A garage conversion turns an attached garage into a functional part of the home. This may seem like an easy way to increase your heated square feet and potentially add a room or bathroom to the count, but several factors need to be considered before moving forward. Increasing the square footage may seem like it will increase resale value at first glance, but first you must consider the costs of the project, the return on investment, the demand for your market, and the logistics of the conversion.
And many homeowners are scared away from converting a garage because they fear that doing so will ultimately reduce the resale value of their home. A quick google search will pull up pages of nay-sayers, but there is one aspect to these claims that is important to recognize – the vast majority of people who are opposed to converting a garage are talking about poorly executed conversions which have no permits. Legal garage conversions, (ones in which the proper paperwork and permits are completed, and all of the workmanship is both expertly executed and up to fire codes), generally add value to homes. Unfortunately, many people do not seek out the proper, legal avenues to garage conversion, and it is those illegal garage conversions which can be detrimental to a home’s resale value.
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Demand for garage conversion
The National Association of Realtors found that over a quarter of buyers rate a garage as being one of the most important home features. That’s a pretty significant portion of potential buyers you’re eliminating if this conversion will be for a flip or potentially even a rental. Interestingly enough, garages are typically in high demand in both urban and rural locations. City dwellers have to fight for a parking spot on the street as well as worry about tickets, dings and scratches, the snow plow burying the car, and a host of other problems. It’s quite likely that living with a little less space is more appealing than having to park off the property. In rural locations, there’s often a premium on a garage for storage space for multiple vehicles, various recreational vehicles, sporting equipment, and more.
Considerations for a garage conversion
If you do decide the numbers work for your market after talking with a realtor and licensed contractor, then you’ll need to consider a few more important points before forging ahead.
- If there’s a driveway or other protected parking space available, losing the garage means being exposed to the elements and potentially having to fight for parking spaces. Is that a compromise buyers in that area are willing to make?
- Assess whether there’s enough storage space elsewhere in the home for all the items that inevitably get stored in a garage. If the house is light on storage, you might want to reconsider.
- Determine if the municipality and neighborhood even allows for garage conversion, what the cost of the permits will be if allowable, and what the construction requirements dictate.
- The height from finished floors to ceiling needs to be eight feet or greater for a habitable room. If the ceiling or roofline is lower in the garage area, you may have to excavate the floor or raise the roof, adding significant cost.
- If the garage is below the grade of the house, how will you waterproof and drain it?
- If installing a bathroom or kitchen in the conversion, how will you get plumbing into the garage if it doesn’t already exist?
Garage conversions can be worthwhile for the right home, but to ensure you get your money’s worth, consult with a Realtor, local municipality, and a licensed contractor before deciding if it’s a good fit for your next investment. This decision is a lot more complex than updating a kitchen or changing out the A/C. To protect your return on investment, it’s critical that a garage renovation is done well so it appeals to the buyers, is permitted so fines aren’t incurred or to avoid issues at closing, and is cost effective for you.
Do Garage Conversions Add Value?
Value can be defined in multiple ways, and one of the most important considerations is what value this project might add to your life, in general. If you have a big family, you may long for a space where you can have privacy, and, to you, this cozy, private space might feel priceless. Or you may want to make your children a playroom to get their toys out of the house for a little more of a feng-shui feel.
Here are other ways to look at value. If you aren’t using your garage to house your vehicles, then you’re not taking advantage of its original purpose. So, if you convert your garage space into, say, a guest apartment for your parents, you could be creating something of more value to your entire family.
If your parents or spouse’s parents were able to stay with you—and yet not be under your roof—that might mean your children have more time with their grandparents. And you’d have some healthy distance between where you sleep and where your in-laws sleep. It might just be a win-win.
Ways to Use Your Converted Garage
How you use the space that was formerly your garage depends, in part, 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 could be a rec room, a workout room, a family room, a home theater, an extra bedroom, a room where you can entertain friends, and the like. Or, if your attached garage is connected to your kitchen, you might consider expanding your kitchen into a luxurious home cook’s paradise or create the dining room of your dreams.
A detached garage could become a mini apartment for your child who’s now a young adult, you could create an art studio that has all the privacy inherent of its own building, or you could get to work without ever leaving home!
Garage Conversion to Apartment
If you’ve decided to transform your garage into an apartment, whether to make an in-law suite or for your college-age child, you’ll want to talk to your local planning board to find out what permits , if any, you need. (In fact, it’s important to double-check whether for light remodeling or a full garage-to-apartment conversion.)
Before you begin any work, you might want to know what you’ll do with the belongings currently in your garage. To streamline that process as much as possible, you could divide the items into one of three categories:
• Throw Away
Once you’ve donated and thrown away items, where do you want to store the remaining items? What can go in your basement and attic? How can you make those areas more storage-friendly ? You could add those ideas to your list for this remodeling project.
Do you still want to use a portion of your garage for storage? If so, how will you partition off that section so that the rest of the garage looks attractive? If you don’t want to use your garage for storage after the conversion, you could consider building a shed that can store what you want to keep.
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Floors and Doors
A 2019 article on TheSpruce.com points out how floors and doors are crucial to a successful conversion. If you have a typical garage, the flooring is probably a concrete slab with no insulation. And the garage floor may be several feet below the floors in your home, sloping toward a floor drain or the garage door. Therefore, an important part of this conversion might involve floor leveling.
Then there is the garage door. If you remove it, you have a large open space. How could you address that? 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.
While planning your conversion, you could envision where entryways would go, rather than trying to make do with what you’ve got. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have a beautiful new apartment or room with a door placed in a highly inconvenient spot.
Roofing, Ventilation, and Insulation
You might want to make sure your garage roof is watertight. If not, some roofing upgrades could be necessary. If the plan is for a kitchen or bathroom in your converted garage, ventilation issues might need to be addressed. And to create a place that’s comfortable, even cozy, you may want to ensure there is proper insulation in the walls, roof, flooring, and anywhere else it’s needed.
Windows and Walls
Window styles that match those on your home give it a cohesive look.
You might need to create stud framing and fasten drywall to create your walls. Insulation work and moisture-proofing might need to be done, as well as any wiring in the walls. What closets do you want in this space? Now might be the time to lay those out properly.
One way to make a garage quickly feel like home is through natural daylight, so you might want to consider window size and strategic placement. Window styles that match those on your home give it a cohesive look, especially with attached garages.
Heating, Plumbing, and Wiring
If you have an attached garage, can your current HVAC system heat and cool your converted space? You may want to consider how to supplement what you currently have, whether through a floor heating system, electric baseboards, wood stoves, and the like in the winter, or air-conditioning units in the summer.
With plumbing, you might need to consider how to run pipes to supply water to the garage as well as how to effectively drain the water. If you need to add plumbing to the new space, this might be one of your bigger expenses .
Why convert your garage?
If you’re looking to add space and value to your home then converting your garage is a cost-effective way to achieve both objectives. Converting a single garage will add around 150 square foot of space, while a double garage can deliver around 300 square foot of extra room, either of which will benefit your day-to-day life and achieve significant capital growth in the future as the value of your conversion will rise in line with the value of your property. If the garage is attached it’s unlikely that you’ll need planning permission, so the project can be relatively smooth, and it’s not uncommon for a garage conversion to add as much as 10% to your house’s asking price.
If you currently park your car on the drive or on the road, your once-neglected garage space can be put to far better use for a range of activities, any of which will be more productive than leaving it as a dumping ground for old exercise equipment, packaging cartons and general household clutter.
Converting your garage into a bedroom
One of the most popular uses for a garage conversion is as an additional bedroom. With care home fees continuing to rise, creating a space for an elderly parent enables you to deliver home care while allowing them to continue to live independently, and the costs of the conversion would soon be offset by the savings in care home fees. At the other end of the age scale, more and more young professionals are seeking to stay at home while they save for a deposit for their first property, and making your garage habitable is an excellent way of giving them a separate area with more privacy. And if you’re lacking a spare bedroom for visitors, a garage conversion can provide that with ease. With any of these uses, it’s prudent to factor in an ensuite bathroom or wetroom to make life easier for the occupants, even though that will eat into the available space to some degree. It’s worth noting, however, that adding independent access, such as a separate front door, to the conversion is likely to incur an additional Council Tax liability.
Converting your garage into a living area
Assuming you have enough bedrooms for your requirements, a garage conversion can be utilised to create extra living space in the form of an additional lounge or quiet area, possibly for homework, reading or yoga. With multimedia dominating everyone’s home life, there’s merit in developing a dedicated room where any of the family members can escape for some peace and tranquillity.
The costs of moving house can be prohibitive, so converting your garage into a playroom is a fantastic way for young families to make their home work harder and deliver more on all levels. As well as giving the children their own space, which can be designed and decorated accordingly, having a new playroom ensures that the rest of the house stays free from toys and games. A key consideration here is storage, so it’s helpful to take time to plan the flow of the room and explore creative solutions for keeping the floor free of obstacles.
Converting your garage into a home office
There’s no doubt that the digital era has seen a move towards flexible working patterns and with more and more professionals working from home on a regular basis a garage conversion can offer the opportunity to confine work to a single room. When working from home it’s tempting to do so at the kitchen table or in the lounge, but blurring the line between home and work can be detrimental to family life. Having a self-contained office environment is likely not only to increase productivity, but also to make it easier to close the door and ‘leave’ work once the working day is done. Many self-employed professionals also create a home office in their garage to enable them to conduct client meetings and video-conferences in a business-like environment rather than hunched around the kitchen table.
Cinemas, gymnasiums, craft rooms and more…
On the more glamorous side, the size and shape of a single garage is ideal for a home cinema, although it’s advisable to investigate soundproofing to prevent the noise permeating into the remainder of the house. With boosted WiFi and clever concealment of wires and cables, however, there’s no reason not to recreate that cinema experience in your own home. Alternatively, if you struggle with motivation to go out to exercise, a home gymnasium can easily be accommodated within a garage conversion. In reality, there’s space for a workout area, a range of equipment and a shower room too.
If you’re looking for a haven for crafting, a garage conversion can fit the bill, especially if you replace the main garage door with a large window to allow natural light to flood in. Whether it’s painting, sewing or cardmaking you’re guaranteed to have space for working and storing your materials, all in a peaceful, inspiring environment.
If your requirements are a little more practical in nature, a garage can be converted for use as a utility room in order to free up space in the kitchen that can be taken up by a washing machine and tumble dryer. In addition, converting your garage to a clean, dry storage area can take the pressure off the rest of your home. And with so much clutter it’s easy to mislay important items, so having a clearly defined area for storage can help to reduce the likelihood of wasting hours and hours searching through disorganised piles of paperwork.
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Should I Convert my Garage?
Whilst a garage conversion is, in the majority of cases, a brilliant way to add space and value to your home, there are certain instances where it might not be a viable option or might cause more problems that it is worth. Consider whether this project is right for you by thinking about the following:
- Will the work mean one or more existing rooms will frequently be rendered unusable by building work?
- Remember that you will be held responsible for the legality of work done on your property. Time and energy will be required supervising work, being present to allow tradespeople access and making design and other decisions
- Will planning permission be granted? Is the house listed or in a designated area?
- Might the cost of reinforcing foundations, a new roof etc. mean you are paying more than you expected?
There is no guarantee that a garage conversion will subtract from home value- in fact in many cases, the additional square footage is appealing to home buyers and will increase the resale value of your home. The housing market fluctuates constantly, so there is no correct answer when it comes to garage conversions. You should make a decision based on your own individual needs, and a trustworthy contracting company should help you to explore your options and determine whether or not a garage conversion is best for you. However, following the steps above is a great start to being able to convert your garage without risking your home’s potential resale value.