Garage Conversion: Renovating Your Space to Create a Studio Apartment
By Jacquelyn Nause
Converting a garage into livable space is a great idea for passive income, large or multi-generational families and aging in place. There is a lot to consider when creating a second dwelling unit, so let’s break it down.
First Things First
There are a few things to evaluate before you start tearing off garage doors and choosing finishes. First, many jurisdictions have very strict zoning laws when it comes to creating a second dwelling unit on your property, especially if it will be used to generate income. Check the laws in your location before making firm plans. Adequate parking, ceiling clearances, utilities and more will need to be considered.
Get an idea of the layout of your space, using any existing doors, plumbing and wiring to guide you. Most homeowners opt to keep an open floor plan to avoid the addition of interior walls.
You’ll need to complete a number of technical tasks to convert an uninhabitable space into a new living area. Consult with professionals like contractors, architects, designers, electricians and plumbers. You will want to hire out the jobs that are outside your skill set, and do any smaller or cosmetic projects yourself to cut back on cost. Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the important considerations for your garage renovation.
Insulation and Air Conditioning
A moisture barrier and insulation need to be installed under the floor, with additional insulation being added to the walls and ceiling. A heating and cooling system — either connected to the main house or an independent system — will need to be added, along with ensuring the electrical system can handle the additional load.
The garage door will need to be replaced with an insulated stud wall and exterior door, if there is not one already.
Facilities and Utilities
A kitchenette — or full kitchen, depending on your permit – and bathroom will need to be installed. Some garages are sufficiently wired, but you may need to add amperage and additional circuits, depending on your current setup. If your laundry facilities are in or near the garage, you may be able to easily convert or extend the plumbing into a bathroom.
Once you have considered all the infrastructure, draw up your plans and submit them to city hall, or have your contractor do it for you. Once approved, you are ready to start construction.
You may need inspectors to come by at various stages of the construction process. This is where having a contractor comes in handy, as they are knowledgeable about permitting and timelines, as well as necessary inspections.
With the big projects hired out, you get the exciting task of choosing finishes and furnishings.
If you live in a community with an HOA, you will likely need to gain approval for your plans before you begin construction. Check your HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for more information.
Go the extra mile to ensure the exterior design and interior finishes match the architectural elements of the main house. You may want to consider adding windows, if there are none. When done well, a garage conversion can seem as if it has always been a part of the house.
Jacquelyn Nause is a contributing writer with specialties in real estate, parenting and wellness. She enjoys traveling with her husband, being a doting mother to her two incredible kids and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest playground.