Get ideas for a garage conversion or shared space and learn what steps you need to follow to create a livable space.
Depending on the size of your garage, you could create a tiny bedroom at the rear and continue to park in the front or convert one garage bay to a bedroom and use the others for parking. Creating a living space in your garage assumes that you don’t already have the space devoted to storage.
Most of the work involved in such a conversion has little to do with the design of the space. Instead, a garage requires a lot of work to make it warm enough in winter, cool enough in summer, and quiet enough year-round. That’s because when developed and built, most homes insulate and soundproof the living areas of the home but skip the garage. Since people spend only a few minutes in it – getting in and out of the car – builders don’t typically finish it out.
Design Ideas for a Garage Apartment
1. This single-story garage with living quarters addition above this detached, single-car garage offers space for one bedroom and a bathroom.
2. When you need a large shop with living quarters plans like this massive three-car garage offer ample space above for a full apartment. Typically referred to as a carriage house, this design offers space for a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room.
3. If you need a small shop with living quarters plans for this partitioned space could solve your problem. Create a partition to separate the parking area in a one-bay garage, so you can sleep in the rear of the room, but still park in the front area.
4. This garage conversion to a bedroom still has the garage door and its automatic opener installed. You can see it on the ceiling in front of the bed.
Steps to Creating a Garage Living Space
Converting all or some of your garage into a living space requires a few essential steps first. When you do these items first, you don’t get ahead of yourself. Before you hammer a single nail, start with your city planning office.
Never heard of the city planning office? Your city might call it urban planning or municipal planning or code enforcement. That department handles all types of building permits, inspections, and code requirements.
1. Obtain a Permit from the City.
You need a permit. Depending on where you live, a permit to remodel your garage or build an addition to create a garage can cost up to $1,000. Trying to skip this step brings bad results. Without a permit, the city can shut down your project and force you to undo the conversion you already built.
When you obtain a permit for this project, the city approves more than the specifications for what you want to build. It affords you permission to create the cacophony required to build a bedroom.
If you wondered how most people without a building permit get caught, it’s the noise. Their neighbors abhor the loud drilling, hammering, and sawing that such a project takes. They call the city or police with a noise complaint, and you get found out. With a permit, the city provides guidelines within which you work, including specific hours that you can complete the work. This keeps you out of trouble and gets you the extra bedroom you want.
2. Install Soundproofing
Start your conversion by soundproofing the entire garage, not just the area for sleeping. This critical step ensures that the renovated living area blocks traffic noise like the rest of the home does.
Flooring upgrades contribute to soundproofing. Depending on the type of floor your garage currently features, you may need to install acoustic tile flooring. Typical vinyl over cement won’t block sound nor will it help with heating the area. Rubber tile flooring offers another great solution, especially if you will also work out in the space.
3. Install Insulation
You need to make sure that the garage stays toasty in winter and blocks out the heat in summer. This means insulating the walls and ceiling. The garage door starts out with typical insulation of R-value eight to 12. That’s pretty low since insulation goes much higher than that. You’ll need to upgrade the rollup door to an R-value of at least 13. The ceiling and walls need at least the R-value in the rest of the home. If you don’t have HVAC running to the garage yet, or don’t plan to add it, you’ll need a higher R-value.
The R-value of insulation you need depends on the area of the country in which you live. If you convert a garage in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, insulation with an R-value of 30 works fine, but converting a garage in Buffalo, NY requires a minimum R-value of 49. Some areas even colder than Buffalo in winter need an R-value of 60 insulation to make the garage a livable area. An R-value of 60 refers to the thickest, most resistant to heat transfer insulation that exists.
4. Addressing Heating and Cooling
If you don’t have HVAC running to the garage yet, or don’t plan to add it, you’ll need a higher R-value and a mini-split or a room heater and window unit for cooling. Adding vents and ductwork to your garage creates a more livable environment. If you will still park in the front part or in one of the bays, you might balk a bit at this.
Just like the insulation, this part depends on where you live. In southern California, an area with mild weather year-round, a mini-split lets the occupant cool and heat sufficiently, separate from the rest of the home. In Chicago, Illinois, you’d need to add HVAC service to the garage due to the extreme heat during summer and the bitter cold in winter. A space heater or infrared electric fireplace would not provide sufficient heat.
Consider adding an electric fireplace that features a mantel. This increases the coziness of the space. It also offers warmth and an architectural element. Choose from an insert or a freestanding unit.
5. Address the Lighting
The garage might already have a light fixture, but converting it to more than one room means each room needs its own lighting. Before you rewire, make a plan for your layout. You can decide at step five what type of lighting you want. Track lighting? Fiber optic lighting? Traditional lighting? LED lighting? Recessed lighting? You decide.
Consider adding skylights to the roof so you can leverage daylight as lighting. The garage of a home doesn’t typically feature many windows, so adding light from outside comprises a major step in the renovation.
6. Build Your Ceiling
Your ceiling design depends on whether you do a full conversion or a partial garage conversion. With a full conversion, you could install a layered tray ceiling. This adds a dramatic flair to your new bedroom that makes it seem like a part of the home. A tray ceiling has an elevated center panel and works well with integrated recessed lighting.
If you still need the front section of the garage for parking, you need two ceilings or one that allows your garage door to function properly. Perhaps you’ve noticed that most garages with rollup doors have open-rafter ceilings. Those work best for roll-up doors.
No longer parking in the garage? Replace the existing ceiling with one that features rustic faux beams. A beam and truss ceiling offers a custom look that makes it seem as if the conversion appeared as part of the original architecture.
7. Design the Living Area Spaces
Will you only add a bedroom, or do you also want a bathroom in the garage? A 30×40 shop with living quarters or a 40×60 shop with living quarters could house something this simple. Can the space also accommodate a kitchenette and a small dining area, like a 40×80 shop with living quarters or 50×100 shop with living quarters can? Decide whether to divide the spaces with walls or use an open design. A larger space can also include a breakfast nook, reading area, or meditation corner.
To add a bathroom and kitchen, you either need to tap into an existing wet wall, a term referring to a wall with plumbing already installed, or you need to have a plumber install proper plumbing. Examine your garage. Does it have drops for a washing machine? It has a wet wall. Does it go back onto your home’s kitchen sink wall? It has a wet wall. You save yourself thousands of dollars if you place the bathroom and kitchen of the garage apartment on the existing wet wall.
Don’t despair if neither of those situations fits your garage. Check the outer perimeter of your home. If the home features an outside spigot along the exterior of any garage wall, then your garage has a wet wall. Rejoice because you can site the bathroom and kitchen along that wall and save money.
Plan the Kitchen’s Triangle.
Even a tiny kitchenette needs a workable plan for success. If you’ve ever watched a show with Gordon Ramsey or Bobby Flay, you’ve probably heard of the kitchen triangle. The term kitchen triangle refers to the area between the refrigerator, sink, and stove where the majority of kitchen activity occurs. Planning this area efficiently increases the livability of the space and can reduce kitchen accidents.
Full or Half Bath?
You’ll need to install a full bath if you build a separate living area to rent out. If your family grows or you just need a space to sleep away from a snoring spouse, a half bath works because you can still bathe in the main house. A half bath only offers a sink and toilet. A full bath houses those two items plus a bathtub. If the phrase three-quarter bath mystifies you, it refers to a room with a toilet, sink, and shower.
What to Do with the Driveway?
Unless you’ve gone carless, and some people do, you still need a spot to park. Building a carport can solve this issue but avoid slapping up the corrugated metal type. Yes, you can quickly throw it up and park under it, but it won’t match your home and may erode its curb appeal.
Instead, build a carport that matches your home. If your home features brick siding, use brick for the carport.
Unless you own multiple cars, set aside about a 10-foot area in front of the garage as a patio space for the garage apartment. Erect a divider wall from the edge of the front porch to the end of the home. This affords the apartment resident their own private patio that although in front of the home, still affords privacy.
8. Consider Storage Needs
Your garage apartment or bedroom can offer more utility to you and the resident if you add storage options for their needs and the needs of those using the remaining parking bays. Choose from floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves or freestanding bookcases. Since garages tend to use smaller dimensions than other rooms in a home, placing shelves higher up on the walls ensures the bedroom’s residents plenty of floor space and ample storage.
If your design still offers parking space in the same area, consider using the ceiling for storage. Installing 4’ by 8’ ceiling mounts offers a ton of storage space above. Capable of holding 600 pounds of items, this organizer system starts at about $129 for one set. Using ceiling space frees up all floor space and offers a convenient place to store items not used every day, such as boxed mementos, camping gear, etc.
9. The Little Things Like WiFi that Mean A Lot
Perhaps you only plan to use the garage bedroom on occasions when you need to sleep away from the rest of the household, such as mornings you need to get up earlier than typical. You might use the WiFi in the home until bed, but if you want to rent it as an apartment, consider Internet access a must-have.
You may already own a WiFi router that shares the connection throughout your home. Test its efficacy in your garage. Chances are good that it does not pick up well out there. You’ll need to upgrade, so you can advertise an Internet-capable space.
Also, consider now the ideal time to add smart home technology, such as voice-controlled lights, heating, etc. This lets the new resident integrate their Alexa or Google Assistant device to turn on everything from the lights to the Roku and heater with a simple voice command. Adding a smart plug converter to an existing outlet instantly transforms it into a smart outlet. They cost about $7.50 each and typically come in a package of two.
Add electrical outlets if none or a few exist. You at least need somewhere to plug in your telephone to charge it. A spot for a laptop and a heater helps, too. Don’t forget to add a television. The bathroom needs outlets, too.
10. Upgrade the Doors.
Removing the garage door and replacing it with an upgraded style makes sense because it improves the curb appeal. Unless you still park in the front of the garage, you don’t need a garage-style door. Even if you do still park there, you don’t have to use a rollup door. Switch to carriage doors that open out.
If you did a full conversion, install Belgian-style steel and glass doors or sliding glass doors instead of the garage door. This offers a pretty addition to your curb appeal. French doors also work well to replace a garage door and add massive curb appeal. All of these options let in light without eroding privacy. You can buy each option with frosted glass in it so no one can see through it.