For many homeowners, their garage looks like an opportunity. By converting a garage into a room, you can expand your square footage without altering the footprint of your property. Plus, a garage is already a standing structure, making gaining more living space easier to tackle than an addition.
However, whether your dream is to convert a garage to a bedroom, home office, or any other living space, certain garage conversion mistakes can cost you. If you want to avoid the consequences of a misstep, here are eight mistakes that you don’t want to make.
8 Garage Conversion to Living Space Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
1. Underestimating the Work Involved
When you’re converting a garage into a room, it’s common to underestimate the work involved. While the process is less complex than building from scratch in many cases – and less costly too – there are many steps involved.
Typically, garages don’t inherently meet the same building standards that living spaces have to cover. You may need to raise the floor, thicken the walls for insulation, run electrical, update the ventilation, extend your heating and cooling system, update the windows or doors, and more.
It’s crucial to take into account every step you need to take to meet local building codes. Otherwise, your attempt to turn a garage into a room won’t pass the inspection.
2. Skipping a Formal Plan
While it may seem like converting a garage into a room wouldn’t require a formal remodeling plan, that isn’t the case. A plan serves as an outline for all of the work needed, giving your contractor a functional map to follow. Additionally, plans are usually required to get a permit, something you typically need before doing any major remodeling.
Even if you don’t intend to make any significant changes to the space, like adding or removing walls, get a formal plan. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from an engineer or an architect unless you’re making structural changes. But having something drawn out is beneficial, keeping you and the contractor on the same page.
3. Not Getting a Permit
Any major structural change to your home – including a garage conversion to living space – typically requires a permit. The permit serves as permission from a local government agency, ensuring they approve of the work and that it meets local ordinances.
Each city or county may have different restrictions about expanding living space, creating secondary dwellings – which happens if you perform a single car garage conversion to a studio apartment, for example – or removing parking areas. Additionally, if your house is in an area controlled by a homeowner’s association (HOA), they may have rules you need to follow, too.
By getting a permit, you make sure that your garage conversion is allowed and aligns with local regulations. Without it, you may find that you have to tear out any work done or, if you need to sell your home in the future, that you can sell without any difficulties.
4. Trying to Turn a Garage into Living Space on Your Own
Converting a garage to a room may seem straightforward on the surface. However, as mentioned above, you must meet local building codes to pass inspections and finish the project successfully. If you don’t have any prior experience in residential construction, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and similar trades, getting it right on your own is difficult.
Additionally, it’s incredibly time-consuming to manage solo. For most projects – like converting a detached garage into living space or handling an attached garage to bedroom conversion – it takes far more manhours than you’d expect. Trying to do it on your own could turn a project that would last weeks into something that takes months or even more than a year.
Plus, if you make a mistake and don’t pass inspection, that’s on you. You’ll have to redo all of the work yourself or hire a contractor to come and handle it anyway.
When you bring in a contractor from the beginning, they have a full team by their side, speeding up the timeline. They are also familiar with local building codes, making it more likely that the work will be done right and pass inspection the first time.
5. Not Having a Place for the Stuff in Your Garage
In many cases, people use their garage for something other than just parking a vehicle. It may be a storage spot for paint, tools, lawn equipment, and more.
Before you begin a garage conversion, know where everything that is currently in your garage will go. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a pile of stuff that no longer has a home, leaving you with a storage nightmare.
6. Not Doing Enough Research Before Hiring a Contractor
While this isn’t just true for changing a garage into living space, as it applies to any work by professionals done on your home, it’s crucial to do plenty of research before you hire a contractor. Verify that they have the right kind of experience, are properly licensed and bonded, and that their reputation is rock solid.
Converting a garage into a bedroom, office, or any kind of living space is a big undertaking, requiring many steps. Above all, you want to choose a contractor that will do it right, on time, and on budget.
7. Only Getting One Estimate
In the end, the cost to convert a garage to a bedroom, living space, or anything else can be quite high. However, that doesn’t mean that every contractor charges the same amount for the work, including if the resulting quality is similar.
Even if you think you have the right contractor, that doesn’t mean you should only get an estimate from them. Instead, it’s always best to secure a few proposals from a handful of reputable contractors. That way, you can make sure you’re getting a reasonable price based on the going rates in your area.
8. Assuming a Garage Conversion Is Easy
While a garage into living space conversion is often simpler than building an extension, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Often, the process is complex and time-intensive, requiring many steps in a specific order, many of which take more time than most homeowners expect to complete.
For example, if there are issues with receiving materials, trouble getting inspectors on-site, or potential bad weather, those could all cause the contractor to fall off schedule through no fault of their own.
When you speak with contractors, review their proposed timelines. Ask questions about what needs to happen when and what kinds of situations may cause delays. That way, you fully understand what’s occurring and how long it might take before you begin.
Does Converting a Garage to a Room Increase Your Property Value?
If you’re doing a garage conversion to living space as an attempt to increase your property value or simply a side effect you’d love to see, understand that there aren’t any guarantees. Yes, more square footage usually leads to higher selling prices. Similarly, turning a garage into a bedroom gives you an extra bedroom, which could work in your favor.
However, if your neighborhood largely features homes with garages for parking, and you eliminate that from your property, you may not see the return you were hoping for initially. If your goal is to do the garage conversion to snag a better sale price, do some research first.
See how much you would get from changing the garage into living space, and get an estimate for the work. Compare that to your home’s value with the garage in place. That way, you can make an informed decision.