Can I Convert My Garage into Living Space? Yes. Here’s How.

In the world of home remodeling, one trend is steadily gaining traction among homeowners: the conversion of garages into living space. This approach not only addresses the growing need for additional square footage in the household but also offers a creative and cost-effective solution to expanding your living area without the complexities of building a traditional addition. While it’s completely possible to convert your garage into living space, it’s important to do so the right way.

At Lamont Bros. Design & Construction, we encounter homeowners every year looking to convert their garage into a usable living space. Whether it’s as extra bedrooms for a growing family or to accommodate a home gym, sewing room, or another hobby, we’ve helped several Portland homeowners turn their garage into a space they can enjoy.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about converting your garage into a usable living space, drawing insights directly from industry experts. With that information, you’ll be able to evaluate and plan to convert your garage into living space. The specific topics we’ll discuss include:

Why Should You Convert Your Garage into Living Space?

When considering adding more space to your home, the garage offers a unique opportunity. Homeowners are increasingly turning to garage conversions for a variety of compelling reasons, each aligned with their specific needs and lifestyle. Let’s explore some of the most common motivations behind transforming your garage into a versatile living space.

Growing Family Needs

As families grow, the demand for extra space becomes more pressing. A garage can be converted into additional bedrooms, a playroom for children, or even a rec room for growing teens. This solution is particularly appealing to homeowners who love their current home and neighborhood and prefer to expand their living area rather than move to a larger house.

Creating a Rental Space or Short-term Accommodation

With housing prices soaring, many homeowners are looking at their garages as a potential source of income. Converting a garage into an accessory dwelling unit can be rented out long-term or used as a short-term vacation rental. This not only provides additional income but also adds resale value to the property.

Hobby and Entertainment Areas

A garage conversion can also cater to hobbies or entertainment needs. Whether it’s a gym, a sewing room, a music studio, or a home theater, converting your garage can provide the perfect space to pursue your interests without disrupting the main living areas.

Home Office or Studio Space

The rise of remote work has increased the need for dedicated home office spaces. A garage can be transformed into a quiet, separate area ideal for work or creative pursuits, offering a clear boundary between work and home life.

Addressing Space Constraints

In areas where properties have limited room for expansion, converting a garage is a smart way to add square footage to your home. This is especially true for urban homes where outdoor space is a premium and building outward isn’t feasible.

How to Design Your Garage Conversion

Transforming a garage into a functional living space involves more than just redecorating; it requires thoughtful design and planning. This process ensures that the new space fulfills your specific needs and complies with safety standards and building codes. Below, you’ll find some key considerations and best practices in designing a garage conversion.

1. Assessing the Garage Foundation

One major consideration is the level and condition of the garage floor. Garage floors often sit lower than the floor of the home and have a slight slope for drainage purposes. This needs to be addressed to ensure a level floor for your new living space. 

In many cases, garage conversions involve framing a new floor using a sleeper joist system to bring the garage floor up to the level of the home’s floor. This way, you don’t have to step down into the new living space. If the concrete slab is severely sloped or damaged, it may need to be leveled or repaired before installing a new floor above it. 

2. Figuring Out How to Use the New Living Space

The way you intend to use your new living space after you convert your garage will directly impact the way you approach the project. For example, converting a 2-car garage into an accessory dwelling unit will require much more interior design than converting it into a single rec room or home gym.

You’ll want to identify what type of space will have the highest value for your lifestyle and needs. Once you’ve figured out how you plan to use the new space, that decision will inform most of the other important factors you have to consider when converting a garage.

3. Planning for Natural Light and Egress from the Garage

Garages are rarely built with windows and therefore lack natural light. Consider adding windows or skylights to brighten the space and make it feel more inviting. Often, space left behind by the garage doors can be a great location to install new windows.

In addition, egress points to escape the structure in an emergency are a safety requirement, especially if the space will be used as a bedroom or rental unit. Innovative solutions like adding French doors can enhance the visual style of the space while also keeping it code-compliant.

Portland garage conversion where garage door is replaced with windows
It’s often a good idea to put windows where the old garage doors used to be to increase natural light.

4. Incorporating Electrical, Plumbing, and HVAC Updates into your Garage

Essential utilities like electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems need careful integration into the design of your new living space. Depending on the complexity of the garage conversion, this may present several challenges. 

For example, if you plan to add a bathroom or kitchen to the new space, the plumbing lines may need to be run underneath the concrete slab. In this case, the concrete would need to be cut to accommodate the change.

Garages also have different requirements for airflow and venting than living space. For the space to legally be considered living space, you’ll likely need to connect heating and cooling systems. This might involve extending your home’s existing HVAC systems or installing a new one. If you prefer the second option, a mini-split system is a heating and cooling HVAC unit designed for small spaces. 

Cuts in garage slab foundation for plumbing.
In some cases, the floor may need to be cut to accommodate for plumbnig lines.

5. Deciding What to Do About the Garage Doors

When it comes to the garage doors, you have a lot of options. Converting the garage door into a wall, window, or exterior door can improve the functionality and feel of the space. 

However, you’ll need to consider how this will affect the exterior of the home. If you want to remove the garage door completely and have the outside look like another exterior wall, that’s certainly possible. However, it requires a lot of effort to construct framing, install siding, and paint to match the home.

However, no rule says you have to get rid of your garage doors. If you choose to keep the garage door, consider creative ways to integrate it into the design, such as using glass panels for additional light. Depending on how you choose to utilize the space inside, keeping your garage doors can help you make it into a convertible indoor/outdoor transitional space.

How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Garage to Living Space?

As with any home remodeling project, the cost of converting your garage into living space depends on several factors. The complexity, size, and quality of materials all play a hand in the total cost of the project. 

For a basic single-car garage conversion that retains the door and focuses on creating a simple living space, the cost might range from $70,000 to $80,000. On the higher end, conversions aiming for legal living space status with high-end finishes and more extensive structural changes can cost well over $100,000.

One of our recent garage conversion projects at Lamont Bros. was a 450 square foot 2 car garage that we converted to legal living space for about $140,000. At $311 per square foot, that’s significantly less than the cost of a simple home addition per square foot, which at minimum is around $350. 

New foundation footings cost more than it does to convert garage to living space.
Converting your garage can save you the cost of needing to lay a foundation for a new addition.

Want to Know More About Expanding Your Home?

Now that you understand how to convert your garage into living space, do you feel more confident in your ability to expand your home? If you’re still trying to decide if a garage conversion is the right way to add square footage to your home, read our article, “How to Add Space to Your Home Without Doing an Addition.” In this article, we discuss several creative ways to increase your living space without having to expand your home’s footprint.

Are you ready to take the next step in your remodeling journey and speak with a professional designer about your plans? If so, click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help you navigate the challenges of remodeling so you can turn your current home into your dream home.