Homeowners who want more living space but don’t want to add on a new room might consider converting the garage. Although generally less expensive than building on a room, garage conversions require careful thought. Before you evict your cars from the garage, let’s sort through what’s involved.
How hard could this be?
When the cost of adding a room to a house could exceed $50,000, converting the garage to liveable space is a tempting backup plan. After all, your garage already is a room of sorts, possibly Sheetrocked, wired for electricity and maybe even plumbed. Just replace the garage door with a wall, maybe cut a new door into the living area or to the outside, and voila! What could go wrong?
But there’s more to garage conversion than you may realize. And costs vary tremendously depending on where you live and how much of the work you do yourself.
Adding insulation to garage conversions
To be livable, a converted garage needs good insulation like the rest of your home. If your garage walls have no Sheetrock, put R-15 insulation in the wall between studs. If the walls are Sheetrocked but uninsulated, you must blow insulation into the wall cavities.
If the garage ceiling is open to the rafters, you have two options: either put R-38 insulation in those rafters, or install a ceiling and insulate with R-30 above that. If you choose to maintain the garage door rather than close up the opening, insulate the door with R-15 insulation.
The new space you gain in a garage conversion will need to be heated and air-conditioned. Have an HVAC professional assess your plans. Simply splicing a new duct into the existing HVAC system that treats the rest of your house may tax the system’s ability to heat and cool effectively.
The garage may already have electric sockets, but consult an electrician about your garage conversion. Your current wiring and breakers may be inadequate to support added lighting, a television and/or other appliances. If there is no plumbing and you want to add a bathroom in your garage conversion, hire a plumber to run a supply line from the nearest source.
Making the new space flow
Is the garage floor lower than the floor inside the current living area? If so, a connecting doorway will need to add one or more steps down. Consider building up the garage floor with a frame and decking, with insulation beneath the plywood on which you lay your finished floor.
Kicked to the curb
Don’t forget about the effect a garage conversion will have on the vehicles that will end up parked outside. Sizzling summers and bitter winters, not to mention the threat of occasional hail, take a toll on vehicle finishes. Be sure to consider where guests will park once your driveway is filled with your cars. Some neighborhood HOAs have rules limiting or forbidding street parking.
A garage conversion will take away storage space for tools, lawn and garden equipment and whatever else you may keep in the garage. If that means you’ll need a storage shed, add that to your costs.
Approvals needed for garage conversions
Before launching a garage conversion, you must check whether you need approval from your HOA. It’s also important to obtain the permits and inspection your local code enforcement department requires. Do not brush this off, as failure to comply with the rules can have expensive consequences down the road.