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How to Turn a Garage Into an In-law Apartment

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Written by Lynnp   

Turning your garage into an in-law apartment is really not that difficult. Depending on what is or is not already in the garage, such as water and electricity, costs of conversion to a small but comfortable apartment can be surprisingly profitable. If it is for a family member, not only can it be profitable, but it can help keep a loved one close by as they age or need assistance. 

garage apartment





Zoning and your particular setting will determine whether doing a conversion like this is practical or even possible. If you are living in a restricted community where there are very specific rules regarding add-ons or other home restructuring, then you may not be able to do this. For many, however, where zoning is not an issue, there are few if any restrictions and you can get a permit for the changeover from the city or county where you live, you will be amazed at what you can do.

Converting a garage to an apartment is exciting. While you may have to obey some very specific guidelines in the remodeling, but if you do this, and are creative, you can end up with a very flexible and profitable unit.

This means, of course, that you may not have a place for your car. As you desire, you can put up a carport on the side or somewhere on the property to substitute.

Here are some suggestions for quickly turning a garage into a rental or in-law unit.

Step 1: Determine if you have water and electricity already available in the garage. This will cut down considerably on cost.

Step 2: Get at least three estimates and recommendations from contractors to determine if converting this structure is feasible. Sometimes, due to low ceilings or other problems, a garage may not qualify for remodeling into living space.

Step 3: Talk with your city zoning office to find out about permits for this change. They will ask you to fill out some paperwork, and they will approve it or not, depending on various aspects of the project. If you are going to do some of the work yourself, you may be able to pull the permit yourself and hire your own workers to do that which you are not able, such as wiring, plumbing, etc.

Step 4: Keep in mind that hiring a contractor only increases your costs. You are putting another middle-man in between you and the workers. That is expensive, and oftentimes not necessary if you are comfortable hiring your own tradespeople.

Step 5: You can relocate hot water heaters, washers and dryers or anything that needs to be removed.

Step 6: Install outside doors by modifying the existing garage door, and framing in accordingly. Add window space if necessary, but installing a solar tube can lighten up a relatively windowless area very reasonably.

Step 7: Leave garage ceilings that have beams open. Do not try to install a ceiling if you don't have to. This allows for an extra-high room, which adds considerable space. Just drywall the ceiling and walls of the garage if they are not already finished. Paneling, plaster or other finishes can go on top of the drywall.

Step 8: Install a small bathroom in a corner which is in direct line with the existing plumbing.

Step 9: Do not worry about a kitchen. You can squeeze a small double sink, small refrigerator and leave the cooking to counter-top appliances. Most people do not use their ovens that much, and wiring for a stove would probably be an additional project.

Step 10: Arrange outside walkways, gravel areas and plants to accessorize the appearance of the structure. Adding window boxes and shutters, a screen door and fenced area can give the structure the appearance of a cottage with a separate entrance.

Step 11: Make sure that requirements to leave a doorway between the garage and main house is honored. Violating codes by installing a solid wall (if zoning is single-family) will not pass inspection. Doorways can be locked on both sides, providing security, and the adjoining wall can be double-walled with soundproofing and insulation. The connecting door can have a closet built around it or have a heavy piece of furniture in front of it to keep out any sound. Be creative.

Tip: Know that this project can take a couple of months or more, as you wait on inspections for each step of the conversion.

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