Remodeling your garage into an apartment can be a great option if you really don't need the garage space, one of your kids is now a young adult and needs an affordable "place of his own" that is also close to home, or you just want to rent it out to bring in some additional income.
But before you get ahead of yourself or break out the saws and air tools, take some time to do a little research. This can save you a lot of hassle and frustration later.
First, measure the size of your lot and draw it out on a piece of graph paper-preferably to scale using ¼" for each foot. Now measure all the buildings or permanent structures on your lot and draw them onto the map of your lot.
Make sure they are appropriately placed to show the distance between lot lines and structures, street edges, sidewalks, and driveways. Remember to include your home, garage, any storage units or sheds, and any other permanent structures.
Now you need to visit your local zoning office with your map in hand. You need to inquire if remodeling your garage into an apartment is even permissible on your lot according to zoning laws in effect in your area. In some cases, it may not be. If you are a member of a community association such as a subdivision, you should also check with the powers that be for that organization.
If it is permissible to convert the garage into an apartment, find out what requirements must be met and what regulations must be followed in order for it to be acceptable.
Don't forget to inquire about and consider parking issues that may arise-both for you now that you won't have a garage for your vehicle(s) if you convert your garage and also for whoever will occupy the apartment and may very well have a vehicle or two.
Many municipalities do not allow overnight parking on streets at certain times of the year. Likewise, many zoning regulations limit the square footage of the structures you can have on your lot, so after you convert the garage to an apartment, you may not be legally allowed to create a new garage or carport for parking purposes. You want to think this thing through before you start the work.
If the zoning department permits remodeling your garage into an apartment, you will need to do even more inquiring and gathering of information. Many municipalities have strict building codes that must be followed for any building that will be used as a residential property. You need to know all of the rules and guidelines up front so you know what you will be required to do.
For instance, any apartment will likely be required to have two entrances and exits in case of an emergency, windows will probably need to be at a particular distance from the floor and of a particular size in case they must be used as an emergency exit, particularly from any room that will be used as a sleeping area, and you will probably need to follow very specific codes for electrical and heating service and installation, plumbing, and more.
You also need to check whether you can do any of this work yourself (assuming you know how) or if it will be necessary to hire a contractor. In many cases, homeowners cannot do their own plumbing or electrical work. The work must be completed by a licensed electrician and licensed plumber.
With the municipal building regulations in hand, you can now begin to assess the work that will need to be completed when remodeling your garage into an apartment. Measure the garage itself and also measure the space between the studs in the wall. You may need to reinforce the structure to use it for a living space.
Using your graph paper again, create a rough draft of the floor plan you would like to create for the apartment. Don't forget that you may need extra space to house plumbing fixtures, a hot water heater, and a furnace or heating unit.
Consider areas for general living space, a kitchen or kitchenette, a bathroom, an entry/transition area, and whether you will include laundry, and closet space. Think about window placement and sizes. Rough out some openings and measurements for each room size and the location of doors and doorways.
With your rough draft of the floor plan in hand, visit a local building supply store and inquire about having your floor plan converted into a blueprint and materials list to complete the job. Most building supply stores can provide you with an accurate drawing that will show the real dimensions you may not have fully considered. For instance, how deep your walls will be, the standard size of cupboards and countertops, how much space your furnace will require, and more.
It's worth the money to have a professional blueprint drawn up and a materials list created so you can see how much the materials for remodeling your garage into an apartment are going to cost--and that's assuming you're able to do all the work yourself. As long as you commit to buying all your building supplies from this one home center they may furnish this service free of charge - at least it's worth a try.
Assuming you have some great carpentry and building skills, all the right equipment, and the motivation to do the majority of the work yourself, you will still need to get estimates from subcontractors for work you are not able or licensed to do.
This will probably involve an estimate from a plumber and an electrician. You will likely also need to work with a heating or furnace contractor. And don't forget about the cost of having water and sewer lines run to the appropriate source underground.
Now comes the tough decision time. You need to add up all the costs associated with remodeling your garage into an apartment, including any permits that will need to be filed with area municipalities and the costs of the subcontractors.
Now consider your budget. Can you afford to convert your garage into an apartment? Finally, consider the return on your investment. In other words, how much rent will you be able to charge in your area for the apartment you are creating?
Look at what similar sized apartments are renting for in your area. Now consider the cost of remodeling your garage into an apartment and the rental income you anticipate and calculate how many months or years it will take to recoup your investment. Then make an educated decision about whether you should move forward with your project.
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