A Garage Conversion Project starts with a
Garage Conversion Plan
A Garage Conversion Project is a great way to add Living Space to Your Home
By: Mark J. Donovan
A garage conversion project is a
simple and great way to add 200 to 400 square feet of living space to your home.
Frequently garages are converted into bedrooms, bathrooms, and family rooms. Due
to the fact that a garage already consists of a foundation, four exterior walls
and a roof it is relatively an inexpensive solution for adding more living space
to your home, compared to building a brand new home addition.
A garage conversion project has some
of the same concerns and problems as finishing a basement. There are cold
concrete floors and various protrusions and obstructions in both a garage and a
basement that must be worked around.
When developing a garage conversion
plan there are a number of items you should first consider before actually
moving forward with such a project.
Check first with your Local building Inspector
Local code requirements may vary on
garage construction versus living space construction. You may want to first
check with your local building inspector to determine if there are any
structural or zoning issues with converting your garage into a completed living
For example, it may be okay for
garage roof trusses to be spaced 24" apart in your municipality, however local
building codes may also specify that these may need to be 16" on center for
formal living space. It is worthwhile talking to your building inspector first
before completing a garage conversion plan and hiring contractors. You will need
to pull permits anyway, so you might as well learn up front any code issues /
restrictions before submitting plans to the building inspector and
beginning your project.
Garage Conversion Projects and Plumbing
When considering a bathroom, kitchen
or wet bar as part of your garage conversion project special upfront attention
needs to be paid to plumbing. Most garage floors are concrete, and as a result,
you typically only have a couple of choices to address plumbing requirements.
You can either cut out swaths of concrete flooring to run drainage pipes or
elevate the floor. Elevating a bathroom or kitchen floor is typically less
desirable, unless of course you plan on elevating the entire garage floor. I
will discuss this issue/concept in more detail later.
|The alternative to elevating the bathroom / kitchen floor is
to cut out swaths of concrete flooring. This task is extremely messy, dusty,
and requires a great deal of hard manual labor, but in the end you will
achieve a better product. Consequently, my recommendation is to first
consult with a plumber before you develop detail floor plans of your garage
conversion project. He can help you decide where the best location is for
your bathroom / kitchen / wet bar, and recommend a layout. Ideally you will want to locate the rooms
requiring plumbing near each other and near the existing sewer/septic
drain pipes within the main home to minimize concrete cutting.
Once you have completed your garage
conversion floorplan, have your plumber mark the locations for where the
concrete needs to be cut away. Remove the concrete prior to beginning any other
work on the project. Cutting concrete is an extremely dusty and noisy endeavor
so make sure everything is out of the garage prior to cutting. I would also
recommend hiring either the plumber or another subcontractor to perform this
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Framing in the Garage Door Openings
When converting your garage into
formal living space you will probably want to frame in the existing garage door
openings. You may want to consider locating a standard door or windows in one or
more of these openings as you frame them in. Cutting new door openings and
windows into existing walls is a more expensive effort, as external siding and
potentially interior sheetrock will need to be disturbed that may not otherwise
be required. If aesthetically and functionally it makes sense, replacing a
garage door opening with a standard door and/or windows can potentially save
Also, when framing in the garage door
openings, first build up the base of the openings with either concrete or
concrete blocks to the same height of the adjacent foundation walls. This will
help to ensure a finished external appearance that blends in well with the rest
of the home’s siding.
Garage floors can be cold. Garage
floors typically consist of just an un-insulated concrete pad. Also, frequently
garage floors are sloped so that water runs toward the garage door opening(s).
To address both these issues it may make sense to raise the entire garage floor
using 2”x2”s, 2”x4”s or 2x6”s depending how much floor insulation is desired.
Shims can be used to level the raised subfloor. Alternatively the 2”xNs can be
trimmed to level the floor. If there is sufficient ceiling height in the garage
the use of 2”x6”s could eliminate the need for concrete cutting for installing
drain pipes. Using 2”x6”s can frequently provide enough height to support
sufficient drain pitch. Again, you may want to discuss this with your plumber if
you plan to elevate the entire garage floor.
Ducts, Pipes, and Other Obstructions in a Garage
Like a basement there are frequently
air ducts, pipes and other obstructions in a garage. Unless you want to spend
significant time and money moving the ducts and pipes, you will want to box
these obstructions in using either 2”x2”s or 2” x 4”s. The boxed in areas can
then be easily sheetrocked. Aesthetically it is better to box in clusters of
obstructions with one large box rather than having several small boxed in
areas. Many small boxed in areas will make a finished room look chopped up.
Garage Wall thickness
Frequently exterior garage walls are
framed using 2”x4”s, where as the rest of the home’s exterior walls are framed
with 2” x 6”s. The 2”x6” walls allow for additional insulation. You may want to
add furring strips to your garage exterior wall studs to enable additional
insulation thickness. As a matter of fact, your local building codes may mandate
A garage conversion project is a
great and inexpensive way to add formal living space to your home. The only real
downside is the loss of a sheltered place to store your vehicles. As outlined in this
article develop a solid garage conversion plan first before beginning work.
For more information on building a
Garage Addition or Garage Conversions see the
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The Garage Addition Bid Sheet includes an extensive questionnaire (Request for
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subcontractors for bidding the garage addition. In addition, the
Addition Bid sheet also includes estimated costs and time intervals
for constructing a garage addition as well as a list of key home material
manufacturers. Finally, the
Addition Bid sheet includes an extensive
set of helpful tips and advice on making sure the garage addition is built
properly and on time and budget.
How to Finance your Home Project -
can help provide funds for your new home improvement project if financing is
Related information on Garage Conversion Projects and Building a Garage
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