A whole house remodel may not fit into the average homeowner's budget, but a garage conversion can accommodate a growing family. Converting the garage into a master bedroom and bath is one way to build new space into an old house. Although it may seem simple, there are many considerations, including zoning restrictions. But with careful planning and research, this project provides a large bang for your buck.
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Things you need
- Tape measure
- Graph paper
- Building permits
- 2-by-4 board
- Expanding foam
- Exterior siding
- Drywall screws
- Utility knife
Contact your homeowners association, if you have one, and read all of the covenants, conditions and restrictions associated with your property. Many HOAs do not allow garage conversions. But with careful research you may find that your covenants, conditions and restrictions allow for exemptions.
Go to your city or county building department and research the cost, general time frame and other details related to obtaining building permits. In a garage conversion, permits for general construction, framing, electrical, plumbing and windows are usually required.
Measure the garage carefully with a measuring tape. Draw the dimensions on graph paper, one square per foot. Note the locations of all items, like the water heater, washer and dryer, doors and windows.
Multiply the length by the width of the garage to find the square footage. Generally, a city building department requires an equal amount of parking to be added to your driveway or side yard. A standard one-car driveway is 10 by 20 feet and a two-car driveway is 20 and 24 feet. Carefully examine your property and determine if putting in a larger driveway is feasible. Also consider building a free-standing garage or carport.
Draw your floor plan on a second sheet of graph paper. Place the proposed master bathroom near the existing plumbing. Allow 24 inches of wall space between doors and windows unless you plan to use tempered glass. Estimate materials and labour costs in consultation with hardware, home and appliance stores.
Contact your lender for funding options. Allow at least 20 per cent for overruns. Construction projects frequently go over budget. Also consult with your insurance agent for additional liability coverage during the project.
Draw the blueprints. The building department requires detailed blueprints showing exactly where the framing, plumbing, wiring and electrical sockets will be located before approving a building permit. An architect's office or general contractor can usually prepare plans for you at a reasonable price.
Plan the Conversion
Interview and hire a general contractor. If you plan to do most of the work yourself, you can hire a specialised contractor for each step of the project, a plumbing contractor or an electrician, for example.
Draw the plan on the floor of the garage, using chalk and a long 2-by-4-inch board. Use newspapers taped together to represent furniture and bathroom fixtures. Chalk the heating and cooling systems. Some ideas look great on paper, but actually walking through the space may reveal that a wall intersects with an existing window, or a doorway is badly placed. Adjust the plan and blueprints accordingly.
Submit the plans for permits. Prepare for delays at this point; building departments are notoriously slow. In addition, be ready to make changes to your plan.
Post the building permit in a prominent place and begin construction.
Before You Begin Construction
Remove the garage door and other items to be relocated or replaced. Frame in the openings according to the construction plan.
Call in the plumber to install the plumbing for the new master bathroom. Locate the underground pipes and dig trenches as needed to tie into the existing sewer and water lines. If gas lines are included in the plans, have the plumber install them at the same time. After all the pipes in are place, call the building department to inspect the plumbing.
Frame in the interior walls. Call the electrician to install the wiring and outlets. A new breaker box may also be necessary to accommodate increased electrical needs, for example an air conditioner or stand-alone heating unit. Call the building department to inspect the wiring and framing.
Install the exterior siding and any new windows and doors. Remember to leave 24 inches between doors and windows unless you ordered tempered glass windows. Have the receipts ready for the inspector. Call the building department to inspect the siding, windows and doors before installing insulation.
Spray expanding foam into all the cracks and crevices to seal any air leaks. Allow it to dry completely before installing the highest R-factor insulation you can afford and at least the minimum required in your area. In some jurisdictions, the building department will require another inspection before you install drywall.
Install the drywall, using drywall screws to attach to the studs. Use a utility knife to cut the drywall to fit around windows and electrical sockets. Bathrooms and laundry rooms require a special water-resistant type of drywall, called greenboard. If you are installing a tile shower, use a cement-based product made for wet applications. Ask the inspector if you need another inspection before you tape and mud the walls. Add texture and allow to dry completely.
Prime and paint the walls and ceiling using a pole and roller. Cut in the corners with a brush. Use a quality primer tinted to a slightly lighter shade than the final colour. Allow it to dry completely, and then apply two coats of the final paint colour.
Call the plumber to install the bathroom fixtures, or recruit a friend to help you.
Install the flooring. Tile is relatively inexpensive and long-lasting, while hardwood gives a warm and friendly feel to your new space. Laminate flooring is budget-saving option, while carpet provides a soft surface for bare feet. Last, install the baseboards, any trim boards and hang the doors. Call the inspector for your final inspection.
Tips and warnings
- Check the licenses of all contractors, making sure they are in good standing. Also check references.
- Carry a notepad and make extensive notes when the building inspector points out changes that need to be made. The inspector will give you the paperwork but will usually give you detailed instructions on what to do to pass the next inspection.
- Do not cut corners on materials, fixtures and appliances. While high-end finishes are not necessary, avoid cheap products that will not hold up under daily use.
- If you are in over your head, call a licensed contractor to help you finish the job.
- Do not skip any inspections. The building inspector can and will make you tear out the work if it doesn't conform.
- There may be changes in the middle of construction. Inspectors often notice details that were missed in the previous inspection.
- Do not believe anyone who tells you that you do not need a permit. Even if you are never going to move, your children may sell the house someday. Permits are necessary for an uncomplicated sale.
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