you might need to replace the garage door altogether. Extreme care should be taken when removing the garage door; consider enlisting a garage specialist who can help safely unwind the coils and remove the door from the track.
  • Flooring: Concrete slabs are cold, hard, and not very pretty to the eyes. Even if you’re on a tight budget, installing new floors during your garage conversion could be worth your while in terms of comfort and aesthetics. Vinyl flooring is one of the more cost-effective options and is available in many different designs made to look like wood, tile, or natural stone. If the space is framed in and moisture isn’t a concern, carpet is also a viable option for softer flooring as long as insulation occurs beforehand.
  • Plumbing: If someone will be living in your garage remodel, consider adding plumbing for a bathroom and kitchenette. Running water and a plumbing system can make the garage conversion self-contained and eliminate the need for anyone to come into the interior of your home.
  • Wiring: Most garages only have a few outlets. In order to install appliances, you might want to run additional electrical wiring. The techniques required to cut, bend, and install surface-mounted metal conduits require expertise—especially if your garage conversion is detached. A professional electrician can check that everything is up to code.

Research Local Requirements

Depending on the size of your project and the jobs it involves, you might need planning permission in order to convert a garage to a living space. In the past, some cities have had restrictions related to garage conversions.

Additionally, the installation of windows, plumbing, electrical wiring, an HVAC system or any other major modifications may require a permit. Do your research to see what requirements are involved for your project in your area.

You should also research what the local building codes are for a garage renovation before starting any work. Consider visiting your city’s zoning office to obtain additional information. Doing your homework ahead of time will help prevent issues later. 

For a successful garage conversion, do things right from the start. Use Renovate America’s Find a Contractor tool to search for a highly-rated professional in your area who can help you with your project.

A garage renovation may improve your home by providing much-needed additional living space. Contact a contractor to help navigate the process and get started today.