Convert Your Garage

Is it a good idea to convert your garage?

There are many reasons why you might need an extra room in your house. Maybe you need a home office, want to create a fun rec room for your family to enjoy, need to add more space for a family member to live, or have always wanted to have a home fitness centre. Whatever your plans may be, one way to get the extra space you need without moving to a new home is by converting a non-traditional living area into a more functional space.

Basement and attic conversions have become very popular home renovation projects in recent years, as have garage conversions. Converting your garage can add a lot of enjoyment to your home, but like any major home renovation project, it has its pros and cons.

When space gets tight, crowded homeowners can get desperate for ways to carve out space from nothing. Garage conversions abound in areas where real estate is expensive, and neighbours are close. Plus, in this age of online platforms for short-term rentals, a converted garage is one way for homeowners to defray the cost of their mortgage while still living in the house.

Garage conversions appear to be the classic do-it-yourself home remodel project. With nothing in your way like load-bearing walls—and with the box seemingly already in place—a garage conversion may seem like an obvious choice. But a garage conversion does also have a number of significant downsides to consider before embarking on this project.

Check out our range of garage renovations here. 

Benefits of converting a garage to living space

A garage conversion isn’t your only option for scoring extra square footage inside your home. You could also opt for an addition, which may give you more extra room than your garage allows for. But when you put on an addition, you lose out on yard space, which could be problematic if you have a small yard and spend a lot of time outdoors.

When you convert a garage, you simply capitalize on existing space. And if you have a driveway or dedicated parking spaces for your home, you won’t have to worry about where to keep your vehicle.

Another benefit of converting your garage is that you’ll be dealing with an existing structure. A home addition, by contrast, involves installing new floors, walls, and everything in between, and as such, it can be a much costlier, more complicated endeavour. If you’re handy, you may be capable of converting your garage to living space yourself with a full-fledged addition, and you’ll likely be looking at hiring outside contractors, thereby adding to your costs.

Finally, if square footage comes at a premium in your neighbourhood, a converted garage might add value to your home. That will be a good thing when the time comes to sell it, or when you need to borrow against it in the form of a home equity loan or line of credit.

Convert Your Garage

Drawbacks of converting a garage to living space

Though there’s much to be gained by converting a garage and increasing your living space, the flipside is that you lose out on something that could be equally valuable — storage space. And we’re not just talking about storage space for your tools and sports equipment; we’re talking about storage for what’s likely one of your most valuable possessions — your car.

Suppose you don’t have a driveway or dedicated parking space outside your home. In that case, you probably shouldn’t even consider converting your garage unless you relish the idea of grappling with street parking and risking tickets and fines if parking is limited where you live.

Even if you do have a driveway or parking spot outside your home that’s yours free and clear, if you live in an area prone to cold winters or extended bouts of rain, you may come to miss the option of storing your vehicle indoors, where it’s safe from the elements and won’t be so unbearably cold when you go to start it up on those 14-degree days. If you have an unfinished basement in your home, that may be a more suitable space to convert so you can let your garage retain its intended function — housing your vehicle.

Another factor to consider is that while adding indoor living space might increase your home’s value, killing that storage space could have the opposite effect — less value. If you’re not sure how things will shake out, talk to a real estate agent who knows the area well and get his or her to take on the matter before sinking money into that conversion.

You may find you’re better off investing in home addition and leaving your garage alone – especially if you have a decent-sized yard and can afford to give up a chunk of it.

Pros and Cons of Garage Conversions

Converting a garage requires more consideration than refinishing a basement because significant downsides balance out the positives. With the basement remodel, you can hardly go wrong with elevating an unusable dark space into one that is light-filled and usable.

A garage is different, though. With the garage, you trade out a space that is usable for one or several things for a space that is usable for just one thing—living space. At best, this becomes a one-for-one trade. At worst, you devalue your house.

Additionally, garage conversions are more work than they may appear. Homeowners may plunge into a garage conversion based on the belief that little more is required than adding a few lights and flooring. On the contrary, garage conversions are costly, extensive, time-extended projects that are not quite on the order of building a new addition, but close to it.

Zoning and Legal Issues

Changing space meant for vehicles into habitable, safe, and conditioned living space invokes legal and zoning issues. Each garage must go through a significant legal transformation when it becomes a habitable and new conditioned space.

One determiner used by some municipalities is whether or not adequate provisions are being made to replace the parking stalls eliminated from the garage.

The transformation from a garage to a conditioned space requires the garage to meet technical and legal standards that were not required when the area only housed vehicles or acted as a storage area. On top of that, most municipalities’ building codes require a range of permits for the activities associated with this conversion: erecting or moving walls; running water supply or drainage; running sewer line; adding windows; installing a full electrical system.

Due to the rise of short-term house rentals, many municipalities have begun to look more critically at garage conversions—even if the area will not be rented out on the short-term market.

Easier and Less Expensive Than Moving or Building an Addition

One of the best things about converting your garage is that you get extra space to work with in a way that’s relatively fast, discreet, and inexpensive. Properly converting a garage is hardly fast or cheap, though; having the job done right can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and may take weeks to complete. You’ll need to do things like add insulation, make sure the garage has a way to be heated, adjust the electrical system to make sure it can handle the extra demand, add windows and doors, just to name a few, which can all add up quickly.

But the good news is that converting a garage is still faster and much less expensive than buying a new home or building an addition on your home would be. Since you’re working with an existing structure, you don’t have to do things like pour new foundation or build new walls. And converting a detached garage isn’t going to interfere with your ability to live comfortably inside your house while the work is being done. If you have an attached garage, you might be able to remove the wall between the garage and your house to create a much larger space, although that would be more disruptive to the rest of your home.

Loss of Storage

The biggest disadvantage of converting your garage is that you’ll be losing a big source of storage space. Not only will you have to find another place to park your car, but you’ll also need to find a place to store things like your lawnmower, yard tools, bikes, and other things you don’t typically store inside the house.

Of course, how much of a disadvantage this depends on how much stuff you keep in your garage, whether or not you have other storage options available to you, and if you’re okay with leaving your car parked outside. If you don’t typically keep much in your garage anyway or also have a shed in your yard, this might not be too much of an issue. But if leaving your car parked outside would be a problem, maybe converting your basement or attic would be better options to look into.

Hitch Property Constructions has the biggest range of the garage renovations Melbourne. Check it out here.

Might Make Your Home Hard to Sell

Whether or not converting your garage is a good idea can depend on whether you’re planning to stay in your home or want to sell soon. If you have no plans to move anytime in the near future, converting your garage into a more livable space can certainly add a great deal of personal enjoyment to your home. But if you’re thinking of selling your home and moving within the next few years, you might want to skip this project.

Since many homebuyers look for homes with garages specifically because they want a place to park their car and store things, a permanently converted garage could be a major deal-breaker for many people who are interested in your home. However, if you don’t see yourself staying in your home much longer, but you absolutely need the extra space, look for ways to convert the space without making permanent changes. That way, you’ll get the additional space you need, and it can easily be turned back into a regular garage if need be.

Basics of Converting a Garage to Living Space

  • Windows: Add enough window space to provide for natural light and air. In some municipalities, this means 5 1/2 square feet or a percentage of the total garage space.
  • Ceiling: Maintain at least 7 1/2 feet of minimum ceiling height. This may be not easy to do if you are also raising floor height.
  • Heat: Provide heating to maintain 70 degrees F. Retrofit heating options include extending existing central heating ductwork and installing electric baseboard or fan-driven wall heaters.
  • Light: Add at least one wall-controlled light switch. Per electrical code, garages already have at least one such switch.
  • Outlets: Add or change wall outlets so that they meet minimum spacing standards. Basically, no cord should have to reach farther than 6 feet to reach an outlet.

How to Make a Garage Conversion a Comfortable Space

Insulate the Walls

Most garage walls and ceilings are not insulated. Drywall, if already installed, must be removed and insulation should be installed. Use conventional fibreglass roll insulation, rock wool, or sprayed foam insulation for the walls. Use fibreglass batts for the ceiling.

Raise the Floor Height

Garages tend to be built lower than the house. While not necessary, you are home benefits if you match flooring heights by adding sleepers to elevate the floor covering above the concrete garage floor.

Install Floor Covering

Even if you do add sleepers to raise the floor, you still will need a floor covering. Laminate flooring, engineered wood, tile, and luxury vinyl plank flooring are popular choices for garage conversions.

Install New Drywall or Finish Existing Drywall

Garages are usually installed with non-finish-quality walls. If the walls are insulated, you can keep the existing drywall but bring the finish up to higher standards.

Replace or Insulate the Garage Door

Should you leave the garage door in place or replace it with a wall? If you keep it, you should insulate the door. This is one major question you will need to address before converting the garage into a living space.

Hide Unsightly Areas

Non-load-bearing walls should be added around areas you do not wish to see, such as the water heater, furnace, laundry area, or storage.

Questions to Ask Before a Garage Makeover

Before you start tearing off your garage door, ask yourself a few questions to make sure a garage conversion is the best option for your home.

When is Converting Garage to a Room a Good Option?

If you’re looking to add living space to your home without starting from scratch, converting a garage to a room is an option to consider.

Is a Permit Required to Convert a Garage?

Since you are changing how space will be used, you will most likely need building permits, though this can vary by location. To apply for garage conversion permits, contact your city’s Zoning Department for more information. You may need to work with an architect to provide a proposed floor plan when applying for a permit.

Permits will ensure your plans meet building codes and local ordinances for living spaces. Building codes may dictate the minimum number of windows in a space, the number of exits and entrances, the height of the ceiling, the number of outlets and other factors. If you cannot meet any of these requirements, you may be able to apply for a variance depending on the issue.

Garage conversion permits can range in cost, but the average price is often between $1,000 and $1,500. Expect to pay more if you need to apply for a variance.

Be aware, some city ordinances or homeowner associations may require a certain amount of covered parking that could prevent you from converting your garage.

If your space requires a permit, it will also require an inspection at the end of the renovation to make sure you have met all building code and zoning requirements.

What Type of Room Can a Garage Become?

Your project is completely customizable. As long as you obey building code requirements, you can create any type of living space with your garage remodel. Depending on the zoning of your home, you may hit more hurdles when attempting to build an independent living space, such as an apartment, than you will when converting your garage into a single room.

Does Converting a Garage Add Value to Your Home?

As long as a garage conversion is done correctly, with permits and obeying building codes, it will add value to your home. The value itself depends on how seamless the conversion is and the type of room you build.

Typically, you can expect to recoup about 80 per cent of the project cost in home value.

Looking for Melbourne garage renovations? Look no further. Hitch Property Constructions has you covered. 

How Much Does a DIY Garage Conversion Cost?

The average cost of a garage conversion is between $6,000 and $19,000, according to HomeAdvisor.

The total cost will depend on the size of your garage, the type of room you are constructing and the amount of professional contracting assistance you need. A garage can be turned into a simple bedroom or living space for as little as $5,000, but if you require plumbing for a bathroom or kitchen, the project can cost closer to $25,000.

Converting your garage could buy you the added interior square footage you’ve been missing. And in some cases, that could lead to an increase in your home’s resale value. Before you go that route, however, you may want to look at alternative options for gaining living space, like putting on an addition or finishing a basement, if you have one. That way, you get square footage without rendering your beloved car homeless.

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