Planning a Garage Conversion
Here we go! Cully and I are planning a garage conversion; the biggest DIY makeover in our current house to date.
We are thrilled to be a part of the One Room Challenge and we’ll walk you through the process of our transformation over the next eight weeks. Stay tuned to the blog and Instagram for all the juicy details.
This week’s post will be all about our garage conversion planning process.
Our goal is to be as transparent and informational as possible, so please always feel free to leave any questions or comments you have at the end of each week’s blog post and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
**This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using one of these links. However, I only recommend items I personally love. Thank you for your support of my creative business!**
Single Car Garage Conversion
The current layout of our home includes a 550 square foot addition to the back of the house that was built some time ago (and well before we lived here).
Within this addition, there is a long (and somewhat narrow) family room, a very small single car garage (we’re talking it barely fits our Mustang) and a sunken pantry.
Our house is currently a three-bedroom one-and-a-half bathroom set up.
There is no official master suite. Being avid DIYers, Cully and I started dreaming about the possibilities of what we could do with this somewhat awkward space in the back of our house.
There is a detached garage that can hold two cars near the back of our property. So, we were not concerned with converting the single car garage that is attached to our home. Especially since the attached garage is smaller than an average single car garage.
How Much is a Garage Conversion?
The average cost of a single car garage conversion with a bedroom plus bathroom ranges from $15,000-$50,000+
Here is a list of common work that may need to be done and what you expect to pay if you choose to hire the work out:
- Building Permit: $250-$2,500+
- Framing New Walls: $7-$16 per square foot
- Electrical Costs: $2-$4 per square foot
- Rough-in Plumbing + New Water Line: $4,000-$15,000
- Heating and Cooling: $500-$2,000
- Insulation and Drywall: $2-$5 per square foot
- New Windows: $1,000-$1,800 per window
- Finishing Touches: $2,500-$10,000+
- Budget Buffer: Add 15%-20% to total project cost
- General Contractor Fee: Add 10%-20% to the total project cost
The cost of a garage conversion can vary in a big way. It starts with how you want to transform the space and how you choose to get the work done.
If you are simply turning the garage into a bedroom, your expenses will be far less than if you wanted to build a bathroom in addition to a bedroom.
All estimates are based on our own experience with our specific project plan and online research*.
When planning a garage conversion, you may use these numbers to get a general idea of what your project will cost.
We will be adding a bathroom to our garage conversion. But first, we’ll be focusing on finishing the bedroom. Our goal is to join the October One Room Challenge for the bathroom!
Planning a Garage Conversion Cost Breakdown
Pulling a Permit: $250-$2,500+
It’s assumed you will need to pull a permit when planning a garage conversion (more on this in the next section).
Expect to pay anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending how your county prices out permits and the size of the space you’re working with.
Framing New Walls: $7-$16 per square foot
If you will be building new walls, you will need to include the cost of lumber. The cost of building materials has increased significantly in recent times.
The current cost hovers around $6.50 per 2 x 4.
On average, a standard 10-foot wall requires 8.5 2×4’s to build. This means material cost for building one 10 foot wall would be around $60-$70, after tax.
When hiring out the work, expect to pay $7-$16 per square foot.
Load bearing walls are typically priced on the higher end and may be more than $16 per square foot.
Electrical Costs: $2-$4 per square foot
Electrical cost will vary depending on the needs of your space. You will likely need to add more outlets, more lighting and / or move the position of the current electric set up.
If your breaker can handle any necessary electrical additions, your cost will likely be on the lower end.
We will mostly be needing to move the current electrical outlets and add a few. The overhead lights will just need to be moved, so we will save on materials there.
We are familiar with how to wire the outlets and overhead lights and are well versed with code requirements. Therefore, we will be doing the work ourselves. We anticipate spending approximately $200 in various electrical materials.
If you are not comfortable with electric work, I do not recommend you approach it as a DIY project. There are far too many things that could go wrong and one wrong move could result in serious injury or even death.
In our experience, a basic job at 250 square-foot runs anywhere from $500 to $1,000+ to have a pro wire the space.
Because there are many types of wiring jobs, it’s difficult to gauge cost. But this will likely be an expense to add to your list when planning a garage conversion
Rough-in Plumbing + New Water Line: $4,000 – $15,000
We have not priced out plumbing materials yet, since we are focusing on the bedroom first.
However, we did get a local company to provide a quote for the new plumbing that will need to be installed.
The quote came back at $14,800. It includes the rough-in plumbing and adding a water line.
The complexity of your project will determine the cost. For example, we will need to cut through a cement wall, remove part of a cement slab, dig a new trench outside to fit the new lines and the list goes on and on.
It was originally thought that we would need a pump. But now that we have more information about how the space was built, we are hopeful a pump will not be needed. The quote we received assumed a pump was required.
The quote does not include any finishing touches such as building a shower, installing the toilet, etc.
Although the complexity of our project is higher than average, we still found this quote to be unnecessarily high.
We have decided to do the plumbing work ourselves. Once I have the cost of plumbing materials lined up, I’ll update this post.
Heating and Cooling: $500-$2,000
Our entire house runs on gas heat. We are fortunate to have an existing heater in the family room that will pour out enough heat to also heat the new bedroom and bathroom.
The only heating cost we may incur is if we choose to add an electric baseboard heater in the bedroom. These run anywhere from $50-$150.
Electric baseboard heaters are very common where we live, but they are not always common everywhere. They can also be quite expensive to run. We only use them as supplemental heat, not as the main heat source.
Same story for the cooling of the new space. Swamp coolers are very common where we live. The swamp cooler we have will be able to keep the space cool in the summer.
If your house runs on a furnace and A/C, new vents may need to be installed, so plan accordingly to your situation. Estimated cost to get A/C/heat in a garage conversion is $500-$2,000.
Insulation and Drywall: $2-$5/square foot, installed
We are anticipating $800 – $1,000 will go toward insulation and drywall materials. We will also be doing this work ourselves.
When hiring this out, expect to pay anywhere from $3-$6 per square foot. This includes materials and labor. If you will be your own general contractor and hire out the work, you may need to separate these two projects, depending on the skillset of the individual(s) you are hiring.
When separating the projects, expect to pay $1-$3 per square foot to hang the drywall and .75-$2 per square foot to have basic rolls of fiberglass insulation rolled into the walls and ceiling space.
Based on these calculations, if we were to hire this project out, we’d be looking at spending somewhere around $2,500 – $3,500.
New Windows: $1,000-$1,800 per window
You may be lucky enough to already have the appropriate amount of windows in the exact right spot for your garage conversion.
If not, you will need to factor in the cost of windows and labor to install.
Windows are like finishing touches in that you can spend as little as $150 to upwards of $1,000+ on a single window.
If you stick to the lower pricing tier, you can expect to pay $1,000-$1,800 per window, installed.
Finishing Touches: $2,500-$10,000+
Finishing touches include the final details such as the flooring, wall treatments, doors, shelving, light fixtures, etc…
I don’t have the final designs chosen for the bedroom yet, but anticipate around $2,500-$4,500 will go to finishing touches.
It’s important to note that Cully and I are a frugal folk, and we do not spend top dollar on finishing touches.
We often find ways to repurpose existing materials and/or custom build items, which has helped us save thousands of dollars on home renovations.
Finishing touches are completely within your control, and can be done on a budget, or you can splurge and spend upwards of $10,000+
Add an Additional 20% Budget Buffer
Once you consider all the costs listed above, be sure to add an extra 15%-20% for good measure. This way, if there’s something minor you forgot and/or a quote comes back different than the original, it won’t be such a shock to the budget.
When working with a general contractor, you can expect to add an additional 10%-20% to the total project cost for their fee.
Cully and I would like to have the bedroom and bathroom fully finished for under $12,000. The only way to even attempt to come close to this number is to do all the work ourselves.
If we fall too far behind our timeline and need to bring in some people to help us, that may change our budget. I’ll keep you all posted as I have updates!
Garage Conversion Planning Permission
Planning a garage conversion is pretty much guaranteed to require pulling a permit.
Due to the nature of the work involved with a garage conversion, situations are rare when a permit would not be required.
The rules of when a permit needs to be pulled will be dictated by the county (and even city) you live in.
If you decide to hire a general contractor to do all the work for you, make sure to inquire if they will be responsible for pulling all the appropriate permits. And, get clarity if those fees are included in the overall quote.
If you will be pulling the permit yourself and / or doing the work yourselves, the best place to start is your county’s website.
For questions regarding the permit process, give your county a call or stop by in person and simply inquire about what all you are responsible for to get the permit pulled.
For our garage conversion in Mesa County, Colorado, we were required to provide the following:
- Drawing of the existing layout
- Drawing of the future layout
- Square footage of each room
- Position and size of new windows that would be installed
- Approval from the sewer department
- Drawing of the window headers
- Drawing of the door headers
We were told the cost of the permit was based on the square footage being remodeled, in our case around 350 square feet. The permit covers everything we want to do with the new bedroom and bathroom.
Total cost of our garage conversion permit was $626.
I imagine these costs vary county by county and even state by state, so be sure to check with your county about the process and fees associated.
Plans for a Garage Conversion
An architect was not required in our circumstance, however depending on what you want to do with your garage conversion will determine if you require an architect for your project.
Because we were not taking down any existing walls, we were only adding a couple of non load bearing interior walls, it was clear that an architect was not needed.
Plans for the garage conversion were fairly simple to draw because of this.
The pictures below show what we submitted with our permit application. Our plans were approved using these drawings.
The county was not as concerned with exact measurements, but more the overall square footage and placement/size of all new windows and doors.
Designs for a Garage Conversion
Now onto the fun part of home renovation; the design!
As part of the planning process, I always create a mood board that will help guide how I want the final design to look.
I find it easiest to use Canva to create the mood board and simply remove the background from any images that I want to include in the space so I can get a good feel for what the final design will be.
My style changes nearly every year, and I am loving the look of mixing colorful earthy tones.
Below is the mood board that I will use as my guide for the garage conversion:
Flooring for a Garage Conversion
Choosing flooring for a garage conversion can be tricky, depending on your current floor.
Most garages have concrete poured as the flooring. Because of this, it may not be as simple to slap in any old flooring that you want.
For example, many brands of laminate flooring require an underlayment between cement and the laminate flooring.
This is because cement is known to absorb and hang onto water. If that moisture seeps through the laminate flooring, it can warp and ruin it. Adding the protective layer in between the cement and laminate flooring helps prevent any moisture damage.
If you will be laying tile directly on the cement floor, it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Just make sure all the proper prep work is done. And you will want to make sure that you fill in any existing cracks, if applicable.
We will continue to lay the same flooring that we used for the rest of the house a few months back.
Can I do a Garage Conversion Myself?
Since the cost of a garage conversion can range from a few thousand to well over $50,000, you may be wondering if this is a project that you can take on yourself.
Bottom line is yes, you can! However, if this is your first time attempting to DIY a home project, I would not recommend starting with such a big project like a garage conversion. But perhaps you could DIY some of the work which would help save money.
Cully and I have been DIYing our home renovations for over 10 years now.
We are self-taught and highly disciplined. We do not attempt any DIY home project without thoroughly researching the project at hand.
Knowing current code and approaching every project with a “safety first” mentality are the most important factors of any DIY home project.
If you are up for the learning challenge and are comfortable with the basics of DIY home projects such as using tools, climbing ladders, getting in all the nooks and crannies of your house to explore, you could absolutely take on DIY home project renovations.
It took us many years to get where we are at today, however we are now able to reap the financial rewards and satisfaction of DIYing our home projects.
Best DIY Home Renovation Resources
If you are new to DIY home renovations, there are several resources that I highly recommend as a starting point to learning the process.
All resources bulleted below are easy to read and understand…unlike buying traditional school book type building code books – those things are brutally boring and can be hard to decipher on your own, IMO.
- Ultimate Guide: Wiring by Editors of Creative Homeowner
- Ultimate Guide: Plumbing by Editors of Creative Homeowner
- Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding Electrical Code
Does a Garage Conversion Add Value?
A garage conversion has potential to add value to your home.
If you are converting your garage, and it is the only garage on the property, be sure to check with an experienced Realtor to get their thoughts on if it will add value.
Oftentimes when you take away the only garage and convert it into a simple living room, for example, very little to no value will be added. In fact, it could have the opposite effect if you take away the only covered parking on the property.
If you are converting a garage, yet still have additional covered parking (ie: an additional garage) on your property, it is more likely that converting that space will add value.
Converting our garage was a no-brainer since we still have the additional detached garage and the garage we are converting barely fits a small car.
Additionally, we sought the advice from our trusted realtor and her analysis confirmed that by converting this garage into a master suite, our home’s value will increase over 30%.
We didn’t need to take out the calculator to know that the ROI on this DIY home renovation project was well worth our time and effort.
So, here we go! Be sure to sign up for email alerts below to keep up to date with this (and all our other) DIY home projects!
Until next time,
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*Pricing estimates pulled from our own experiences and Home Advisor.