Remodel Your Garage for More Living or Working Space

Photo: Seamus Holman/flickr (crop)You don't have to sign up for a pyramid scheme to get more … more living space, more room to work, or even more cash. As a homeowner, you may have an important, underused asset on your property. That is, your garage. Originally designed as a safe place to stow your car, garages comprise anywhere from a modest 180 square foot area to 600 square feet or more. If you're like many Americans, a great deal of this bonus area is probably underused. Remodeling your garage could give you the extra space you've been dreaming of.

Technical Specs

Your first step is dealing with red tape. Make sure that zoning laws will allow you to convert your garage. Check with your local authorities, as well as your insurance provider, regarding other requirements, such as a building permit, a business license, or increased liability coverage. Be aware that your property taxes may increase.

Next, handle the technical specs. Your garage is probably already wired for electricity, but you are likely to need to upgrade the supply. You will also need plumbing, insulation, and HVAC.

In addition, local regulations may demand the addition of ceiling height. Usually, by law, ceilings in living spaces are required to be at least 7'. If necessary, this can be achieved by lowering the floor or raising the roof.

Bring in more natural sun with a skylight or light pipe, or replace the garage door with glass  sliders. Consider whether you are ready to cut into your garage's envelope. Ask yourself whether you might ever want to convert it back to its original purpose.

You might have to find a way to move your home's mechanical systems, water heater, or washer/dryer, if they are currently housed in your garage.

Design the repurposed garage's interior carefully, making use of features such as built-in furniture and a loft, to maximize the space.

Finally, plan ahead for where your family, tenants, and/or customers will park.

Living Space

Fit out a garage for a responsible older teen or a young adult enrolled in a local college. This will provide a quiet place to study and an age-appropriate sense of privacy.

A garage apartment could also be a financial haven for a recent grad or newlywed son or daughter who is just getting started in the career world and would like to save money for a down payment on a house of their own.

Like their parents before them, Gen X and millennial 20- or 30-somethings continue to disprove the idea that you can't go home again. And like parents and children for centuries, you are likely to get along better if you are not sharing a kitchen for long stretches of time.

Speaking of parents and children, you can also remodel your garage into an in-law suite, as a way to accommodate an aging relative with dignity.

Looking for extra cash? Turn the garage into a rental apartment, as either long term or vacation lodgings. Alternatively, you might want to jump on the tiny home bandwagon and move into the garage remodel yourself, especially if you are an empty-nester on a fixed income. This will allow you to rent out the main house.

Working Space

Walkability -- on-foot access from your house to work and amenities -- is a highly sought-after quality these days. You will have no need to drive or even bus or bike to your workplace when it's been relocated right next door. Turn your garage into a home office or a studio for painting or crafting.

If zoning permits, you could even set up a small business which is open to the public. We've seen garages remodeled to accommodate anything from pet grooming to bicycle repair.

Besides the extra space, a major advantage of this type of arrangement is the separation of your work and home life.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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