You’ve certainly heard about the significant change in our office habits – the trend of working from home (WFH) during COVID and indefinitely into the future. A recent study indicates approximately 50 percent of the labor force is now working from home. Plus, many large companies, including Twitter, Facebook, and Shopify have announced their intention to make telecommuting a long-term strategy for their workforce.
So, it seems even after COVID passes, WFH is here to stay, at least for a substantial portion of the population. And one thing’s for certain – working from home requires a place to work, be it a home office, spare bedroom, or using the dining room table as a desk. As working remotely becomes a more permanent arrangement, many Los Angeles homeowners are considering the best options for having a suitable, dedicated workspace… and many are deciding a garage conversion or ADU (or JADU) office might be an ideal solution.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners with reliable general contractors, we speak to homeowners every day about their need to have an office space at home – here are some ideas & tips to get you started.
Is It Time For a Dedicated Work From Home Office Space?
Work From Home Office Space | Source: The Spruce
As people continue working remotely, it’s becoming more important than ever to have a productive environment to get things done. While some people are happy working at their dining room table, many of us want a dedicated office for many reasons, like avoiding embarrassing moments like these. Recent changes in the laws and guidelines in both California and specifically in Los Angeles have made it much easier to convert an existing garage into a ‘living’ space, be it an office, guest house, rental unit, etc.
You can learn all about the new guidelines in my ADU overview article. The good news is these laws allow for a ton of flexibility in converting a garage into a living space with no requirement to add new parking spots.
Use an ADU as a Home Office – Let’s Discuss Your Options
These new regulations allow homeowners a few different options with regard to creating an office or other living space on their property. The first one is to convert an existing detached garage into an ADU (accessory dwelling unit). Another option is to convert an attached garage into an office or living space called a JADU (Junior accessory dwelling unit). Alternatively, now all residential properties can build a new ADU in their backyard, and this can be used as an office, etc. Finally, homeowners can build an office on top of their existing garage.
Because the average 2-car garage is generous in size – approx. 350-400sf, this allows for quite a lot of flexibility when considering a home office. This is plenty of room for a very luxurious office with multiple desks, cabinets, file cabinets, shelves, and even a couch or conference table. It’s also plenty of room to have an office for two or more people (with or without a partition). Also, there is substantial room to easily add a bathroom.
ADU’s Can Be a Great Flex Space
Another option many LA homeowners are considering is creating a ‘dual-use’ room. In addition to an office, they can design the floorplan to also accommodate for an area such as a playroom, a homework room for the kids, an art or fitness studio, a mancave/she-shed, a guest house or even a full rental unit with a kitchen & bath.
There is a significant advantage in creating an ADU that can be flexible enough to change its use over time. For example, a homeowner can design the building to presently function as both a guest house and a dedicated office (with a small kitchen & bath). Then later they may decide to start using it as a rental unit or to house an aging parent or post-college aged kid. There really are a ton of uses for these ADUs.
Considerations When Building a Home Office
When it comes to converting a basic unfinished garage into an office or ADU/JADU, there are a few things to consider. (Here’s an ADU scope checklist to get you started). The first major decision, whether to include a kitchen and/or a bathroom, might depend on whether this space is intended to function purely as an office or to have the flexibility for other uses.
This is a significant decision because these ‘wet’ rooms aren’t cheap to build. These two rooms require such things as plumbing, water lines, and waste lines, as well as a water heater, sewer line, appliances, tile, and more. A bathroom certainly is a nice luxury to have in a dedicated work from home office, so that you won’t need to go back-and-forth to the main home bathroom.
Main Scope Elements For an ADU Home Office Design
You’ll need more than just 4 walls and a desk to design a home office space that is comfortable and accommodating to your needs. Additional aspects to consider when converting a garage into a home office (or any ADU in general) include:
- Drywall & paint on the walls and ceiling
- Windows & doors
- Electrical outlets
- Patio doors
- Partition walls
There are a few other elements you may consider for your garage conversion as well. Some other considerations include:
- Do you want to replace the existing garage door with a fully-framed wall?
- Would you like to introduce more natural light by adding a skylight?
- Need more storage by installing built-in cabinets?
- Want a private outdoor space with the use of a patio, trellis, landscaping and/or fencing?
- What home office gear will you need?
In terms of costs, a JADU (via an attached garage conversion) is likely the most affordable option, followed by a detached garage conversion, and a new build ADU office is the costliest. The costs of each will vary substantially depending on which amenities the homeowner wants to include, but some cost guidance is below for a typical 350-400sf space: (give us a call if you’d like to discuss your options and pricing in your area)
- JADU/attached garage office- $15,000-30,000. Including a bathroom- $40,000-$60,000
- ADU/detached garage office – $25,000-50,000. Including bathroom – $50,000-$80,000
- New build ADU – $70,000-$100,000. Including bathroom- $100,000-$150,000
Some people are understandably concerned about losing the storage space in their garage. One solution is to leave a portion of the garage as a store room/area. Another option is to purchase a storage shed; they are widely available and come in many shapes and sizes and offer a great alternative option.
When it comes to the process of creating a dedicated work from home office, a garage conversion is the simplest and fastest. If you plan to build a space with new walls, a bathroom and/or kitchen, you will need a simple set of plans created by an architect/designer, which will get submitted to the building department for plan-check.
These plans should cost between $2,500-$10,000 (depending on size and complexity) and should take no more than 60 days to get approvals from the city. If you don’t need any new walls or plumbing, it’s likely you won’t need any plans and you can have your contractor just pull a city permit and start immediately. Conversely, if you plan to build a new ADU in your backyard, you’ll need to get a more detailed set of plans created by an architect.
In any case, you’ll also want to meet with one to three experienced, licensed general contractors to get estimates on this work. Its strongly suggested you use a reputable, licensed general contractor, and not a handyman, as this is a reasonably major project and requires the knowledge/experience of several trades (drywall, electrical, framing, HVAC, carpentry, plumbing, etc)
When it comes to planning and coordinating a home office or ADU/garage conversion for your home, you shouldn’t have to go it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your renovation experience.
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