garage conversion contractors

What You Need to Know When Converting Your Garage to a Bedroom

When a house begins to feel like it’s one bedroom short, one option many people are exploring more is converting their garage into a bedroom.  While still an investment, it can cost significantly less than a whole new addition to the home, and it can also be Do-It-Yourself friendly if you have some carpentry skills.  A lot goes into it, though, and when done poorly, it may not come out the way you envisioned and it might even have legal and financial repercussions if you are unaware of local building codes and laws.

To properly convert a garage into a bedroom, you will need to plan your remodel and obtain a permit from the city’s zoning department.  These changes should include:

  • Raise and insulate the flooring above the cement slab
  • Insulate the walls and ceiling
  • Add heating and cooling
  • Insulate or replace the garage door
  • Consider electrical upgrades
  • Add floor covering
  • Consider adding more windows or doors

Read on to get more details on these requirements as well as to learn how much a garage conversion project like this can cost, how long it can take to complete, how much of it you can do yourself, and how you can cut some costs but still have it turn out professional and passing inspections.

Garage to guest house home

 

Before You Begin

There are a few things to consider before you dive into this giant project. Adding another bedroom to a home can add value to the home in a very real way, but losing a garage can do the exact opposite. Some problems can arise if the conversion is not done correctly or legally.

 

Look into the City Codes and Requirements

Each city has its own set of rules and regulations for adding a new bedroom.  Some cities require insulation above the concrete floors, while others require there to be an official closet installed for it to be considered a bedroom. Still, other municipalities have requirements about the parking situation once the garage is no longer housing the property’s vehicles. If you are in The Bay Area, the building codes will vary but are usually strictest inside city limits.

The best thing you can do before you begin renovating your garage space and turning it into a bedroom is to do your research and find out exactly what your city’s zoning department rules and expectations are.  Then look into any local HOA fees or consequences for the conversion, as well as what the long-term consequences may be for gaining a bedroom and losing a garage.

 

Get Quotes from Several Contractors

The next best thing that you can do before you begin is to see where your budget will land.  It is recommended that you shop around for remodeling contractors, getting quotes from several.  Communicate your vision and budget with the contractors and see which one will offer you the best price on labor and materials.

There are often deals or promotions in newspapers as well as paper or digital advertisements.  Take advantage of any discounts or coupons you can find.  Negotiate pricing and find out which companies offer these deals and how to apply them to your costs.

 

Plan it All Out

Not only do you need to consider your budget before starting this process, but planning each and every step of the conversion meticulously can save you time, money, and frustration.  A typical garage conversion project can take an average of 4-6 weeks from start to finish, so make sure you plan accordingly.

It is recommended that you get everything researched and planned in advance so that presenting your plans to the zoning department is easy. They will need to know all of your construction plans to ensure everything will be up to standards. It helps if you have exact quotes from contractors and blueprints from a professional architect.

Typical garage conversion budgets vary so drastically; your project could cost anywhere from $5,000-$120,000. Getting quotes and estimates from contractors and architects is really the only way to figure out exactly how much your conversion will cost.

 

Ways to Save Money

A garage conversion can be an expensive investment, and if your budget is feeling a bit tight, then here are some tips for saving a little bit of money on your project process:

  • Do the demolition part yourself
  • Do the cleanup yourself
  • Research your project on your own
  • Do the legal work yourself
  • Do any painting yourself

These things may seem like a lot of work, but when you are in a financial pinch, saving money on labor costs could be the thing that makes the project affordable rather than out of reach.  Paying someone for their time and skills can be expensive, and doing it yourself can save you a lot of money.  It just costs a little time, sweat, research, and dedication.

Getting in touch with contractors, architects and designers can also help you to determine exact costs for materials and finishing touches, such as flooring, furniture, electrical expansion, and more.  The more you know, the more you can save, and the less unexpected costs will pop up.  Plan out every single detail beforehand.

 

Weigh the Pros and Cons

When converting a garage into a bedroom, you don’t just need to consider the new addition.  You also need to consider the thing you will be losing: your garage.  Many benefits can come from this conversion, but be aware that there are downsides and make sure the pros outweigh the cons before investing.

Some of the pros of converting your garage into a bedroom include:

  • Increases square footage of home
  • Increased bedroom count
  • Easier and cheaper than an add-on bedroom
  • Can be a DIY project, though not for beginners
  • Doesn’t decrease yard space

Some of the cons of converting your garage into a bedroom include:

  • Can devalue your home
  • Removes garage parking option which can leave your cars vulnerable to:
    • Break-ins
    • Weather damage
    • City parking restrictions
  • Negates any storage space available in the garage
  • If poorly done can be a legal and real estate problem

As you can see, this is not a decision to take lightly.  If done well, this project can be a benefit to your home in many ways.  If done poorly, it can come back to bite you when it’s time to sell your home or when your car is left without shelter.  Ensure this is the best option for your situation, and then you can move forward with the renovation.

garage bedroom conversions Mountain View

How to Do It

So, you’ve gotten all your permits finished and signed, you’ve gotten plans drafted from, preferably, a professional architect, and you’ve made other parking arrangements for your vehicles. You’re ready to convert your garage into a bedroom. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Demolition/Cleaning Phase

Before you do any actual building, any necessary demolitions needed should be done.  This may include taking out the garage door and prepping the space for a new wall, knocking out any built-in storage or cabinetry, or knocking down any portions of the exterior walls to make space for new windows or doors.  It may also include knocking out the ceiling if you plan to raise it.

These things need to be done first so that once you begin, you have a clean slate to begin with and you can build it up better than before with no obstacles in the way.

After demolitions, the garage will need to be thoroughly cleaned.  This includes:

  • Clearing out any demolition messes left over
  • Cleaning off any oil or chemical spills existing on the cement floor
  • Wiping walls and storage built-ins you may be keeping
  • Clearing out any cobwebs around the walls and ceiling

Once you’ve gotten all the unnecessary or unwanted stuff demolished and cleaned up, your vision might begin to take shape right before your eyes.  This is the part where you need to make sure you have done your research if you are planning to make this an entirely Do-It-Yourself project rather than hiring any contractors, because the real work will begin.

Garage remodeling to bedroom

The Foundation

One of the main concerns when converting a garage into a living space, and a bedroom in particular, is the concrete slab that has served as the garage floor previously.  Not only are concrete slabs dark and uninviting, but they are also cold, sometimes damp, and too far past industrial chic to be used as they are.  Several steps will need to be taken to get the floor to bedroom standards.

 

Seal It

The cement flooring may have cracks throughout, and there also might be some moisture sneaking in around the edges with the draft.  These will all need to be sealed off to control moisture levels in the floor and keep the foundation safe and sound for the new flooring being put in above it.

You can use any concrete sealer appropriate for your type of concrete and project, as long as it does the trick.

 

Raise It

To make room for the insulation and new flooring, the floor will have to be raised.  This can be done using sleepers or other methods. Typically garages sit lower than the rest of the house and, depending on the height of the ceiling, you may be able to raise the flooring to match the house interior.  If that is not an option or not preferred, you can just raise it enough to allow space for the insulation to keep the floors from feeling like a block of ice in colder weather.

Keep in mind as you are raising the floor here that per zoning codes and regulations, most cities require a minimum ceiling height of 7½ ft.  You may have some wiggle room, though, as most garage ceilings meet or exceed 9ft.  If you raise the flooring too much, you may put yourself in a tight spot with the ceiling being too low, so research what the regulation heights are in your city and make sure to accommodate those.

 

Insulate it

Then the floors can be insulated.  This can be done at the same time that the walls and ceiling are also being insulated if you want to make things easier. Any kind of floor-appropriate insulation will work. Todayshomeowner.com recommends fiberglass insulation rolls or batts for projects done on your own.  They referenced that The U.S. Department of Energy recommends for colder climates to use R-25 and warmer climates to use R-11.

 

Floor Covering

Now you can have a little bit of fun choosing the floor covering that will suit your taste and needs.  There is a plethora to choose from.  Thespruce.com informed us that some of the more popular choices are:

  • Engineered Wood
  • Laminate
  • Tile
  • Luxury Vinyl Plank

But you could also install padding and carpet if you prefer a softer, cozier vibe.  Some types of flooring are easy to install, while others may require a good flooring contractor’s help.

That completes your foundation for your garage conversion.  If only that were the last project.  Unfortunately, that is just the beginning.

Bedroom garage conversion

 

Insulate the Walls/Ceiling

Next on the agenda is for the walls and ceiling to follow suit and be insulated.  This is a significant item on the to-do list because the insulation will make all the difference for temperature and environmental consistency.

It will keep out moisture where you don’t want moisture and keep in heat when you really need it.  The ceiling will also maintain your cool air in the summer and make the room cozier and more like a bedroom and less like a garage.

 

Add/Update Doors and Windows

If your garage already has doors and windows in locations that you are happy with, then you can skip this step and move on!  If not, then you will need to add them.  Windows can be a huge benefit for ambiance appeal because they bring in natural light and fresh air.  Without natural light, the garage bedroom may always feel like a garage.  If you can, bring in as much natural light as possible with windows.

Doors should allow access to the inside of the home in a practical and aesthetically appealing location.  For instance, if the door to the garage is through the laundry room, consider moving it to a different part of the area that is more easily accessible.

 

The Garage Door

This is probably the most complicated part of converting a garage into a bedroom or living space.  A garage door as it is can be:

  • Impractical for a bedroom
  • An eyesore on the interior of the room
  • In the way of any wall, ceiling, or flooring insulation and updates
  • Fairly unusable in the space

Many people choose to remove the garage door altogether and replace it with insulated drywall that matches the home’s exterior for a smooth transition.  Others choose to remove it, install large French doors in its place, add windows, and bring in natural light and extravagance to the room.

Some people prefer not to remove it, for financial reasons or otherwise, and end up installing a false wall over it on the garage’s interior and insulating it between the door and the false wall.  All are good options, and it just depends on preference.

Whatever you choose to do, though, just do it well and with the right tools and resources in place so that the project can withstand the test of time and potential homebuyers.

 

Heating and Cooling

The new bedroom will need some heating and cooling for it to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summers.  To make it a more livable and enjoyable space, it is recommended that the insulation and installed heating and cooling capabilities can maintain a temperature of approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

If the home’s current HVAC system can support another room, then connecting to that may be the easiest choice.  If that is not an option, there are a few avenues to be explored for heating and cooling.  You may want to install a separate HVAC system for that space, although that can be a significant investment.  You could also consider options such as:

  • Electric space heaters
  • Electric Baseboard heaters
  • Radiant floor heating system (suitable for concrete slabs)
  • Space coolers

This will play a huge part in the bedroom space’s comfort level and should not be taken lightly.  If done properly, it can be a big benefit.

 

Electrical Servicing

One of the last things that should be carefully considered is the electrical needs of the room.  Some things that can increase the electrical load of the garage are:

  • Lighting installations
  • Additional outlets
  • Electric space heaters/coolers
  • TVs, sound systems, or other electronics

If these things will require a bigger electrical load, be sure that the existing electric circuits can handle it.  If they cannot, consider hiring a licensed electrician to install an additional 20-amp circuit or upgrade your main amp circuit.  This will ensure that all electrical needs are met and no issues arise down the road regarding the electricity in the converted room.

That will finish up all your major renovations and conversions, and if you’ve made it that far and are adding the final touches to the bedroom and enjoying the decorating process of a new space, then congratulations, but don’t celebrate just yet.

 

Inspections

It would be a smart move to have informal inspections all throughout the building and converting process. Still, once you reach the end of your project, your city will require a professional, licensed inspector to come and inspect the new addition.

They will be looking to be sure that:

  • Everything is up to regulation standards
  • All safety precautions have been taken
  • All construction has been done properly
  • The room is habitable for humans rather than vehicles.

Once you have passed the inspections, you are free to enjoy your new bedroom.

A Few Other Options

If, after careful consideration, you decide the garage conversion may not be the best choice for your needs, there are a few other options to consider, such as:

  • Finishing an unfinished basement to add another bedroom
  • Adding a bedroom on to the home, taking space from the yard
  • Adding a studio apartment or bedroom above the garage
  • Finishing an attic and converting it into a bedroom

Perhaps one of those options will suit your needs, budget, and time frame better than a garage conversion.

 

Are You Converted?

After all is said and done, converting a garage into a bedroom can be a worthwhile project that can increase your home’s square footage and give you that breathing room you might need for new residents or growing families.

This project takes some planning, budgeting, and cooperation with the city zoning departments, but it can be completed in less than two months and for a decent up-front investment.  Keep your standards high and your sights in the future, and good luck on your garage conversion project!

Element Home Remodeling is a home renovation contractor based in Mountain View, CA.  We specialize is modern garage conversions and additions and serve The Bay Area. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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