Converting a Garage Into a Bedroom – Everything You Need To Know From Start To Finish

There’s much to be said about having more space. But in the Los Angeles area, where real estate is expensive and lots tend to be small, buying a new home or building an add-on might be out of the question. But thanks to California’s recently relaxed ADU laws, converting a garage into a bedroom is a viable option for many homeowners to add some much-needed space to their homes. 

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we get inquiries every day about converting a garage into a bedroom – here are some key points you need to know.

Convert Garage into ADU

Ideas and Tips For Converting a Garage Into a Bedroom in Los Angeles

If you’re trying to get more living space out of your existing square footage, you have two main options: converting your garage to a guest quarter or an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

To create a guest quarter, you must build a living room and/or bedroom with a full bathroom — toilet, sink, and shower. A guest quarter, as the name implies, is for guests and family members. It cannot be rented out to tenants long-term. 

Garage Bedroom Conversion

An ADU, on the other hand, is a somewhat more complex project that includes a living room and/or bedroom with a full bathroom as well as a kitchen. It has its own entrance and can be rented out as an apartment.

Either way, it is important to make sure your garage conversion plans take into consideration your city’s rules and regulations. Building codes vary from municipality to municipality, so it’s a good idea to consult a local general contractor with experience in garage bedrooms early in the planning and design stage. 

Some things that garage conversion contractors ask about:

    • Windows. Most garages don’t have windows to let in natural light and fresh air. If you want to convert a garage to a living space, these are must-haves. Many building codes specify that windows must account for minimum square footage or percentage of the total garage space.
    • Walls. Insulating the walls is an important step toward ensuring comfort in your garage bedroom. Afterward, you’ll need to add new drywall for a finished look. You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll be replacing the garage door with a new wall. If not, it might be a good idea to insulate the door as well. 
    • Ceiling height. You should aim for a minimum of 7 ½ feet of ceiling height. This can be a challenge, though, as many garage conversions involve raising the floor to be level with the rest of the house. 
    • Lighting and outlets. Most garages have only a single exposed hookup for lighting. To create a comfortable living space for guests or tenants, you’ll likely need to increase the number of ceiling light fixtures and ensure there are plenty of outlets for lamps and other electronics. Be sure to check regulations on outlet spacing standards.

Garage into Bedroom Studio Los Angeles

    • Heating and cooling. Garage bedrooms must be able to maintain a heat of 70 degrees F. This means it might be necessary to expand your central heating ductwork. You can also install wall heaters or electric baseboards. Additionally, some municipalities have cooling requirements for rental units. 
    • Hidden utilities. It’s not uncommon for home builders to situate utilities like furnaces and water heaters in the garage. If you’re building a new living space for guests or renters, you don’t want these front and center. Moving them often isn’t practical, but you can build non-load-bearing walls around them to keep them out of sight and out of mind.
    • Parking and storage. Converting your garage into a bedroom means you’ll lose parking and storage space. If you’re converting your garage into a guest quarter, some municipalities may require replacement covered parking. If you live in one of these municipalities or If you don’t love the idea of leaving your car out in the elements, you might consider building a carport.
      • For additional storage, you can have closets built into your garage conversion. However, if you plan to rent out an ADU to long-term tenants, it’s better to build a standalone storage shed or invest in off-site storage.

What are the benefits of converting a garage into a bedroom or living space?

Converting Garage into Bedroom

In cities like Los Angeles, where real estate is expensive and relatively small lots make it difficult to add onto houses, a garage conversion is an easy way to make the most out of your existing square footage. 

If you’re building a guest quarter, your new living space can be used to provide housing to adult children home from college or aging parents, or it can be for live-in nannies, housekeepers, or caregivers. 

If you’re building an ADU, you can earn additional income by renting it out as an apartment. In Southern California, a studio ADU can bring in $1,300 to $1,900 monthly while a one-bedroom unit can garner between $1,500 and $2,500 per month. 

What are the costs of converting a garage into a bedroom?

There are a number of variables that will affect the cost of your garage conversion, including the size of the area being converted, the scope of the project, and the materials you choose.

Generally, a garage ADU conversion will cost between $95,000 and $125,000, which includes the costs of contractor labor, rough materials, and finish materials as well. A guest quarter, which doesn’t require a kitchen and a separate entrance, would cost less. 

Either way, there are a number of strategies for saving money when you’re converting a garage into a living space. An experienced garage contractor can help you outline your options to come up with a plan that fits your needs and your budget. 

Convert Garage Bathroom Tile Work Los Angeles

What is the process to convert a garage into a bedroom?

Your first step in a garage conversion project is to hire an architect to draw plans.

Even though the exterior load-bearing walls are already in place, the architect will need to consult a structural engineer to determine whether any additional structural elements will be necessary to ensure the safety of your garage bedroom’s occupants. The architect also will factor in local building, fire safety, and zoning codes while drafting your plans. 

After you’ve signed off on the plans, the architect will then submit them to your local building department for a plan check. Depending on whether there’s a backlog of projects awaiting approval at the building department, this can take between two weeks and a couple of months. 

This waiting period is the perfect time to start reaching out to general contractors to discuss your project and solicit bids. We recommend comparing bids from at least three. Be sure to look not only at the bottom line but the scope of the work outlined in each bid to ensure you’re comparing the bids ‘apples-to-apples’. 

After the building department has approved your plans and your general contractor’s crew is able to begin work, the construction process should take between two and three months. 

Construction Convert Garage Into Bedroom Framing

Some people might consider creating a bedroom in their garage without the necessary permits or without using a qualified contractor. This ‘illegal conversion’ is probably not a wise idea in almost every instance. First off, if you don’t do it the legal and correct way, renting the space would be extremely risky. If a tenant gets injured, you may have significant liability for renting them a space that wasn’t legally habitable.

If you need to evict a tenant, that too could be a problem if the garage bedroom was not legally permitted. In addition, when you go and sell the home, the buyer and their appraiser will not give you additional value for the space if it isn’t permitted and built to code.

Finally, you could get caught by the city with illegal living space (if a neighbor complains, etc), and the building department will require you to either demolish the space or bring it up to come and have it permitted.

How to find the best general contractor for your garage bedroom project

With regard to a major project like turning your old garage into a bedroom or living space, you’ll need to hire a licensed, insured general contractor. It would be too difficult to bring in multiple trade contractors to just perform their part of the job…unless you already have relationships with a plumber, electrician, drywaller, framer, tiler, flooring sub, painter, HVAC sub and on and on.

You want to hire a local general contractor who is experienced in large projects and can show you examples of other, similar garage conversion projects. Make sure the contractor you choose is fully insured with general liability and workers compensation insurance. Make sure they have an active and clean license with the CSLB. Ideally, your contractor h been licensed over three years (as a sign of their experience). Don’t be afraid to ask for past client references and call these people for feedback.

When it comes to finding the right contractor to hire for converting a garage, there are a number of ways to approach the hiring process. Our best advice is always to hire someone that you know and trust. If you have a trusted neighbor or friend who has recently completed a similar project, their contractor might be a great starting point.

If you don’t have any trusted referrals like those, then it can be difficult to identify a contractor who is honest, trustworthy, ethical, not to mention available and fits in your price range!

Living Room Garage Conversion

Fortunately, with GreatBuildz, finding the best contractors has never been easier.

Just call and tell us about your garage conversion project and we’ll personally connect you with three licensed general contractors specializing in the work you described.

At GreatBuildz, we’re proud to have built a robust network of proven professionals. Regardless of where you live in Southern California, you can rest easy knowing you’re working with the very best. 

How do we know? We’ve interviewed every general contractor, checked their references, spoken with their references, verified insurance and licensure, and more. Upon passing our rigorous vetting process, each one signs our 20-point code of conduct outlining expectations for professionalism and reliability.

When it comes to finding the best contractor for converting a garage in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search. 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: www.greatbuildz.com

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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