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How to Remodel a Garage Into a Living Space

If your garage is starting to get a little run down and needs a makeover, you may want to consider repurposing the space for another use!

A garage is an area that often goes overlooked as a part of the home, but it provides no less valuable a space.

As housing prices are going up, an increasingly popular option is to convert the garage into an additional living space. 

Converting a garage into a living area is more complicated than a simple garage touch-up, and requires a greater degree of planning, a larger budget, and a solid vision from the outset.

Luckily, your contractor can aid you with any or all of these things.

Does a Garage Conversion Add Value to Your Home?

If you are looking to convert your garage for your own use, the change in value to your home may not be a huge concern for you. However, be careful if you are converting your garage to sell.

Depending on the amount of living spaces available in your city, and how frequently vehicle storage spaces are needed, converting a garage may even lower the value of your home.

For example, in a state such as Alaska, housing is fairly plentiful and inexpensive, and so the icy roads and frequent heavy snow often make vehicle storage the greater commodity.

Just make sure that you take all factors into consideration when converting your garage to ensure that you don’t run into unexpected problems.

What Are The Costs?

The cost range for converting your garage into a living space is estimated by experts to be around $8,000 to $25,000, as of 2020.

The elements that add the largest costs are installing a plumbing and electrical system. However, these will both be necessary for any living space.

The best way to keep a handle on costs is to know from the get-go what state your garage is in currently and what steps are necessary to bring it up to where you want it.

Developing a plan and a budget with your contractor is a good idea. Contractors have the knowhow and experience to offer good advice on savings and increasing the cost efficiency of the project.

Permits and Laws

Most construction projects, especially those that convert unlivable spaces into livable ones, have a number of building codes and laws regulating the safety of such projects. In some cases, you may not be allowed to convert your garage in your state.

If you are allowed, you may need to pay for certain permits. Talk with your contractor to make sure you stay in full compliance with the law while converting your garage.

How to Make a Garage Conversion a Comfortable Space

Ok, so now that you’ve fingered out your goal for your garage, have an understanding of the costs, and have your permits sorted, you’re ready to start preparing your garage to be remodeled.

If your garage is like most other garages, it is probably currently in a state that would make it a very poor space in which to live.

Check out the tips below for additions you can make to your garage while converting it to maximize your comfort in your new space.

Are You Even Allowed to Turn Your Garage Into a Living Space?

Not every municipality will even allow you to convert a garage into a living space. The concerns are generally over carbon monoxide buildup from vehicles.

If your municipality does allow you to convert your garage, make sure to install carbon monoxide alarms and other safety precautions, and to never idle vehicles in your garage, even with the door open.

Insulation

Once you are certain that you have cleared any legal obstacles preventing you from converting your garage, you will want to start making it into a home.

Since most garages are not built with the intention of being lived in, you may have to insulate the drywall on the interior.

Doing so will make sure that your garage stays warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and keeps out drafts, leaks, bugs, and other dirtying elements, which will also save you money on heating and cooling in the long run.

Insulation will also provide a nice layer of soundproofing, which can be great for keeping out sounds of traffic and other noises. 

Flooring

Besides your walls, you will also want to bring up your flooring to the proper level. If your garage has a typical naked concrete floor, you’ll find it not only brings down the look, but also sucks heat out of even a well-insulated garage.

Covering your floor with a layer of high-quality epoxy-finished flooring adds another layer of insulation while making your floor more pleasant to look at and to walk on.

Concrete also amplifies noises, so covering your floor in a softer material will soften sounds from within.

Drywall and Paint

Most garages are built with fairly cheap internal drywall. While this is fine for your cars, it won’t make a comfortable living space. Replacing dilapidated drywall with new, well-finished walls will make your garage feel more like a home.

Painting them in a pleasing color will also add an aesthetic appeal to your garage. Just like in your house, test different color swatches on your walls, making sure that you are able to see them in the same lighting the final garage will have.

Windows

Building codes dictate that if you convert your garage into a living space, it must include at least one window large enough through which a person can crawl in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Adding a window also lets in natural light, which is a small difference that can have a huge impact on the feng shui of your garage.

Adding an energy efficient window will keep it from becoming a heat sink in the colder months while still providing a source of light and fresh air.

Garage Door

If you are still going to be storing vehicles in your garage, you may want to keep the main garage door. If not, you may prefer to remove it.

Removing the main door from your garage will have the most profound effect on making your space feel like a home rather than a vehicle storage area. Removing the door may necessitate structural changes to the garage that require the assistance of a qualified architect to complete, but the results will feel transformative.

You could replace the main door with a set of sliding glass doors, put up a wall to house new windows, add a fully soundproof wall, or anything else you can think of.

Vehicle and Item Storage

If you are going to completely remodel your garage, be prepared for the fact that you may no longer be able to store your vehicle inside. It is typically unsafe to spend time in locations where the carbon monoxide and fumes released from vehicles cannot be properly ventilated, which will be difficult in a garage.

Make sure that you have a parking garage, carport, or some other way to protect your vehicle from the elements when it no longer can stay in your garage.

You may also want to think about storage solutions for whatever items you have stashed away in your garage currently. If you keep things like heavy lawn equipment, for example, you’ll want to make sure you have a place to put them that is out of sight as well as sufficiently protective.

Any other large boxes, exercise equipment like treadmills, and other spacious items will need a home as well. It’s up to you how much you wish to continue using your garage for storage and how much you wish to clear for space. If you liked having a garage-type of space, a small shed may be just what you need.

Other Alternatives

An option that you have in case a full garage conversion seems too challenging at the moment is to simply add an extension to your existing home.

Often this can be far easier logistically since city municipalities are generally much more lenient in granting permission to add an extension rather than a garage conversion.

The cost of the extension will be different than a garage conversion, and may require other work such as landscaping.

Should I DIY or Hire a Professional?

Doing a garage conversion will require a very broad set of skills.

For example, you will need to know both how to install an electrical system and a functioning plumbing system in your garage, besides also knowing how to put in insulation, replace drywall, replace the flooring, add lighting, install a window, and more.

Often the work required to convert a garage is the same as building a house, albeit scaled down. It is recommended to seek the help of a professional contracting service to make sure that the job is done properly the first time. 

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