How to Remodel Your Garage

By: Steve Bonser

Part One

Consider the lowly garage. For most of us, it’s either mainly reserved for your vehicle, a storage space packed with junk and boxes, a workshop for the man of the house, or the laundry area. In many cases, it’s a combination of all of the above. When it comes to home remodels, thinking about how to remodel your garage is often thought of last, if it isn’t overlooked altogether. Which is a shame, when you consider that with some planning, a decent budget, and some elbow grease you could turn your garage from an ugly duckling into a showcase of your fertile imagination.  

With few hard and fast limitations on its use, the humble garage may be the ultimate blank canvas for the inspired homeowner. Whether you’re looking to add value to your home or just seeking a more creative use of the space, a garage remodel is a great project with unlimited possibilities. 

Here are the essentials you should tackle before you begin: Garage Remodel Ideas

Develop Plans: Now is the time to define how to remodel your garage into the intended outcome and determine the specific remodel work needed and materials to buy. You may choose to approach this as a simple makeover: Better lighting, a painted floor to keep dust down, wallpaper or wood panel the walls, and perhaps a few pieces of furniture or a workbench. However, to create a practical living space, you’ll need to consider every aspect of the integrity of the room.

Get a permit: Any construction project usually requires a building permit and is a must. Even if you get away with completing the work on the sly, having unpermitted additions to your home can come back to haunt you when you sell.

Assess the condition of the room: Will the garage door provide adequate insulation? Another option is to remove the door and build an insulated wall. This shuts off the ability to ever use the space to shelter your car but greatly improves “curb appeal” and offers the potential of adding windows or even a door. 

Examine the floor: Most garages have bare concrete which tends to create a dusty environment. Cracks or other imperfects in concrete floors are common and should be addressed before construction begins. To avoid spending yourself into the poorhouse with a new floor, hire a concrete specialist to make necessary repairs with epoxy or polyurethane coating. After rehabilitating the concrete, you may want to add warmth and minimize wear and tear by installing durable nylon carpeting which is generally the most soil and moisture resistant. Shop for heavy duty Berber or loop weaves intended for indoor and outdoor use.

Imagine the mood you want to create: Should you brighten things up with better lighting or add windows for more natural light? Without an adequate number of windows, the room may be gloomy. Well insulated, double-pane windows are a must, even in temperate climates. Consider your home’s orientation to the sun and take advantage of the optimal amount of heat and light available. Suitable light fixtures can range from ceiling-mounted fluorescent sky panels, hanging fixtures, or other forms of general ambient lighting. Track lighting can add flexibility on which areas you highlight and provide an upscale feel.

Keep it cozy: The garage is typically the largest uninsulated part of you home. That means it can be a serious budget drain every winter. After reviewing the integrity of the garage door to create an adequate barrier against cold and moisture, you’ll want to install insulation if the walls are bare wood framing, or upgrade to sufficient R-value for our geographic location if what’s in place is lacking. The federal Energy Star website provides a handy guide here. Speak with your local building supply retailer about the pros and cons of the wide varieties available: foil insulation, Fiberglas, cellulose, spray foam/injection foam, and polystyrene or foamboard panels. 

Once you’ve addressed the basics and laid the groundwork, you’re ready to move ahead. Your careful planning will pay off by greatly increasing your chances for a successful, reasonably non-disruptive garage remodel which gets completed something close to your anticipated timeline and on budget.

Part Two

Congratulations! Now the fun part begins – deciding what to do with several hundred feet of re-imagined space in your home. 

Organized Storage: In southern and western states, basements are a rarity, imposing serious storage limitations on homeowners. This explains the propensity of public storage facilities in California and the popularity of parking the family car under the carport or in the driveway due to the garage having been, ahem, repurposed for all your junk. 

Building out your garage with storage organizer systems such as shelving, cabinets, and enclosed wardrobes can offload a significant percentage of your belongings. Freeing up that space can open a world of new interior décor options for your bedrooms, common areas, and hall closets. Home improvement centers and online design resources provide a wealth of ideas for transforming your garage into a clean, well-lit and optimally organized space.

Living Space: Much as a finished basement or second or third bathroom can add value at sale time, a two or three bedroom house that can boast of a professionally constructed additional bedroom, study or family room can pay dividends. However, unlike a storage room or tricked out workshop with enough parking place for your car, converting a dark, damp and poorly insulated garage into a comfortable bedroom, hobby room, home theatre, or rec room requires effort. As noted previously, ensuring comfort requires warmth, cooling, air flow, lighting and adequate electrical outlets.

Here Are Some Tips

Windows: It’s usually wise to go beyond the bare minimum and ensure there is enough window space to maximize natural light and provide fresh air. Some cities and municipalities have strict building codes which require a specific amount of square footage or a certain percentage of the total garage space.

Headroom: To prevent claustrophobia, maintain at least 7 to 7.5 feet ceiling height.

Heating/Cooling: Consider extending your existing central heating ductwork or installing electric baseboard heaters or radiant heater to maintain 70 degrees during winter and cold nights. Installing one or more roof ventilators can greatly enhance airflow as will overhead ceiling fans. In hotter climates, closed structures can become dangerously hot and stifling without proper attention to airflow assessment.

Lighting: In addition to the aforementioned lighting solutions, install at least one wall switch to control overhead lights or a lamp. Your local building code mandates this anyway.

Outlets: Wall outlets in living areas must meet minimum spacing standards. It also provides a much appreciated convenience factor and enhances appearance by avoiding the use of extension cords.

Once you’ve raised the bar by transforming your garage into a clean, well-lit, climate controlled area, you have drastically increased the ways you and your family can enjoy and maximize this extension of your home. For example, if you find you’re not using the guest bedroom as often as you had expected – no problem, turn it into a home office. Or a hobby workshop. Or yoga and workout room.

Did a couple of yard sales deplete the inventory of unwanted clothing and possessions in your storage garage? Re-visit the items you left off the garage remodel checklist to fully turn it into a living space and make it a mancave. Adding a couch, appropriate ambient lighting, high-end flat panel television and sound system can repurpose a rec room into a home theatre in no time. As the owner of a re-imagined garage, you’ll be proud to invite neighbors over to admire it. The sky’s the limit!

Garage Remodel Ideas Blog by Manifest Building