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Is a Garage Considered Living Space?

These are the reasons why unfinished garages can be used to expand your home's square footage and add a new living area, as well as how to go about doing so.

Wooden accent garage door with stone brick wall.

What can count as living space tends to get a little confusing as you move away from the basics inside your home. You might be seeking to rent out some space, take in a friend or family member, or add an extra bedroom to your house without hiring a professional contractor to make an addition to the main house. If you don’t have enough room in your house, it may be time to consider that garage you never use.

As a whole, garages count as living spaces. This does not necessarily mean that they have an apartment in or above them; any attached or detached garage can be made into and considered a living space.

What exactly is the ‘living space’ definition? How can your garage count as a living space included in the square footage of the rest of your home? You have the questions, and Love Home Designs has the answers right here, right now.

Can a Garage be Considered a Livable Space?

A standalone garage with brown and white exterior
A standalone garage with brown and white exterior paint.

Any garage can be made into a living space, and some already have been. There are many garages that have apartments above them, and a lot of people who have a garage they don’t use or that has an abundance of space will renovate it into the livable square footage.

As it currently stands, garages are not included in the square footage measurements of your property unless it has already been legally registered as a living space. This means that once you go through the proper channels, the square footage measurement of the garage will add to your home’s square footage, thus increasing the overall square footage and value of the home.

This can be done even if it means renovating your garage into a detached living space; it doesn’t matter if you have an attached garage, an unfinished garage, or an unattached garage! Turning any of these into an actively usable living space will increase your home’s total square footage measurement. Not to mention, it doesn’t even take that much to pull off!

If you are hoping to increase the value of your home before selling in the current real estate market, rent out space to earn some money, or create a space for friends, family, and other guests to use, renovating your unfinished garage is just as good as renovating an unfinished basement – except this project is one that will increase the value of your home!

How Can You Turn a Garage into a Living Space?

Garage area with a play space gray hue
Garage area with a play space in the gray color interior.

Luckily, I was able to break everything down into a total of eight steps to make it as easy as possible for you to get the job done! If you already have an apartment in or above your garage, you don’t have to worry about anything.

Step 1

A floor plan with measurements for each room
A floor plan that includes accurate measurements for each room.

You need to find out whether or not your town, city, district, or county requires building permits in order to add living space to the total square footage measurement of your home. It is important to have the proper permits before starting a project like this because otherwise, you could get into trouble!

To do this, you could search for local building codes or contact your local building department or courthouse to check with the professionals about the steps to take before getting to work. If you skip this step and refuse to get a building permit, you may be forced to remove all of the work and renovations you did.

Save yourself the trouble, and stay in line with the required building codes!

Step 2

Hiring contractors for the house's construction
Hiring contractors for the house’s construction according to your plan.

After any necessary building permit is procured, you will really be able to get started on your garage conversion. For some, this second step might involve hiring contractors to carry out required actions for the permit or building codes.

Home Advisor makes finding local contractors in your area as easy as a few clicks. All you need to do is enter your zip code and start narrowing down the results by the type of contractors you need. For example, some building codes will demand that windows be installed in order to qualify your garage for more living space.

Since garages are typically used for storage space, whether that means your car or just miscellaneous items that don’t fit anywhere else, you’re unlikely to find one with windows. This will prompt you to contact local contractors who can install new windows in your garage to meet permit and code requirements.

You also might consider hiring a contractor to remove the garage door – if that is something you want!

Step 3

Electrical wiring testing in building design
Electrical wiring testing as part of a building design.

Now that all of the official business has been taken care of, you can get to work. Some people might prefer to hire professionals to handle transforming the entire space of their garage into a living space but many will take it on as a DIY project. These steps are for you!

First things first: electricity. For a detached garage, you will want to be absolutely sure that there is access to electricity and an acceptable amount of electrical outlets throughout the space. This isn’t really an issue in regard to an attached garage, as the wiring was run during the initial construction of the home.

Electricity isn’t just for turning on the lights and charging your phone – whoever is going to use that space will more than likely want access to heating and air conditioning!

Step 4

Pink insulation on the wall
Pink insulation was installed on the wall.

Insulation. That heating and cooling won’t do anyone much good if it doesn’t stay in the building! Without proper insulation, your garage won’t be able to maintain any warmth in the winter or cool in the summer. For the sake of not melting or turning into a human popsicle, check out your local hardware store for insulation. It can also be ordered in bulk from mainstream hardware or construction stores such as Menards, which is particularly helpful if you can’t find what you need in your area!

For tips and tricks on insulation for beginners, check out this tutorial made by Home Repair Tutor!

Step 5

The house's walling covered with dry wall
The house’s walling was covered with drywall.

After putting your insulation up, you will want to cover it with drywall, also available at local and bulk hardware stores! Putting up large sections of drywall might require more than just your hands, so you might consider enlisting the help of friends or family.

Step 6

Smoothing the wall foundation with drywall mud
Smoothing the wall foundation by using drywall mud.

When your drywall has been nailed into place–an air nail gun will be your most efficient option for this you will want to mud over any cracks or imperfections in order to smooth the wall out.

Before you ask, no, I don’t mean mud as in wet dirt! In the world of construction, drywall mud is a mixture of attapulgite, ethylene-vinyl acetate polymer, expanded perlite, limestone, water, and other ingredients, and is known as a drywall joint compound. This specially made-mud is meant to fill and seal the joints between each sheet of drywall to provide a smooth, seamless transition between the sheets.

This might be the longest process, as drywall mud can take up to or over twenty-four hours to dry completely.

Step 7

Flooring installation with dark wooden accent design
Flooring installation in a garage area with a dark wood accent design.

By now, the partially converted garage should be looking much closer to a living space than before. It’s time to address the floor – or, rather, just dress it. If you are content with having a concrete floor, go ahead and skip this step. However, if you’re wanting something easier on the eyes and feet, here are a few options to choose from!

When shopping for the material you want, it is important to get accurate square footage measurements to ensure that you are buying enough to cover the entire floor space. This can be done with a good old-fashioned measuring tape, but there are several measurement apps that allow you to measure square footage and basic lengths with a few simple taps.

Depending on the type of flooring you choose, you might need to buy additional materials such as padding or adhesive!

Step 8

Using a roller brush to apply blue paint
Using a roller brush to apply blue paint on a wall.

Painting, of course! It’s time to bust out the paint rollers and get to work! This is the step that visually seals the deal of transforming your garage into an additional living space to your house! Plus, once you’re done you can bring in the furniture; those are the finishing touches!