Convert Your Garage to Living Space

If you’re reading this, you may be considering adding space to your home. Perhaps you need extra, independent space for your child coming home from college. It might be that your children are all grown up and you need more space for an entirely different reason, whether it’s for a game room, a music studio, or a she-shed craft space. You might be hesitant to build an addition or another story to your home due to the high costs that go into these options. One great option is to convert your garage into a living space

Here at GreatBuildz, we speak with clients every day who are looking for reliable contractors to convert their garages in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura & San Diego Counties.


GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, pre-screened contractors, then provides ongoing project support to ensure a stress-free experience. Give us a call at 818.317.3567 or submit the form below to get matched with the right contractors for your project.

When you begin to think about converting your garage into a living space, you likely have loads of questions. If you need a few tips or ideas to inspire you on how to turn this space into the additional room your family needs, this guide (and many of the others on our blog) will provide you with everything you need.

Zoning, Permits, and Regulations to Convert Your Garage

In your local area, there might be permitting requirements to consider. Some local governments have developed stricter guidelines about zoning and issuing permits to convert your garage into a living space. 

It’s beneficial to talk to the local building department division to determine the regulations you need to follow and the permits required.

Identify what you want to have within the space, as this will dictate what type of permits you will need. If you are planning on only using this space as an office or playroom, perhaps you won’t need a full kitchen or bathroom – in this case, it can typically be converted into what is called a ‘Recreation Room’. However, if you do want a major garage remodel into a full conversion, then you’ll likely be permitting it as an ‘Accessory Dwelling Unit’.

You’ll also need a garage conversion contractor to do the work, and they can help guide you through what to expect during the garage conversion permit process. Only a general contractor with a B-license from the CSLB is qualified to perform this type of work which requires a multitude of skilled trades. Hiring an unlicensed or uninsured contractor or handyman would be a big mistake. This project required skilled workers who can perform all sorts of specialized work such as plumbing, electrical, drywall, framing, flooring, concrete, paint, etc. If you want to have a quality living space as the final result of your garage conversion, please hire a reputable, experienced general contractor.

Establish a Realistic Budget to Convert Your Garage

convert your garage into a cozy living space

You might imagine it’s going to be cheap to renovate your garage and turn it into an extension of your home’s living space. Although it’s cheaper than building a new addition, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to accomplish that. So how much does it cost to finish a garage? The average garage conversion cost in Los Angeles and Southern California ranges between $100,000 and $125,000, depending on the scope of the work. 

You should be aware that the cost to convert your garage to living space really depends on what you plan to build in your garage. A bedroom or living room, (otherwise known as a ‘dry room’ because it requires no plumbing) will cost less than if you want to include a bathroom. If you want a kitchen or bathroom in your garage living space, the costs will go up in order to run the water supply lines and the waste lines. But in either case, you will still need to include electrical and HVAC to your converted garage space.

Getting Contractor Bids

Once you establish a budget to convert your garage to a studio or for some other purpose, you’ll need to get bids from garage conversion contractors to find the best price and quality for the job. It’s always best to use a local general contractor. You need to make sure that any contractor who provides a bid has a license with the state, offers proof of insurance, provides you with references for past work, and has good reviews. GreatBuildz uses a 10-point vetting process to screen for the best contractors in Los Angeles. 

When you have your bids in hand, you need to review each one carefully. Pay attention to the scope of the work. Sometimes, low bids don’t include all the work or the quality of the materials. Check out this blog about comparing ADU bids with a comprehensive scope of work checklist. 

Dealing With Household Essentials

Convert Your Garage to Living Space 1

In many cases, essential household appliances are located in the garage for convenience. This can include your water heater and HVAC equipment. When you convert your garage into a living space, they’ll stand out like a sore thumb. 

While you can’t wall these items in, you can create a closet or small utility room for them. It’s always a good idea to provide easy access for them because they’ll need to be serviced, repaired, and replaced at some time in the future. 

Heating and Cooling

Your HVAC system probably doesn’t cover your garage area. When most homes are built, the heated and cooled areas don’t include the garage, so you’ll need a way to heat and cool this area. 

In some cases, the garage conversion contractor might recommend extending the duct system into the area. Another option might be to add a mini-split system that you can use to both heat and cool the area. These systems offer amazing energy efficiency, especially in a large space, such as a two-car garage. 

Convert Your Garage Door

convert your garage, but maintain look of your home

You want the conversion to look like it’s a part of the rest of the home and not a last-minute conversion. You need to work with a contractor that not only removes the garage door and creates an exterior wall, but architecturally blends this new wall into the look of the home. 

The right contractor can create a garage conversion that looks like it was always part of the home’s interior and not a garage. 

New Parking and Storage Options

When you turn your garage into a living space, you may want to create an area to park your car and deal with items stored in the garage. You might consider adding a carport at the same time that you convert the garage. 

If you’re used to having your car in the garage, you won’t want it sitting uncovered in your driveway and exposed to the elements. You’ll want to add some sort of covered parking and add it to your budget. 

Also, you might need a new storage location for all the household items, equipment, bikes, etc. you stored in the garage. If you have the space in your backyard, it might be wise to buy a pre-made shed that can house many of these items.

Raise the Floors

convert your garage but need space for cars?

You might not think about it, but often, the garage floor can be lower than the rest of the house. In some cases, the garage floor is up to 18 inches lower than the rest of the home. 

It’s possible to address this issue in a couple of ways. You can keep the stairs and install carpeting or hardwood. The other option is to raise the floor of the garage to the height of the rest of the home, providing it with a more seamless look throughout the home. 

Sometimes the garage floor has a slope to it so that any water inside the garage can drain to the driveway and out to the street. Although this slope may be almost imperceptible, you do want to create a fully level floor when you’re creating an indoor living space. In this case, you’ll have to ask your contractor to level the slab before installing any final flooring product.   

Doors and Windows

It’s a good idea to consider the possibility of adding windows and skylights to your converted garage. If you don’t, the space might be too dark to make it welcoming. You’ll need a source of natural light, and windows are a great way to achieve it. Plus, skylights and more natural light overall can make the space feel larger – which is important when you’re converting a space that is typically around 350 square feet!

The addition of doors and windows also helps the space look less like a converted garage. You do need to make sure the windows you add complement the existing ones. 

Timeframe for Completion

convert your garage into living space

To legally convert your garage, you need to plan for the conversion to take two to three months (not including time for plan approvals). During this time, your garage conversion contractor spends most of their time working inside the garage itself. 

However, there is also work that’s typically done in the yard. Finishing a garage with a bathroom might require the contractor to dig trenches to install pipes and sewers according to the garage conversion plans. 

Creating a simple man-cave by adding flooring, drywall & lighting to a garage will be a reasonably quick project. Alternatively, converting a garage into a studio living space with a kitchen and bathroom could take 3-4 months.   

Convert Your Garage to Living Space

It’s possible and an easy solution to use your garage to create much-needed additional living space. These tips help you get a start on planning your conversion project. At GreatBuildz, we’re ready to partner with you to finish a garage into the additional living space that you need. 

When it comes to finding a pro you can trust to convert your garage into living space – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura & San Diego Counties. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.



Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information:

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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