You’ve moved into a new home and already you’re bursting at the seams. You’ve discovered what most homeowners eventually learn: it doesn’t take long to fill every available space in a home. When that happens, and an addition is not in the budget, you do have another option. Convert your garage to a usable space. Sometimes, you just need more house, more than you need to house the car.
Converting vs. Adding to Make More Room
According to HomeAdvisor, “the average national cost of adding a room or building an addition is $43,892, with most homeowners spending between $20,899 and $67,431.” Depending on what you plan to use your garage for, converting it could cost as little as $1,500. In a separate survey, HomeAdvisor found that homeowners “paid between $5,997 and $19,281 [or] on average, converting a garage costs $12,043.” Bottom line: It can be more cost-effective to convert your garage.
Pro tip: You should also check with your local building department to see if a garage conversion requires a permit. You may not need one, or may only need one if you intend to have plumbing and/or a kitchen as part of a conversion. Regardless, permitting can be an added cost to consider.
Ideas for Your Garage Makeover
Once you have decided to convert your garage, it’s time for the fun part—deciding what type of room to create. Here are some of the most popular uses for a converted garage, sorted according to generally less- and more-expensive ideas. Often, a conversion can cost less when you already have the items you need more space for, like kids toys for a play room, or equipment for a gym, gaming, or office space. The biggest expense, after you convert a garage, will be buying those items that complete certain kinds of rooms, like a home cinema, bar, or a guest house.
Tips for Converting Your Garage on Budget
When you convert your garage, consider keeping the conversion simple. The benefit to that is you'll be able to more easily convert it back later. There may come a time when you no longer need the extra space, or your budget allows you to add room onto the house; or you may someday decide to sell. (Keep always in mind that, depending on your location, converting may potentially be a double-edged sword. Be sure to do your homework so you understand how any changes you make could affect your home’s resale value.)
The biggest benefit to keeping it simple? You can do the work more inexpensively, which is the focus of the updates and improvements described next. Most of these ideas you can also do yourself, which can help keep your costs down. (For even more ideas and inspiration, check out our Pinterest page.)
Heating and Cooling
If you have an attached garage, your current HVAC system may be able to support the extra space. For about $200, you can hire an HVAC inspector to assess whether or not your system can cover the garage. The cost of expanding a system with additional ducts and vents depends on the square footage of your garage, but typically, expanding a system can range between $500 and $2,000. It's important to also check with your local building department about any life-safety code issues with expansion to a garage. If an inspector assesses that your system won’t accommodate an expansion, you may have the option to update it, but that would also up your cost considerably.
For a standalone garage, or when central heating and cooling expansion is out, reasearch these less costly options:
- Forced air heater
- Floor unit or overhead heater
- Infrared heater
- Gas or wood burner
- Window air conditioning unit
- Portable room air conditioner
No matter how you heat or cool your garage, you should add insulation. Look into less expensive alternatives such as recycled foam board or spray foam. You can DIY either with a little help from the internet—there are scores of video to walk you through installation.
If you live where winters are cold and want to create a comfortable environment for year-round use, you may need the more expensive, higher R-value insulation like what you have in your home. Factor your climate into every decision you make around converting the garage.
If your garage walls are unfinished (stud walls only), you’ll need to finish them before adding insulation. The problem is, most standard materials for finishing, such as wallboard (a.k.a, drywall), plywood, or paneling are expensive. There are less costly options to consider, including materials such as shiplap or galvanized metal. You’ll want to buy them pre-cut into panels if you DIY, so shop around for the best price when looking at these options.
Of course, if your garage has finished walls, painting them does not have to be the only option. Peel and stick wallpaper is so inexpensive, easy to work with, and comes in so many variations, you can create any look for your space and apply it in a day. From brick to barn wood to tin and more, you can peel and stick your way to a new room.
Depending on what you plan to use the new space for, you’ll find many options for garage flooring. Some less expensive options include:
- Concrete paint kit (epoxy-based) for coating floor
- Resurfacing kits for concrete floors
- Acid-staining kits for concrete floors
- Garage floor mats
- Rubber or vinyl flooring rolls
- Engineered wood flooring
- Garage floor tiles
You can DIY all of these options with a bit of research and some prep time. Should you ever decide to convert the space back to a garage, the first three options in list above can stand up to cars as is, while the last four are removable, so you can return to the original concrete floor.
You could also consider carpeting, but it is a more expensive option, and the space needs to be well-insulated to avoid mold and moisture issues. A less expensive option is to use throw rugs, especially indoor/outdoor rugs. These work great, come in so many colors and patterns, and if you shop around, you can find many for under $100.
Many online articles recommend you change the garage door. If you think you may want to use garage for cars again someday, consider instead simply purchasing a garage door insulation kit. Most cost under $100, but read reviews before you buy, and consider insulation thickness, R value, and ease of DIY installation.
A fun option to consider for your project might be adding a rolling or retractable mosquito screen added to your garage door. Be prepared to spend more—prices range from under $300 up to $1,000 including installation.
Want to keep the garage door but change its face? Check out GarageSkins. The wood veneer in this new product will apply quickly to a metal door and give the outside of the garage door a new look.
Be sure the windows are well insulated, or insulate them during wall installation. If your garage does not have any windows, consider adding one or two to provide the new room with more natural light. If you hire a contractor, the framing and labor to install a standard window typically costs under $1,000. Shop around for the best price on a new window and be sure it matches the look of windows in your home. And don’t skimp on price because it will be for the garage; purchase energy-efficient double-paned windows.
Once you have completed converting your garage, you are ready to add the furnishings, wall coverings, and appropriate decor to complete the look. Even if you have opted for a more expensive conversion, say for creating an extra bedroom or guest room, watch for estate sales, or visit local consignment and antique stores. Shop around for unique, less expensive finds for your new space. Then just sit back, relax, and enjoy a little more room!