Garage Conversion Ideas Worth the Effort

By Julia Califano · July 05, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Garage Conversion Ideas Worth the Effort

If you need more living space, but don’t have the property (or the budget) to put an addition on your home, it may be time to take a closer look at your garage. Whether it’s attached or free-standing, a garage conversion can be a relatively quick and affordable way to expand your current home.

The cost and amount of work involved in turning your garage into usable living space will depend on its size, current condition, the purpose of the remodel, and where you live. Read on for a closer look at what’s involved in a garage conversion, including design ideas and estimated costs.

Do Garage Conversions Add Value?

You may define value in myriad ways, but one of the most important considerations in converting a garage is what value it might add to your life. If you have a big family, you might want more space — perhaps a quiet, child-free zone where you can enjoy some quiet time. Or, you may want to convert a garage into a playroom where your children can keep their toys, decluttering your main house.

If you frequently have house guests, building a garage apartment or in-law suite can function as extra living space for friends and family to use when they’re in town.

A garage conversion can also add monetary value to your home, since you’re adding to the total livable square footage of your home. You can generally expect to get about 80% of what you spend on a garage conversion back when you sell your home (known as your return on investment, or ROI). To get an idea of the ROI of a garage renovation in your area, you may want to use a free online home improvement ROI estimator.

Adding Living Space to a Converted Garage

How you use a converted garage space depends on whether it’s attached to your house or a freestanding structure. If the garage is attached, you could create a room that becomes part of your home. This might be a recreation room, a workout room, a family room, a home theater, an extra bedroom, or a multipurpose room.

If your attached garage is connected to your kitchen, you might consider expanding your kitchen into a home chef’s paradise or creating an open-concept dining and entertaining area.

A detached garage could also become an apartment for your child as a young adult. Or, you might turn it into an art studio or a home office. The options are virtually endless. So a good first step is to figure out how a converted garage might provide the most value for your family.

Need help funding your garage conversion?
Check out home improvement loans with SoFi.

Converting a Garage to an Apartment

If you’ve decided to convert your garage into an apartment, whether to create an in-law suite or a private space for your older child, you’ll want to consult your local planning board to find out what permits, if any, are needed. Often, if you’re building a new structure or making modifications to existing structures, a permit will be required. In fact, it’s important to double-check whether a permit is needed even for light remodeling.

Before you begin converting your garage, you might want to map out where everything is going to go and what you’ll do with the items that are currently in the space. To streamline that process, you could divide the items into one of three categories:

•   Keep

•   Donate

•   Throw Away

Once you’ve donated and thrown away items, it’s time to determine where you want to store the remaining items. Do you have a basement or attic where you can pack away everything you’ve stuffed into the garage over the years? How can you make those areas more storage-friendly?

If you still want to use a portion of your garage for storage after conversion, you might think about how to partition off that section so that the rest of the garage looks attractive and not cluttered. If you don’t want to use your garage for storage after the conversion, you might consider building an outdoor shed (provided your HOA or neighborhood association allows it) where you can items you don’t need on a regular it, in which to store your remaining belongings, or a remote storage unit for things that you’ll rarely need.

Garage Floors and Doors

Deciding what to do with garage floors and doors is a crucial part of a garage conversion. If you have a traditional garage, the flooring might be a concrete slab with no insulation. In addition, the garage floor may fall several feet below the floors in your home, sloping toward a floor drain or the garage door, in which case you’ll need to have the floor leveled.

Then there’s the garage door to consider. If you remove it, you’ll likely have a large, gaping space. You might want to install a wall with french doors to let in the light or create a new wall that contains a large bay window. What you do might depend on whether or not you want the spot where the garage door existed to be an entryway.

Garage Roofing, Ventilation, and Insulation

Before beginning a garage conversion, you’ll want to check that the garage roof is watertight. If it’s not, some roofing upgrades could be necessary. If the plan is to install a kitchen or bathroom in your converted garage, you may also need to address ventilation issues. To create a comfortable space, you’ll also need to ensure there is proper insulation in the walls, roof, flooring, and anywhere else it’s needed.

Garage Windows and Walls

In order to create walls, you may need to install stud framing and drywall. In addition, you may need to put insulation and moisture-proofing, as well as wiring, in the walls. Also consider whether you want to add closets to your converted garage. If so, now is the time to lay those out.

One way to make a garage quickly feel like home is through access to natural daylight, which can be achieved by installing large windows strategically throughout the space or punching holes in the ceilings to install skylights. Consider using window styles that match those on your home to give it a cohesive look, especially with attached garages.

Garage Heating, Plumbing, and Wiring

If you have an attached garage, consider whether your current HVAC system can heat and cool your converted space. You may want to think about supplementing what you currently have, whether through a floor heating system, electric baseboards, wood stoves for the winter season, or an air-conditioning unit to cool off the space in the hot, sticky months of summer.

With plumbing, consider how to run pipes to supply water to the garage, as well as how to effectively drain the water back into the sewer system. If you need to add plumbing to the new space, this could be one of your bigger expenses.

What It Costs to Convert a Garage

How much it will cost to convert a garage into a living space will depend on what you will use the space for, the size of the garage, and the materials you choose. You could spend anywhere from $1,500 to $60,000 on a garage conversion.

To convert a garage into a bedroom, for example, you may need to spend around $15,000. If your plan is to make it a master bedroom with an attached bath, however, it could run closer to $25,000.

Converting a garage into an office tends to be one of the more budget-friendly options, since you don’t need plumbing and closets. You can expect to spend somewhere around $5,000. Turning your garage into a kitchen, on the other hand, will likely cost quite a bit more. You could spend anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000, depending on plumbing, appliances, and finishes.

The Takeaway

Converting a garage can be a great way to expand your livable space, while also adding value to your home. The design possibilities are virtually endless — you might turn your garage into an in-law suite, rec room for kids, gourmet kitchen, artist’s studio, home office, hobby room, home gym, or workshop. Whatever direction you take your garage conversion, you’ll want to consider budget (getting estimates from at least three contractors) and whether you’ll be able to pay up front for the project or may need to consider financing.

One type of loan that can work well for a garage conversion is a home improvement loan. This is an unsecured personal loan used to finance home upgrades and renovations. You receive a lump sum up front which you can use to pay for your garage conversion; you then repay the loan over a set term, often five to seven years, with regular monthly payments. Interest rates are typically fixed.

If you’re ready to remodel your garage and want to explore your financing options, SoFi could help. SoFi’s personal loans offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

See if a home improvement loan from SoFi is right for you.

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