Garage conversion ideas worth the effort


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Consider this: You’ve decided you need more living space, but maybe you’ve priced out building a new addition onto your home and it’s simply not practical—or maybe there isn’t enough space on your property to make it a reality. 

If your house has a garage, converting it could be a potential solution to adding living space. Redoing your garage may be one of the more affordable ways to expand your current home, not to mention one of the quickest.

Related: 10 home office ideas

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Why People Convert Their Garages

What a garage conversion will cost and how much time it takes depends on the purpose of the remodel. We’ll break down some of the most common reasons people convert garages into living space, how a garage conversion could add value to your home, what you might need to consider before you get started, and how to tackle some of the biggest tasks. 

We’ll also share garage conversion cost ranges, as well as potential ways to finance such a project.

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Do Garage Conversions Add Value?

You may define value in myriad ways, but one of the most important considerations in converting a garage is what value it might add to your life in general. If you have a big family, you might want more room for privacy—a quiet space you can retreat to when you need a breather. Or you may want to convert a garage into a playroom where your children can keep their toys, thus decluttering your main house.

If you frequently house guests, building a garage apartment or in-law suite can function as extra living space for friends and family to use when visiting town.

To help your garage conversion planning process, we have tools for streamlining the planning phase, including our Home Project Value Estimator and our Home Improvement Cost Calculator.

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Adding Living Space to a Converted Garage

How you use a converted garage space depends on whether it’s attached to your house or a freestanding structure. If the garage is attached, you could create a room that becomes part of your home.; this might be a recreation room, a workout room, a family room, a home theater, an extra bedroom or a multipurpose room where you can host friends.

If your attached garage is connected to your kitchen, you might consider expanding your kitchen into a home chef’s playground or a spacious dining and entertaining room.

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Detached Garage Options

A detached garage could become an apartment for your child as a young adult or teenager; you could create an art studio that has all the privacy inherent of its own building; or you could build out a home office so you can work remotely without ever leaving your house. The options are endless, so the first step is figuring out how a converted garage may provide the most value for your specific needs.

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Converting a Garage to an Apartment

If you’ve decided to convert your garage into an apartment, whether to create an in-law suite or a private space for your older child, you’ll want to consult your local planning board to find out what permits are needed if any. 

Often, if you’re building a new structure or making modifications to existing structures, a permit will be required. In fact, it’s important to double-check whether a permit is needed even for light remodeling.

Before you begin converting your garage, you might want to map out where everything is going to go or what you’ll do with the belongings that currently fill the space. To streamline that process, you could divide the items into one of three categories:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Throw Away

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Storage Options

Once you’ve donated and thrown away items, it’s time to determine where you want to store the remaining items. Do you have a basement or attic where you can pack away everything you’ve stuffed into the garage over the years? How can you make those areas more storage-friendly? You could add any ideas to your list for this remodeling project.

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If you still want to use a portion of your garage for storage after conversion, you might think about how to partition off that section so that the rest of the garage looks attractive and not cluttered. 

If you don’t want to use your garage for storage after the conversion, you could consider building an outdoor shed, provided your HOA or neighborhood association allows it, in which to store your remaining belongings, or a remote storage unit for things that you’ll rarely need.

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Garage Floors and Doors outlines how garage floors and doors are crucial to a successful conversion. If you have a traditional garage, the flooring might be a concrete slab with no insulation, and the garage floor may fall several feet below the floors in your home, sloping toward a floor drain or the garage door, in which case floor leveling is a necessity of a garage.

Then there’s the garage door to consider. If you remove it, you’ll likely have a large, gaping space. You might want to install a patio door to let in the light or create a new wall that contains a large bay window. What you do might depend on whether or not you want the spot where the garage door existed to be an entryway.

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Garage Roofing, Ventilation and Insulation

Before beginning a garage conversion, check that the garage roof is watertight. If not, some roofing upgrades could be necessary. If the plan is to install a kitchen or bathroom in your converted garage, ventilation issues might need to be addressed. To create a comfortable space, you may want to ensure there is proper insulation in the walls, roof, flooring, and anywhere else it’s needed.

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Garage Windows and Walls

In order to build your walls, stud framing and drywall might be required. Insulation work and moisture-proofing also might need to be done, as well as any wiring in the walls. What closets do you want to add to your converted garage? Now is the time to lay those out, too.

One way to make a garage quickly feel like home is through access to natural daylight, which can be achieved by installing large windows strategically throughout the space or punching holes in the ceilings to install skylights.

Window styles that match those on your home give it a cohesive look, especially with attached garages.

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Garage Heating, Plumbing and Wiring

If you have an attached garage, consider whether your current HVAC system can heat and cool your converted space. You may want to think about supplementing what you currently have, whether through a floor heating system, electric baseboards, wood stoves for the winter season, or an air-conditioning unit to cool off the space in the hot, sticky months of summer.

With plumbing, consider how to run pipes to supply water to the garage, as well as how to effectively drain the water back into the sewer system. If you need to add plumbing to the new space, this could be one of your bigger expenses.

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What It Costs to Convert a Garage

Costs for garage conversions depend on what kind of space you are converting your garage into. estimates converting a two-car garage will run between $20,000 to $50,000 in cost depending on the complexity of your project and the features you choose to add.

If you intend to add a bathroom to your converted garage, you could be looking at an additional $15,000 to $25,000. Needing plumbing and extensive electrical work can be where the expense significantly rises.

Of course, pricing is likely to vary based on where you live, what time of year you are renovating, what overall changes you’re looking to make and whether you’ll be doing a significant portion of the work yourself.

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The Takeaway

Converting a garage can be a great way to expand your livable space or turn your garage into something more functional than its current use, while also adding value to your home. 

A garage conversion can be used to add a new room — like an in-law apartment for guests or family, a rec room for the kids, or even a chef-style kitchen — or you could turn it into an art studio or workshop.

Whatever direction you take your garage conversion, you’ll want to research if permits are required and come up with both a plan and a budget before you begin.

When it’s time to fund your garage conversion ideas, an unsecured home improvement loan might be the right fit for you.

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