Garage re­mod­el­ing a trend; what to know be­fore you start

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Paul F. P. Pogue

Are you mak­ing the most of the space your garage has to of­fer? If you’re us­ing it for lit­tle more than trash bin stor­age and the oc­ca­sional home project, now’s a good time to take the plunge and con­vert your garage into the hobby space, home gym or guest apart­ment you’ve al­ways wanted. Garage re­mod­els are one of the hottest trends in home im­prove­ment. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to your op­tions.

Here are a few im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions to get you started. Think through your plans. A garage con­ver­sion is a ma­jor re­model, so it’s im­por­tant to take the plan­ning process se­ri­ously. Will you be con­vert­ing the space for an ev­ery­dayliv­ing pur­pose, such as a new bed­room for a fam­ily mem­ber? Or will you use it for hobby or en­ter­tain­ment pur­poses? If you turn your garage into a mo­tor­cy­cle re­pair zone or the ul­ti­mate bil­liards room, will you still be able to get your car in­side? These de­ci­sions are en­tirely up to you, but be sure you un­der­stand and pri­or­i­tize your needs and wants up front. Be re­al­is­tic. Im­prov­ing garage or­ga­ni­za­tion with cus­tom cab­i­nets and hang­ers may re­quire an in­vest­ment of a few thou­sand dol­lars. But con­vert­ing a garage to a liv­ing space, adding a car lift or in­stalling sig­nif­i­cant hob­by­ist up­grades could es­ca­late into an in­vest­ment re­quir­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars. It’s im­por­tant to know what you’re get­ting into up front. And it’s also im­por­tant to un­der­stand that con­vert­ing your garage for other uses may make your home less de­sir­able to po­ten­tial home­buy­ers in the fu­ture. Con­sider the lo­gis­tics and safety. If your garage isn’t al­ready in­su­lated, you may want to in­stall in­su­la­tion to cre­ate a com­fort­able liv­ing area. You’ll also want to talk to an HVAC com­pany about rout­ing heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing to the garage if it isn’t al­ready equipped. Of course, de­pend­ing on the pur­pose of your con­ver­sion, you’ll prob­a­bly want to keep light­ing, elec­tric­ity and run­ning water in mind as well.

Garages are con­structed with dif­fer­ent safety rules and con­sid­er­a­tions than liv­ing areas. If you still have a stan­dard garage door, you’ll need to en­sure proper clear­ance for its safe op­er­a­tion and see to it that the elec­tronic sen­sor eyes aren’t blocked. Garages have dif­fer­ent ven­ti­la­tion re­quire­ments as well, par­tic­u­larly if you run any kind of flame source or gas heater on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. An ex­pert can help you de­ter­mine how to safely con­sider these prob­lems. Get the right per­mits. Talk to your lo­cal build­ing in­spec­tor and be sure to ob­tain any nec­es­sary per­mits for your garage project. Gen­eral im­prove­ment, stor­age up­grades and sim­i­lar projects rarely re­quire mu­nic­i­pal com­pli­ance. But ma­jor ad­di­tions, liv­ing space con­ver­sions and the ad­di­tion of me­chan­i­cal struc­tures such as car lifts may re­quire the in­volve­ment of your state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments. If you skip this step, you could run into trou­ble if and when the time comes to sell your home.

Ad­di­tion­ally, keep in mind any his­toric dis­trict rules or neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tion covenants that ap­ply to your prop­erty. You don’t want to spend $10,000 only to find out the as­so­ci­a­tion com­mit­tee dis­ap­proves. And of course, be sure to hire a li­censed, bonded and in­sured pro­fes­sional to do the work.

One more thing: If you’re mod­i­fy­ing your garage in a way that will keep you from stor­ing your car, be sure to in­form your in­sur­ance com­pany. This could af­fect your pre­mi­ums. And if you’re con­vert­ing your garage into liv­ing space, your home­owner’s pol­icy could be af­fected.


With garage re­mod­els, home­own­ers are turn­ing their garages into ev­ery­thing from bil­liards rooms to guest apart­ments, but there are many fac­tors to con­sider.

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