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Converting Your Garage Into a Room

For a number of reasons, many people are now considering converting their garage into a spare room.  Perhaps you like the neighborhood you're in and don't want to leave it. Perhaps it's too expensive to move or the housing market is not favorable for either buyers or sellers. Perhaps you have a new addition to the family, want extra income by renting out the room, or maybe you have a lifestyle change that requires making space wherever you can get it.

Whatever your reason, nowadays it's easy to convert your garage into a spare room. With a few careful considerations and as easy to follow checklist, you can be well on your way to a beautiful new room.

Cost Benefit

First, consider the cost benefit of a new room.  Garage conversions can go either way in that they can either be beneficial and bring a profitable return or raise the property value, or they can become complete nightmares that actually compromise your homes value. 

'The rule of thumb is to look around. If the majority of the properties in the neighborhood have garages, a conversion could have a negative impact on the value, or make the house less desirable. Check out the market first to see if garage conversions are considered desirable features in that market or neighborhood.



Zoning

Zoning laws vary by different cities.  However, all areas require homeowners to have a building permit if they want to convert their garage into an extended residence. Unfortunately, without the appropriate permits, local officials could indefinitely dampen your dreams of a new room.

In order for homeowners to sail smoothly with their plans, they'll need to show that the building structure is up to code and they'll also be required to submit a set of plans for future renovations and construction.

In some cases, converting a garage into a rental unit turns the property into a two-family home. If a kitchen with an oven is installed, for instance, the property often is considered two-family. In some communities, however, installing a kitchenette without an oven may mean a property keeps its single-family status.

Something else to keep in mind and sort out in the beginning stages is that some cities require a minimum room sizes for a garage conversion. Depending upon the size of your garage you may only be able to put in a studio apartment. Other garages, or buildings not attached to your home, may be suitable for a two or three-room apartment.

Garage Conversion Checklist:

1. Get architectural plans

2. Apply for and secure permits

3. Frame the room and connect to the existing plumbing

4. Do electrical wiring

5. Connect to existing HVAC unit if necessary, or invest in a garage heater

6. Add insulation if necessary

7. Put up drywall

8. Install flooring/carpeting

9. Finish up carpentry, paint and any finishing touches.


Do It Once, Do It Right

Of course, if we could have it our way, we'd have the room of our dreams for the cost of pennies on the dollar.  However, realistically, you should expect to spend anywhere between $25k to about $40k.  The cost can add up quickly if you consider all that goes into it - insulation, installing windows, electrical, plumbing, flooring, energy-efficient garage heating, paint, fixtures, furniture, and so on.

Your ultimate budget will depend upon such things as whether your garage has access to existing utilities, such as air conditioning. You also may be able to cut costs by doing some of your own carpentry work or other tasks - but this is only recommended if you know what you're doing.  That last thing you want is to put in all that time, effort, and money, only to have it look like a completely failed attempt. In this case, it might very well cost you more to fix it - so why not do it right the first time.

Getting a Professional

Involving professionals in a garage conversion can help homeowners avoid major problems down the line. Although the DIY route is tempting, homeowners should consider consulting with an architect or designer to help plan the garage conversion project. The added benefit of a general contractor and designer is that one can plan on the aesthetic, the other on the functionality, and the two can work together to oversee every step.  Often even if you hire one or the other, they'll likely already have a team lined up they've usually worked with in the past.

Hiring a licensed and trained contractor, plumber and electrician can also prevent serious mistakes. The fact is you never know what can go wrong.  Leaks, floods, fires, failed structures are all a likely possibility in such situation.  However, if you have a professional working on your renovation, then chances are they're insured to fix the mistake.  It'll also hold likely that you're home insurance company will pay for the damage if and only if you had hired a licensed professional. Homeowners should also consider looking for reputable contractors that belong to organizations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Using a licensed plumber is also important if your home has a septic system. Your county or state may require you to upgrade to a larger system if you add bedrooms, since your change indicates that additional people will probably be living there.

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