En español | If you no longer use your garage for a car or simply want extra living space, repurpose it.
A garage makeover can be as simple as redecorating or as complicated as a full-scale conversion to an in-law apartment. Turning garages into home offices has been a popular option during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say, but other uses include a larger kitchen, yoga studio, crafts room, children's playroom or entertainment center.
It might take a little elbow grease — nearly two-thirds of Americans have a garage or carport, but only about a quarter of them can park a car in it because of clutter, a 2015 survey from Gladiator GarageWorks found. But the effort can expand your living space.
"It's the kind of thing people are talking about now with everyone home trying to use their home better,” says VW Fowlkes, half of the architect couple behind Fowlkes Studio in Washington, D.C.
Regina Samani, 68, was living with her son and daughter-in-law in Los Angeles, but with a second grandchild on the way, they converted the garage into a separate living unit for more space and privacy. They don't miss the garage because they park their cars in the driveway.
"It's very nice,” says Samani, who moved into the apartment last year. “It doesn't even look like a former garage."
Before beginning on a garage project, check with your zoning or building department to determine if a building permit is needed. If you belong to a homeowners association, check the rules.
If you plan to use the space year-round, you may need to install insulation and a mini-split heating and cooling system. If you plan to power bright lights, kitchen appliances or many electronics, you may need to upgrade the electrical system. First, check if the garage can piggyback on your home wiring or ventilation system.
That said, here are six ideas for a garage makeover.
1. Home office
Paint the walls white or a bright color and add some bookshelves, good lighting and a large table for a desk, and voilá! Ron Cohen, a garage conversion expert and cofounder of Pearl Remodeling in Los Angeles, recommends painting the floor, adding an epoxy coating to the concrete or installing a peel-and-stick vinyl floor. Keep it uncluttered and professional looking for Zoom meetings.
2. Home gym/yoga studio
You can create a yoga room with simple cosmetic changes like painting the walls in a calming light or neutral color. Most people use a yoga mat, so improving the floor isn't a must, but consider upgrading to tile or engineered wood. Creating a home gym may cost more depending on the type of equipment required. For both, add shelves or cabinets for storage and install some large mirrors to stay on top of your form.
The garage — or just part of it — is the perfect location to create a convenient place to remove muddy or wet shoes and clothing or store sports gear before entering your home. In one garage-turned-mudroom, Fowlkes and his partner-wife Catherine Fowlkes designed an entire wall of built-in storage cubbies, drawers and cabinets. You can do the same by adding hooks, a storage bench or shelves. Consider splurging on durable, easy-to-clean flooring such as tile or vinyl.
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4. Children's playroom
You can get really creative here: Use blackboard paint on one wall so the kids can go wild and you don't have to worry about it. Install rubber floor mats to protect your children or grandkids if they fall. You don't even have to replace the garage door; when the weather is nice, raise the door to let the kids play outside.
5. Entertainment space
Create a versatile indoor-outdoor entertainment area with comfy furniture, a chandelier, a wet bar, speakers and a large-screen television for movie nights. You can keep the existing garage door or upgrade to sliding glass doors or French doors. A nice rug adds not only comfort but also color and warmth, Cohen advises.
6. Craft station/workshop
Imagine a space large enough to make quilts or build robots. It's the garage! Do as little as clearing out the space and moving in a big table and an old bookshelf to as much as installing recessed lighting and built-in storage. Putting a pegboard on one wall to hang tools and supplies is a must.
Considerations for a Garage Makover
Suitability: Is the location and structure of your garage well suited to your plans? Before doing any major work, consult a contractor to see if a redo is cost effective and get multiple bids for any work, advises Gia Marshello, a real estate agent for Allie Beth Allman & Associates in Dallas.
Price: The cost of a garage makeover will depend on the project's scale, materials used, if you want plumbing or electrical work and if you hire professionals. A garage redo can cost $6,000 to $22,655, says HomeAdvisor.com. If you go the DIY route and paint, redecorate and add used furniture, it may cost far less.
Plumbing: Most garages are on a concrete slab, which requires costly drilling through it to install pipes. If you plan to add a bathroom or kitchen, contact a plumber first to see if your home pipes extend into the garage.
Alternative parking and storage: You may need to replace parking and storage space that disappears from the garage. Move goods to the basement or attic, sell or donate them, or get a shed to store tools, bicycles or a lawn mower.
For parking, consider building a driveway, carport or new garage. A neighbor may have extra parking you can use.
Adding or subtracting value: Turning a garage into living space may add value to your home — depending on where you live, experts say. If you live in a snowy region or where parking is difficult, not having a garage may lower your home's resale value.
"My buyers want garages instead of additional living space,” Marshello says. “With so many storms [in the Dallas area], people want the security of a garage."
If home square footage is highly valued in your neighborhood, a garage redo may increase your property value. “It's a fact that legal square footage in Los Angeles or California is so expensive these days that utilizing your garage for something else ... is beneficial,” says Ron Cohen, a garage conversion expert. “Legal square footage is worth way more than a garage."
Sheryl Jean is a contributing writer who covers aging, business, technology, travel, health and human-interest stories. A former reporter for several daily metropolitan newspapers, her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and The Dallas Morning News and on the American Heart Association's website.