Transform Your Garage

With garage remodels, homeowners are turning their garages into everything from billiards rooms to guest apartments. (Dreamstime)

Are you making the most of the space your garage has to offer? If you’re using it for little more than trash bin storage and the occasional home project, now’s a good time to take the plunge and convert your garage into the hobby space, home gym or guest apartment you’ve always wanted. Garage remodels are currently one of the hottest trends in home improvement. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to your options.

Here are a few important considerations to get you started.

Think through your plans
A garage conversion is a major remodel, so it’s important to take the planning process seriously. Will you be converting the space for an everyday-living purpose, such as a new bedroom for a family member? Or will you use it for hobby or entertainment purposes? If you turn your garage into a motorcycle repair zone or the ultimate billiards room, will you still be able to get your car inside? These decisions are entirely up to you, but be sure you understand and prioritize your needs and wants up front.

Be realistic
Improving garage organization with custom cabinets and hangers may require an investment of a few thousand dollars. But converting a garage to a living space, adding a car lift or installing significant hobbyist upgrades could escalate into an investment requiring tens of thousands of dollars. It’s important to know what you’re getting into up front. And it’s also important to understand that converting your garage for other uses may make your home less desirable to potential homebuyers in the future.

Consider the logistics and safety
If your garage isn’t already insulated, you may want to install insulation to create a comfortable living area. You’ll also want to talk to an HVAC company about routing heating and air conditioning to the garage if it isn’t already equipped. Of course, depending on the purpose of your conversion, you’ll probably want to keep lighting, electricity and running water in mind as well.

Garages are constructed with different safety rules and considerations than living areas. If you still have a standard garage door, you’ll need to ensure proper clearance for its safe operation and see to it that the electronic sensor eyes aren’t blocked. Garages have different ventilation requirements as well, particularly if you run any kind of flame source or gas heater on a regular basis. An expert can help you determine how to safely consider these problems.

Get the right permits
Talk to your local building inspector and be sure to obtain any necessary permits for your garage project. General improvement, storage upgrades and similar projects rarely require municipal compliance. But major additions, living space conversions and the addition of mechanical structures such as car lifts may require the involvement of your state and local governments. If you skip this step, you could run into trouble if and when the time comes to sell your home.

Additionally, keep in mind any historic district rules or neighborhood association covenants that apply to your property. You don’t want to spend $10,000 only to find out the association committee disapproves. And of course, be sure to hire a licensed, bonded and insured professional to do the work.

One more thing: If you’re modifying your garage in a way that will keep you from storing your car, be sure to inform your insurance company. This could affect your premiums. And if you’re converting your garage into living space, your homeowner’s policy could be affected.

By Paul F. P. Pogue, Angie’s List. Paul is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.