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Homeowner’s Guide to Garage Conversions

If you’re like most people, you like the idea of passive income. A converted garage can afford you exactly that by providing either short-term or long-term rental income. It could also be a great space for a college student who’s returning home or an elderly parent or grandparent.

garage conversions

However, as many who have completed this renovation project will tell you, planning is key. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your garage conversion is a successful operation.

Assess the Structure

What state is your garage currently in? Is the structure still sound, or is it crumbling? Can it support an apartment on a second floor, or will you have to use the space on the ground floor?

You will need to bring in professionals to take a good look at your garage and get the answers to these questions. This will help to shape your design plans.

Secure Your Permit

garage building permit

You may need to secure building permits before beginning. Also, some local municipalities may not allow you to use it the way you plan at all. Speak with the planning and zoning department for your area before making any big plans to move forward.

You should also have a chat with your HOA or POA, if applicable. These bodies may have a say in what changes you can make to your building. The last thing you want is to put up a swanky apartment only to be told you can’t use it the way you want.

Design Your Space

If the construction process is fairly straightforward, then you may be able to come up with a simple plan with your contractor. However, to ensure you get a beautiful design that maximizes use of the space to its absolute full potential, you should consider working with a professional designer or architect.

converting garage

This is especially useful if the room will be small, as you will need professional help to fit as much functionality as possible into tight spaces.

Set the Foundation

The foundation for your conversion will begin inside the actual garage. Before the project can take off, the construction team must ensure the walls and roof are watertight and in great shape. This will take more than just a quick inspection as you did in the beginning.

The contractors will need to strip the main structure to see what’s on the other side. This will reveal any structural damage that will need to be addressed before you can build.

Floor Slab

If you’re building on the lower level, the good news is that the concrete that is currently in place should hold up well to domestic use. Even so, it’ll need some extra preparation, including the following:

  • Damp-proofing
  • Leveling
  • Potential cosmetic floor treatment

These modifications help to ensure insulation so that the area is habitable during the hottest and coldest seasons. If you’re building on top of your garage, naturally you’ll have a lot more work to do.

Adjust for Windows, Doors and Walls

Many small spaces actually make use of large hydraulic garage-like doors to open up the home to the outdoors. Because of this, if your garage door doesn’t face the street, it could be a good idea to leave the door as is and do some landscaping to create a small outdoor living space right outside.

However, if the garage door opens up to the street, or you would just prefer to have a more conventional look, you’ll need to ditch the garage door. You can replace the space with a traditional wall that matches the rest of the building’s architecture. This is also a great time to make room for windows along the wall.

Insulate the Walls

If your garage is attached, then chances are that the walls are already insulated. However, it’s always wise to double check, as builders do cut corners sometimes. For detached garages, the chance of no insulation is much higher.

garage converting insulation

To rectify this problem, the builder may choose to insulate the walls from the inside, by building stud walls with an air gap to provide the necessary insulation. If you have a large garage and will only be using a portion of it for your conversion, then you’ll also need to raise a fully insulated dividing wall between the two spaces.

Insulate the Roof

Whether you’re building on the ground level or adding on top, insulating the roof is important. If you have a pitched roof over the garage, then the roof can easily be insulated at the loft level, as a builder would do with an attic.

This is also a good time to mention to your builder if you planned on adding skylights to let in more natural light. For flat roofs, the builder may leave a ventilation gap to prevent condensation and then fit insulation under and between the ceiling joists.

Heating, Plumbing and Electrics

If you’ve managed to DIY the project so far, this is the part where you’ll need to rely on licensed and bonded professionals. Any mistakes here may undo the hard work you have done, causing damage to the insulation or the floors. You could even spark a fire, which may threaten the rest of your home.

Some cities and counties will allow you to make renovations to your home, so long as you aren’t adding plumbing or messing with the wires. If you live in one such area and have skirted officials thus far, now is the time to involve them, as well.

The Cost – Are Garage Conversions Worth It?

It’s estimated that the national average cost to convert garage spaces is around $12,000. Homeowners are often able to afford the additional expense through loans or tapping into their savings. But, is it worth it? The experts say yes.

Increasing square footage, especially by adding an accessory dwelling unit, increases the value of your home and helps you to build equity.

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