Garage Conversion

The garage. One of the main epicenters of the house, besides the kitchen. You have seen the thousands of blog posts and Pinterest posts on garages that have been converted into beautiful living spaces or art/music studios. But what exactly does it take to execute a renovation such as this? And what does one do exactly with the beautiful newfound space? Well, lets break it on down.


When it comes to converting a garage, requirements can vary state to state or city to city. There’s also seemingly a million different things that will either allow or hinder the project to take place. Let’s break it down to make things easy.

  1. Permits
    • obtaining a permit is step number one in the process of any construction project that will be adding on something to your home.
    • obtaining a permit ensures that the building project follows code/building regulations which will prevent lawsuits in the event that you decide to rent out the space.
    • can cost anywhere from $1k-$1.5k; can cost more if a variance application is needed.
    • with a permit, an inspection of the final project will be required.
    • a building permit can be obtained from your local governing office.
  2. Parking
    • some cities or HOA zones may require a certain amount of space for covered parking, due to street parking either being limited or prohibited.
      • this could prevent the idea for a garage conversion.
      • therefore it is a good idea to check with your local agency prior to permit application/construction.
  3. State of the Garage
    • how is the garage state? is it in need of major repairs? does the roof leak? is there mold or pest damage? these are key factors that fall into the category of requirements, in order for the space to be legal.
  4. Plumbing, Electrical, Heating/Cooling, Etc.
    • this is pretty self explanatory, but if the space will be lived in then basic living features are required.
    • these can also determine if a conversion is possible however. for example, when it comes to the plumbing, only a certain amount of fixtures can be placed on a 3″ or 4″ sewer line. venting is also required. so is venting the new fixtures a possible endeavor? is water able to be ran to the new living space?
    • insulation of the space can affect the cost as well, whether it is heating/cooling insulation or soundproofing insulation
    • factors such as these can affect the outcome of the project terms or possibility.
  5. Safety Dance
    • nope, not the 1980’s hit song. just the basic safety requirements that must be done for the space to be legal if it is going to be lived in or rented out.
    • again, this is also pretty self explanatory, but the basic safety features being door locks, window locks, smoke detectors, etc.

Money, Money, Money

Now let’s talk overall cost. Cost is something that once again varies state to state or city to city, as design fees and permits and title 24 calculations can all vary in cost. But when converting a garage there a multiple factors that can affect the cost. One example of this being the company that one has chosen to general the project. Cost can differ from general contractor to general contractor, therefore it’s a good rule of thumb to shop around and get multiple quotes to compare. Also sub-contractor, if you choose to find companies to sub out the work on your own instead of going with a general contractor, prices can also vary by company. The average overall cost of such a remodel is anywhere between $6k-$19k, according to HomeAdvisor. However the cost be up to $25k if any electrical or plumbing will be required.

One way to stay on budget with such a project however, is to do your best to stay within the existing building envelope. What does that mean? If possible, keep whatever is existing there. Knocking down wall after wall can drive the project cost way up. Also, when it comes to finish materials, shop around. Lots of appliances and furniture pieces can be found on websites such as Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, etc. Also, for a lot of other finish materials, checking with your local Habitat For Humanity is a good place to look as well.

Another good way to stay on budget is to do some of the finish work yourself. Installing some of the finish material on your own can save lots of money when it comes down to it, but if it is going to take much much longer doing the finish on your own, it’s best to let the professional do it. Time is money.

Endless Possibilities and Benefits

When it comes to converting a garage, the possibilities are absolutely endless. Here are some examples of what the newfound space could be utilized for:

  • playroom
  • studio apartment/in-law suite
  • bedroom
  • art/music studio
  • office
  • family room

The list can go on an on, as can the benefits. Here are some examples the benefits of a converted garage space:

  • added value to your home if space is done by code
    • the value can decrease however if the space requires covered parking or limits parking, done illegally or without permits, eliminates necessary storage
  • if converted into a living space, it can be rented out either as an AirBnb or a small apartment (which could help with yearly/monthly income)
  • if converted into an art/music studio, it can give the quiet (or really loud) artist the space to create peacefully without interruptions or distractions (even a music or art studio can be rented out as well, as studio time)

In Summary

In conclusion, when done right and according to code, a converted garage can be a great addition to a home and its occupants. Cost can be high, but can easily be covered for if the space is planned on being rented out. Cost can also be kept low by doing some of the work yourself or shopping around for contractors. Just be sure to check with your local governing agency first, to ensure that converting a garage is legal in your area.

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