Living Space: Converting a Garage

In a current Ideabook we addressed the demand for some of us to adapt our”boomerang” kids and aging parents. In that part we dealt with converting attics and basements to more living space in a home. There are, however, some homes which don’t have basements (for instance, houses in Florida) or in which the loft can’t be converted to living space for a variety of reasons (the roof pitch could be too shallow to allow for sufficient head area ).

However there are lots of homes with either attached or detached garages, and these garages can be turned to very great living locations. In fact, there are 1940s and 1950s-era homes with single-car garages which beckon to be transformed into something livable. Whether you’d like an extra bedroom, home office, music room, craft room, playroom or some other living space, these garages can be ideal candidates.

Like any such project, you’ll need to ensure the converted garage will have enough light and distance , comply with neighborhood ordinances and construction codes in addition to become warm in winter and trendy in summertime.

As always, consult a qualified professional before undertaking such a job.


1. The flooring. A converted garage is created to a bright and spacious living space. The new concrete floor is raised above street level to keep water from the inside.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

More frequently than not, the present garage floor concrete slab is sloped, cracked and a bit lower compared to the home floor. So converting a garage to living space usually requires installing a new floor structure. There are lots of possibilities for doing this. One would be to accumulate a wood framed flooring that aligns with the flooring in the main home. Another would be to install a wood framed or concrete flooring that is a step or two down in the primary house (like in the sketch above). An advantage to installing a concrete”topping slab” within the present flooring is a radiant heating system can be installed within the concrete.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

2. The opening. When converting a garage to livable space, there is always the matter of what to do with the garage door opening. Because this opening along with the garage doors have such a massive effect on the overall look of the home, it is logical to fill out the opening using a large part. For instance, a fantastic solution is to keep a garage door at the opening when making sure that the door is weather tight. This is the approach taken in another picture.

Witt Construction

Standard carriage-style garage doors may also be good possibilities, since they may be a featured part on the inside while maintaining the original garage look on the outside.

Ed Ritger Photography

Another strategy is to have big windows or doors fill the opening. Something like these big folding glass doors might be fantastic option provided there is a match with the overall aesthetics of the outside.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

3. Windows. Extra windows will more than likely have to be installed, as garages typically have few, if anywindows. It is important to assess and comply with any local building codes and ordinances when pruning and finding these new windows.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

4. Additional pipes. Including a kitchen or bathroom to a garage conversion can be difficult because tying to the present plumbing lines is problematic. That is not to say it shouldn’t be done as, say, an additional bathroom is always a nice amenity to have. So exploring ways (such as building up the flooring to give a space for pipes pipes) to conquer the technical difficulties is worth.

Tali Hardonag Architect

A number of the outside walls using full-height glass doors and windows leaves no trace of the original garage space in this conversion.


This master suite having a fresh bathroom occupies what was formerly a massive garage. The addition of a the gas fireplace surely makes the room unique. And having the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom makes for a nice master or guest suite.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

5. Ceiling height. Though the kind of framing used in the garage will dictate what can be done efficiently, raising the height of the ceiling is an opportunity if the garage is free standing or has no second floor above it. A vaulted ceiling, and at the next photograph, will surely add to the room’s overall spaciousness.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

A converted garage retains the vaulted ceiling for spaciousness while various architectural elements such as the ridge beam boost the room’s character.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

6. Temperature control. And remember that the new living area will need to be heated and chilled. Based upon how big the area and its location, you might not have the ability to use the present”central” heating and cooling system. Mini split systems may be good choices if this is how it is.

More: Stunning Garage Makeover at Bordeaux
Making Space for Family: Fixing Attics and Basements

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