A finished garage is a relatively simple way to expand the amount of usable square footage in a home without having to build an all-new addition. And thanks to California’s new ADU laws, garage conversions are easier than ever. Here’s everything you need to know about finishing a garage in Los Angeles.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego Counties with reliable contractors, we speak to homeowners every day about adding living space to their homes with a finished garage – we’ve put together our best ideas and tips for these projects.
What is a finished garage?
Simply put, a finished garage is one that’s been drywalled to cover gaps and beams. Beyond that, there are a number of ways to convert a garage. Some people turn them into man-caves or she-sheds. Others use them to get their work done — either as a home office or fitness studio. They also can be converted into an additional family room or playroom for young children. These are relatively simple projects.
A garage also can be converted into an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU. An ADU must include a living room/bedroom, kitchen, and full bathroom. These are popular projects for people providing housing for adult children or aging parents, or those aiming to bring in some extra income by renting them out.
Ideas and remodel tips for finishing a garage
It might seem like a relatively simple makeover project, but there are a number of considerations that go into a finished garage. Some things to think about:
In many homes, the garage floor is lower than that of the house itself — sometimes by as much as 18 inches. To help your finished garage “flow” into the house, it helps to bring up the garage floor with a raised or sleeper system.
Similarly, it might also be necessary to raise the ceiling. Most people like a ceiling height of 10 to 12 feet. The easiest way to go about this is to install a drop ceiling, but these can look somewhat corporate. Installing drywall with a nice finish is a more attractive option.
Another way to improve the flow between the house and the finished garage is to install a wider door between the two areas. If your home’s layout allows for it, you can double the width of the door to create the feel of an open floor plan.
Let the light in. Adding windows should be part of your plans if you’re going to finish a garage. Not only will the natural light make the space feel more expansive, but windows are a legal requirement if you aim to use your converted garage as a bedroom or ADU.
Additionally, you’ll probably need to run new wiring and add outlets to expand your indoor lighting beyond the single bare bulb most garages have.
Get comfortable. It’s likely the walls and ceiling in your garage weren’t insulated when your house was first built. To ensure comfortable enjoyment of your new living space, you’ll need to have insulation installed.
Depending on the layout of the planned space, it might also be a good idea to remove the garage door and replace it with a wall. If, however, you’re keeping the garage door — perhaps you’re building a fitness studio or a workshop — you might still consider insulating the door.
Don’t forget about parking and storage. Garages are functional spaces. They’re where we park our cars and store lawn-care equipment, sporting goods, and other items.
If you don’t love the idea of leaving your car out in the elements, you might consider building a carport. Or, if you have a two- or three-car garage, you can have a wall built to delineate one of the vehicle stalls from the rest of the space, which can be used as a home office, gym, or rec room.
For additional storage, you can build a dry storage shed on a concrete slab or consider renting an off-site storage unit.
How does a finished garage affect home value?
For some home improvement projects, it’s easy to estimate a return on investment. Kitchen remodels or replacing carpet with hardwood, for example, almost always increase a home’s value. Finishing a garage, however, can go either way.
On the one hand, if you were to convert a two-car garage into a studio or one-bedroom ADU and rent it out, you could expect to bring in between $1,000 to $2,200 per month. And if you were to sell your home later, the existence of a second living space might be attractive to those planning to provide housing to aging parents or a live-in nanny.
On the other hand, many buyers place a high value on having a protected parking space. If your plans don’t include a carport, you might see a dip in property value.
How much does it cost to finish a garage?
Depending on the size and scope of the project, you can expect to spend between $40,000 and $125,000 when finishing a garage. This range includes the costs of plans, permits, materials, and contractor labor.
A complex project like an ADU garage conversion, naturally, will be on the more expensive side. That’s because you’ll need to run new water and waste lines for the kitchen and bathroom. It might also be necessary to install a new electrical grid and HVAC if your current systems aren’t substantial enough to service the new space.
Regardless, there are a number of smart ways to save money on a finished garage. An experienced garage contractor will be able to walk you through your options to come up with a solution that suits your needs as well as your garage remodel budget.
What is the process and timing for finishing a garage?
Your first step in finishing a garage is to hire an architect or design firm to draw plans for your garage conversion. After you’ve approved the plans, the architect will submit them to your local building department for a plan check.
The plan check can take anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months to complete, depending on if there’s a backlog of approvals at the building department. However, this is a good time to reach out to a handful of garage remodeling contractors to discuss your finished garage project and solicit bids. We recommend comparing bids from at least three general contractors to ensure you’re getting the best value for the scope of the work.
The construction process itself should take between two and three months to complete. Note that while most of the work will be contained in the garage, your contractor might need to dig trenches in your yard to install water and sewer lines. In other words, save any big landscaping projects until after your garage renovation is complete.
How to find the best garage contractor for your finished garage project
If you’re looking to renovate your home, you shouldn’t have to go it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your renovation experience. At GreatBuildz, we make it easy to find a reliable home improvement expert. Just give us a call and tell us about your goals and we’ll get to work matching you with three licensed general contractors specializing in the work you outlined.
We’ve built a robust network of experienced professionals serving the Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, and San Diego areas. We’ve interviewed each one, checked their references, verified insurance and licensure, and more. You can rest easy knowing you’re working with the very best.
Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next remodel project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com