Art of the remodel

Garage conversions: Cars take a back seat with these innovative ways to remodel all or part of a garage into extra living space
Peter O. Whiteley and Mary Jo Bowling

Before you add square footage for a family room, dining area, master suite, or home office - with the expense and complication that new construction always brings - take another look at your garage. Converting it may meet your space requirements without costing as much as an addition. The examples included here show inventive yet practical ways homeowners can transform garages (attached or freestanding) to solve the space crunch.

The beauty of remodeling a garage is that the shell of the building - often with both electricity and plumbing - already exists. Structurally, all that's needed is to close off the garage door opening and perhaps open up the wall between the garage and the house.

 

Since an attached garage is usually close to the kitchen, it's a good candidate for conversion to a family room or a great room combining kitchen, dining, and low-key entertaining functions.

A freestanding garage offers the most flexibility. It might become a home office, a guest house, an entertaining room that opens on the rear garden, a living space for grown children, or an art studio or workshop. A hallway or covered pathway linking it to the house creates a sheltered compound. French doors on the garden-facing wall can give it a cottage look. Connect the house and garage by removing traces of the old driveway and the old door.

As with any remodel, garage conversions require building permits and must meet local codes and requirements. For instance, most communities mandate some form of off-street parking, whether in a parking area, carport, or garage, so if you banish cars from your garage you may have to build another structure to house them. Check with local building officials before undertaking a garage transformation.

 

Tips for your own garage remodel
• Use interior walls or partitions to redefine the garage space. You could create a closet, bathroom, laundry room, storage area, home office, or mudroom.

• Cover the original slab with new flooring or rugs, or add framing to bring the floor level with the rest of your home's interior.

• Add skylights, windows, or French doors to brighten the space.

• Insulate the outside walls and roof to increase energy efficiency.

• If it's too expensive or labor-intensive to extend existing heating ducts, consider adding one of the following: a new gas fireplace that's rated as a room heater, a certified woodstove, or a fireplace with an outside combustion-air source.