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father and son working in garage

Is A Garage Conversion Right For Your Home?

Holly Shuffett9-Minute Read
October 28, 2020

Cheers, Central Perk, the Formans’ basement – these are just a few of the iconic hang-out spots that many of our favorite TV gangs call their own. Have you fantasized about having your very own trendy living space for hanging out or getting things done? With quarantine bringing on an influx of home makeover projects across the nation, now could be the perfect time to turn your dreams into reality with a DIY garage conversion.

Why Convert Your Garage?

Since stay-at-home orders swept the nation and confined us to lots of time spent indoors, there has been a newfound appreciation for versatile living spaces and any spare room your home has to offer. So, whether you’re aching for that extra office space, are interested in building an at-home gym, or want to make some spare cash with an accessory dwelling unit, your garage could provide the space you need to forgo a pricey addition.

What Kind Of Space Can I Create In My Garage?

When it comes to making the most of your garage conversion, there’s no right or wrong way to transform the space. Every household has different needs and different budgets. The most important resource, however (pardon the cliché), is your imagination.

Alone Space

alone space in garage

Many would attest that an upside to quarantine has been the ability to spend more quality time with roommates, significant others and family – and I would agree. But as they say, “too much of a good thing …” – well, you know the rest.

And while I’m sure we all love our quality time, sometimes the constant hustle and bustle can feel overwhelming. Which is why having a dedicated space for yourself can be a great way to relax and refresh. Here are just a few of my favorite conversion ideas – and whether you want to use just one or a combination, these converted garages are sure to get your remodeling inspiration flowing:

Home Office

home office in garage

You may have heard the advice to separate where you work and where you sleep, but for many of us that’s easier said than done. With all of the classes, jobs and appointments that have been moved to an online format, it can be challenging to find the right space in your home to feel productive. Converting your garage into an office space can give you that extra breathing room you need while also providing a get-things-done ambience which is perfect for taking phone calls or responding to emails.

Art Studio

art studio in garage

If you consider yourself artist – particularly one who understands the struggle of finding space for supplies or a dedicated area for your pieces to finish drying – then consider transforming your garage into the art studio of your dreams. With plenty of storage space for canvas, equipment and easels, and not to mention, plenty of access to fresh air to flush out any paint fumes, a converted garage could be the perfect artistic getaway. 

Music Room or Recording Studio

music studio in garage

You’ve heard of garage rock, but in this case, we’re taking it literally: if your passion is music then take advantage of the unique space a garage conversion could offer. With some DIY know-how and a bit of elbow grease, you can soundproof your space for future jam sessions or even look into creating an in-home studio, depending on your budget and musical aspirations. But regardless of how ambitious you want to be, you can always brag about being in a “garage band” down the road. 

She Shed or Man Cave

pool table in man cave garage

Lastly, if you’re just looking for some extra space to kick up your feet and hang out, then converting your garage into a man cave or she shed could provide you with just that.

Family Space

father and son on floor reading

Now, if you’d prefer to use the garage to give your whole family a living space to get excited about, there’s definitely opportunities worth pursuing there too. Pinterest offers some serious inspo in that department – everything from playrooms for the littles to teen hang outs, or home movie theaters and game rooms to let loose on the weekends. You might also consider using the space for a home gym if your family is all about that fitness lifestyle. 

Housing Space

housing space in garage

In many cases, having additional room for housing others isn’t a bad idea – in fact, the demand for affordable housing space in many metropolitan areas is on the rise. So, whether you want to be prepared to take in young adult or elderly family members or are interested in making some extra cash through short term rentals like Airbnb, a garage conversion can make things easier.

The Pros Of Converting Your Garage

We’ve discussed a few of the reasons you may want to consider converting your garage, but let’s review just what these remodels have to offer:

  • You already have a garage so there should be no concerns over finding the additional property to expand your home
  • Generally, a garage conversion should cost you less than adding onto your home
  • If you need to supplement your income, you could benefit greatly from an income-generating conversion – especially if you can DIY some of the necessary labor

The effects that conversions have on

The Cons Of Converting Your Garage

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – for every set of pros, there are cons. Let’s get into them: 

  • No more parking. If you live in a city where it can be hard to find free parking or an area where snowfall and frost are guaranteed, then you’re probably recoiling at the very thought of sacrificing your off-street car space
  • You’ll have much less or even nonexistent storage space, depending on how you would use your conversion
  • If you’re uncertain how long you’ll be staying in your home and might want to sell down the line, a converted garage could hurt you – especially if you live in an area where potential buyers would much rather prefer a traditional garage to more living space.

Factors To Consider Before Converting Your Garage

While it can be fun to imagine life with a fun new living space or collect photos of trendy converted garage pics on Pinterest, there are quite a few things you should seriously consider before undertaking a garage conversion project.

And if you’re only interested in expanding your family’s enjoyment of your home, keep in mind that many insurance policies will still require that you get some permits to bring your garage up to code. 

Legal And Zoning Issues

Prohibitions

Although garage conversions are generally legal, using your garage for housing or income purposes might be prohibited in certain areas – so make sure to check with your municipalities to understand any rules specific to your area.

You should also be aware of your area’s zoning regulations, which can differ from local ordinances. Zoning policies sometimes present additional hurdles for converting your garage so it’s important to be educated and prepared. 

Lengthy Permitting Process

How long will it take to process and approve my conversion project? That also depends on where you’re from. But be prepared to face a lengthy approval and permitting process, even if your planned conversion is not prohibited. And if a zoning variance is required, then the process could take even longer and might even require legal representation. Whether your home is located in a historical district or if you’re part of an HOA can also potentially postpone or disrupt your plans.

With all of these factors in play, it’s important to prepare for the potentially lengthy wait – and also for the potential costs that could rack up along the way.

Budgeting And Financing

Although we’ve mentioned how garage conversions can save you money as opposed to a home addition, they’re still a form of remodeling and can nevertheless cost you a pretty penny. 

Cost Estimates

Just like any other home remodeling project, the price of a garage conversion will vary greatly depending on what you want. According to HomeAdvisor, it can cost you anywhere from $5,000 – $20,000. So let’s break down and explore some of these costs:

  • Integral vs. attached vs. detached garages: Integral garages are housed inside of your building and pretty much resemble a small room already. Since these spaces are so embedded in your home already, they’ll be the easiest and cheapest to convert. Attached garages, which only share the roof and outer walls of your home, will be a bit costlier, and detached garages will be the most expensive of the three.
  • Finished vs. unfinished: Like everything, costs will vary depending on just how finished or unfinished you want your final conversion to be. Generally speaking, a finished garage has drywall – and the more drywall you want to cover your walls or ceiling, the more it will cost you.
  • Kitchen conversion: Factoring in the necessary electrical, plumbing, insulation, lighting and drywall needed for a conversion project as big as a kitchen, you could be looking anywhere from $6,000 – $50,000. Depending on the condition of your preexisting home’s gas and water lines or drainage, costs will vary.
  • Bathroom conversion: If you want to include a bathroom in your garage conversion, you’ll be looking at some of the pricier elements similar to a kitchen conversion – plumbing, electrical, drywall, etc. But bathrooms don’t require as much square footage as kitchens do, nor do they need as much cabinetry or countertops, so the average price for bathroom conversions range from $3,000 – $25,000.

Remember, these estimates don’t include costs like furnishings, flooring, paint or appliances which you should also bear in mind when creating your budget. 

Financing

Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for numerous financing options. You can always consider applying for a home improvement loan, a cash-out refinance, or a home equity line of credit.

If you’re interested in a smaller conversion or plan to DIY much of the work yourself, you could also get the job done solely on regular credit cards. There are also plenty of rehabilitation grants and loans through FHA and other private sources which you may qualify for and are certainly worth looking into.

Insurance

Since a garage conversion will increase your living space, it will also increase your insurance needs – especially if you plan on housing people or expensive equipment and appliances. Unless you’ve arranged for additional coverage, any damage that could come to these pricey features in your converted garage are unlikely to be covered by standard homeowner’s insurance.

How Will A Garage Conversion Affect My Home’s Resale Value?

Since the factors that go into determining a home’s resale value are constantly evolving, it’s uncertain just how much of an impact a garage conversion will have on your home’s value. But as with most home renovation projects, if your project is well done and includes good design in compliance with your area’s regulations and laws, then you’re most likely going to reap more rewards than a hasty DIY conversion would get you.

Garage Conversion FAQs

Do I Need Permission To Renovate My Garage?

While you technically don’t have to go through all of the proper municipalities we discussed earlier, it’s definitely a bad idea to forgo them. Homeowners who renovate without the necessary permits are risking liability and loss – not to mention, if you ever want to sell, having an illegal conversion must be disclosed to potential buyers and will significantly reduce the value of your property.

So save yourself the headache and make sure you’re in accordance with your area’s laws and regulations – local governances just want to ensure what’s best for their residences and that means enforcing the buildings in their areas. Also, bear in mind that income-generating structures are taxed differently than garages. 

How Would I Know If The House I’m Planning To Buy Has An Unpermitted Garage Conversion?

Legally, this information should be disclosed to you immediately.

But if you purchase a home with an unpermitted conversion, understand that you will become liable and held financially responsible should an accident occur, like if a fire breaks out or a tenant gets injured. And keep in mind that regular homeowner’s insurance will not cover any damages from unpermitted space.

My Garage Is Detached. Will I Need A Separate Insurance Policy?

With most homeowners’ policies, the detached structure itself is probably covered up to 10% of the main home’s coverage. However, any more upgrades won’t be covered under a standard homeowner’s policy, and if you’re using your garage as a living space, the tenant’s belongings most likely won’t be insured, either. So, you’ll want to make sure to update your insurance policy to cover your newly converted garage.

Summary: Consider Carefully Whether A Garage Conversion Is Right For You

Although there are many fun opportunities with the space garages offer, there are also many factors to take into consideration before you go ahead with a garage conversion.

Make sure you understand just what you’ll be sacrificing by converting your garage – no more parking and much less storage space. But so long as you do your research on your area, understand the finances and work involved, and make plans to follow through with your financing and insurance, a garage conversion could expand your home and give you the dreamy hang-out spot you’ve been yearning for.

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Holly Shuffett

Holly Shuffett is a freelance writer for Rock Companies where she usually covers lifestyle and personal finance topics. Holly is also an Oakland University senior pursuing public relations and journalism, and she is interested in learning more about the entertainment and travel industries. In her free time, Holly serves as the secretary for Dance Marathon at OU, is a member of PRSSA, and tutors part time for Dictionary.com.