If your garage has transformed from a wide-open, car parking space into something else, you are not alone. One recent survey of US households found only 15 percent of homeowners with a garage are using it for the purpose of parking their car behind a garage door.
The most common usage for a car-less garage is as a dumping ground for stuff in transition. Intentionally repurposing the space for a better use can make your home more comfortable and more valuable.
The best new use for an underutilized garage is different for everyone, but successful garage conversions range from repurposing as spare bedrooms, home offices, libraries, entertainment centers, and studio apartments.
The first step in most garage repurposing projects is checking with the county building and planning departments. Some areas have restrictions about garage conversions, although there is also often an exemption process. Permits and planning department checks may not be needed for what you want to do, but knowing in advance is always the best strategy.
Some types of conversions of garage space are simple, like adding good shelving, cabinets, and worktables, making storage and household projects easier and more efficient. This kind of conversion can still leave open space for the car. Permits and zoning are generally not needed for these kinds of improvements.
Converting a garage into an efficiency apartment for an elderly relative or tenant usually requires the services of a general contractor and building permits. Many municipalities allow exemptions from otherwise strict zoning regulations for ‘granny’ or ‘in-law’ type units, if there is only one unit and it is attached to an owner-occupied home.
Garages are often the biggest room in a home, occupying over 400 square feet for an average two-car space. If you have children and an unused garage, this spacious area can be a perfect playroom with the addition of floor covering, finished wall surfaces, insulation of exterior walls, and good lighting.
Securing the garage door so children cannot open it on their own is important when converting the space to a play area. You can do this by unplugging the opener and adding a padlock to the door. Leaving the door in place gives you the option of creating an indoor/outdoor play zone on sunny days.
Most garage floors are concrete, and this is not a very user friendly surface for most activities, excepting workshops. Cork board flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution that adds cushioning and warmth to the floor.
Installing cork board flooring is one of the easiest do-it-yourself home projects. Most garage floors can be done in a day or a couple of afternoons by an energetic homeowner with only a few, simple tools and minimal DIY experience. Cork board flooring is a simple and inexpensive way of improving a garage floor for many conversion uses, as long as the floor is level and solid to start.
One of the most common garage conversion uses is repurposing as an entertainment area. Outdoor carpeting, a couple of couches or other comfy seating, and your preferred music or big screen system can transform the space into an auxiliary room for parties, sporting event hang-outs, or an indoor/outdoor barbecue space.
Portable space heaters and air conditioners are a good way of keeping the temperature in the comfort zone in converted garages. Adding a wall heater and window mounted air conditioner are other, more expensive, options. A well-functioning garage door lets you bring sunshine and a gentle breeze into your gathering.
Many people repurposed their garage for commercial purposes, ranging from a home office, a mail order business, to a small, street-side café. If the office is used only by you, and you do not have customers coming and going, making your garage into a home office space will probably not require permits.
If you want to use the garage as a place for customers to come, zoning and permits will likely be a part of the process. The number of customers, parking, and business hours are all issues that the planning department will want to know about.
While there may be restrictions for your zoning area for use of a garage for business purposes, variances can sometimes be granted, depending on the situation. It is worth doing an in-person check by making a visit to the building and planning department offices.
Whatever use you decide on for a repurposed garage, call in your garage door specialist to help you with the safety, appearance, and new use for your garage door and space.