A garage conversion can add an extra 300 to 500 square feet of living space to a home. But until recently, legal restrictions have halted garage-building enthusiasts in the San Francisco Bay Area—or forced them to circumvent legal channels when building Accessory Building Units (ADUs), or “granny flats,” your everyday garage apartment.
But in 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to make formerly illegal in-law units legally part of the housing market and to make converting garages or “granny units” into living space much easier. And other bay area cities have fallen suit, or are in the process of doing so.
For a homeowner, a garage conversion has an immediate upside: The price to transform a garage and create an income-generating rental, or add comfort, is often worth it; additionally, when it’s time to sell, a San Francisco garage conversion will typically recoup 50% or more of its costs.
What Are My Options?
From art studio and home gym to rental unit and home office, the options are seemingly endless for converting a garage into a comfortable live and/or work space,
Like all remodels, though, a garage conversion can be a complex endeavor so plan carefully and hire a licensed professional to do the work. Some homeowners may opt for an opulent master suite; others will be happy with a functional office space; still others may desire a more basic multi-purpose room. So let practicality and intended use be your twin guides.
What are some of the essentials for a creating a garage remodel? Once permitting and planning are completed, here are some conversation starters to have with your contractor:
- The Door. It’ll have a more industrial look if you leave it and need to be well insulated. Or remove it and add a solid wall or a window wall for more light.
- Chances are you’ll need to add wiring or electrical outlets, especially to create a comfortable live-work space.
- Heating and Cooling. Compare the price of installing central heating from the main house versus using smaller space heaters and an AC-window unit.
- Insulation. Proper insulation is essential to maintain warmth in winter months and cooler temperatures during the summer.
- Electrical, Plumbing and More. You will need to complete and strengthen the framing, and connect the plumbing. Drywall may also be needed to finish the walls and ceiling.
- Preparing the Floor. A garage floor is often a concreate slab, which is often sloped and lower than the rest of a home. Raise it by adding a polyethylene sheet, and fill in cracks with epoxy.
- Floor Coverings. A multi-colored epoxy seal can provide an industrial flair; or ceramic tile or vinyl offers a warmer aesthetic; engineered hardwood or carpeting, though more expensive, creates a fine balance of elegance, comfort and style.