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Converting the Garage into living space
Old 11-12-2007, 11:58 AM   #1
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Converting the Garage into living space

Has anyone done this? DW and I have decided to make this home last for the long haul. Less $$, earlier retirement, good neighborhood, easier upkeep, etc. We have two kids and plan on having more, and while we know it's no trauma for them to bunk, we'd like to turn our garage into a rumpus room/second family room for minimum cost. If permits and the like can be avoided (legally), that's a plus, too. Just making the room child safe, and a place where people would actually want to be. Quick estimate puts that will push our living space from 1762 to over 2100. The garage is attached, 3 steps down from the laundry room. Water heater in the corner.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:26 PM   #2
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I don't know much about this stuff, but that won't keep me from commenting anyway....

One big issue is heating and cooling. You have to extend your current ducts and your system has to have the excess capacity to handle the extra square footage.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by laurencewill View Post
Has anyone done this? DW and I have decided to make this home last for the long haul. Less $$, earlier retirement, good neighborhood, easier upkeep, etc. We have two kids and plan on having more, and while we know it's no trauma for them to bunk, we'd like to turn our garage into a rumpus room/second family room for minimum cost. If permits and the like can be avoided (legally), that's a plus, too. Just making the room child safe, and a place where people would actually want to be. Quick estimate puts that will push our living space from 1762 to over 2100. The garage is attached, 3 steps down from the laundry room. Water heater in the corner.
At least 90% of the houses on my block have done this. Everybody seemed to think it was a clever idea, to add to the square footage. Consequently, everybody parks on the street - - and they all feel they simply MUST have 3-4 vehicles per household. Parking is hard to find, since only two cars fit in front of every house.

Don't forget that kids like garages too - - they are great for roller skating and similar pursuits, when the car isn't parked in it.

I looked for a small house with a garage, and would have paid considerably more for one, but could only find my present house which has no garage and is larger than I might like. Mine never had a garage, or I would be able to convert it back and I would do that! Each to his/her own, I suppose.

When I buy my ER house, it will have an attached garage. I won't even consider a house without one.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:34 PM   #4
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No question, the parking thing is a problem. We have a long driveway, though, and only 2 cars, so I think we'd be o.k. It's San Diego, what am I really protecting the car from - other than raining ash from the fires?

The primary purpose of the room is kid play area, I imagine a epoxy or laminate floor, some bean bags, maybe a little stage, that type of thing.

The air and heating is a potential issue, but not so bad here since 90% of the time it's between the temps of 60 and 80. Garage is south facing, so we'll have to block the little windows in the big garage door, get insulation up.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:41 PM   #5
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I did this at my old house in S. CA. It was pretty easy - put in wiring for outlets and lighting first, insulate the walls and put up dry wall. Sheet rock the ceiling, wire in lighting and then roll out insulation. Depending on where you live - you may need to plan for air conditioning/heating. I brought in the ducting for central heating and cooling. It was where the kids played, watched tv, made a mess etc - leaving the rest of the house alot cleaner!
It was not difficult and was pretty cheap - less than $1200. - I did all the work myself. Do yourself a favor and rent a drywall lift - doing the ceiling will be VERY difficult w/o it! I also added a full bath - all the plumbing was right there. You are supposed to get permits.....I did'nt - it did increase sale price/desirablity and did not hinder selling. I also added a 12X24 shop in the back yard to make up for loss of garage.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:41 PM   #6
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No question, the parking thing is a problem. We have a long driveway, though, and only 2 cars, so I think we'd be o.k.
What about when your 2+ kids become teens? I think that's where the excess cars come in. Also, my neighbors across the street started parking 2 in their driveway, but got tired of shuffling the cars. So now they park just 1 (of their 5 cars) in the driveway.

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It's San Diego, what am I really protecting the car from - other than raining ash from the fires?

The primary purpose of the room is kid play area, I imagine a epoxy or laminate floor, some bean bags, maybe a little stage, that type of thing.
Sounds like you could do that without converting it. Lots of people have nice floors on garages that they actually use for their cars (I guess they must put something down when they park there? I have no idea).

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The air and heating is a potential issue, but not so bad here since 90% of the time it's between the temps of 60 and 80. Garage is south facing, so we'll have to block the little windows in the big garage door, get insulation up.
Sounds like a good solution! No need to heat or cool there (I used to live in San Diego so if my memory is correct, you are right about the 90%).

If it was me, I'd just put in a vinyl floor and a few beanbags, and leave the garage door on there and functional - - forget the heating and cooling and insulation, and then if you don't like it, you can always start using it for your cars. (?)
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:50 PM   #7
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Having worked as a realtor, my comment would be that you will greatly reduce the market for your home, if you ever want to sell it. If you plan to live there indefinitely though, I guess that's not an issue. While it does technically add square footage to your overall house, I've seen it have an opposite effect when it comes time to sell. Lot's of folks desire a garage. A house with an attached garage that has been converted is somewhat of an oddity, even though it's not hard too find one that's been converted. I don't believe you'd find one in my neighborhood, which is somewhat upper middle-class but in some of the older & somewhat lower priced areas they're not uncommon. If your'e 100% sure you won't be trying to sell anytime soon, then I guess I'd say go for it. I would reccommend, however, that you try to do a conversion that could be easily reversed if you ever decide to sell. I've seen conversions that could probably be undone with minimal effort, ie. the garage door was left in place, a faux wall to hide it on the inside, nothing permanent constructed and of course carpeting that could be removed rapidly. If you keep reversal in mind when you're doing the conversion, you could probably have the best of both worlds if/when you have an interested buyer who'd rather have the garage.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:50 PM   #8
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In a lot of counties in CA this is not permitted. But a lot of people do it anyhow. You might have to un-do it when you sell. Most garages are limited in insulation or have none. Be careful about using forced air heating or cooling in a room that contains a non-sealed gas heating product like a water heater as air returns might pull carbon monoxide from the flue.

Biggest problem is if you tick off a neighbor who knows you did it, and its not permitted they might drop a dime on ya.
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Old 11-12-2007, 12:57 PM   #9
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A few people in my neighborhood in Texas have done this informally. They clean it up, hang some signs or posters on the wall, throw a dorm room quality rug down, put out a sofa and a couple chairs, TV, whatever else they want out there, and hang out there on nice days, often with the big door open. For those homes where the sun signs on it they will only open the bottom of the door a foot or two.

Some of them seem to do it so they can smoke out there and not get it in the rest of the house. Also smaller kids can play out in the driveway or front yard and they can keep track of them while relaxing by the TV.

And they've done nothing to keep it from being converted back into a garage. I think some even put their nicer car in the garage at nights, but most seem to leave them out.

It's not something I'd do because I like using the garage for cars--if nothing else it makes it tougher for someone to know if I'm home or not, since I'm often gone for a month or longer at a time. But it does kind of go back to the time when people hung out on front porches when they open the door.

I think we actually have a covenent that you can't convert the garage so that's why people aren't doing anything permanent, like replacing the big door with a wall and small door.

For your case, I think I'd go one of those nice garage floors you see on commercials (rather than a laminate) so you'd like it if you use it as a real garage later, or sell it to someone who wants a garage. I'd also leave it so you could open the big door when you are out there with the kids, since San Diego has such nice weather.

I'd consider enclosing the water heater somehow, to keep curious kids away. Maybe a 3/4 wall (open top for ventilation) or even chain link fencing somehow.
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Old 11-12-2007, 01:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by laurencewill View Post
No question, the parking thing is a problem. We have a long driveway, though, and only 2 cars, so I think we'd be o.k. It's San Diego, what am I really protecting the car from -
UV, and heat. Your paint and dash, seats, window trim, etc will last much better if that car is inside. Of course, you may have to park outside in a lot at work all week.

Ha
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Old 11-12-2007, 01:19 PM   #11
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I have seen garages used as gathering places for teens: pool table, drum set and the like. It was obviously temporary. Homeowners installed floor covering that is easily removed.

Often the furnace and water heater are in the garage. Ventilation can be an issue.

Assuming you will stay there for many years have you considered buying a few hours of an architect's time for professional advice? You may be able to add a sun room or similar space suitable for the kids to use as a play room that transitions nicely as they, and you, get older. With the down-turn in the housing market contractors may be looking for work.
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Old 11-12-2007, 01:34 PM   #12
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Unfortunately, DW is dead set against a sun room, that was my first choice. She just loathes them. Plus, our backyard is small enough that having a sun room and a patio would greatly diminish it's usefullness.

All right, I think I have the peg on where I want to go. We'll do one of those "perfect garage" epoxy type floors and put down an area rug, I like the 3/4 wall for the heater, it's recessed into it's own space, so that works well. Not going to touch the garage door, because we definitely want to be able to sell it at some point (even if we never upsize, downsizing in retirement is a distinct possibility). Sounds good, a perfect garage, a shed outside for all the dangerous tools, area rug, couch, bean bags...we can always get more dramatic later.

Oh, and garage is already finished, i.e. the ceiling is drywalled, not open.

I just wish there was something we could do about the 3 steps down, I worry about the kids running and tripping down them.
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Old 11-12-2007, 01:45 PM   #13
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A ramp would take up floor space and unless you have a short wall on either side can be more dangerous than steps.

Consider placing a shock absorbent floor covering at the bottom of the steps, although they may trip more often going up the stairs than down. I can hear my Mother now, "I told you not to run in the house!" Growing up is tough, I have the scars to prove it.
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Old 11-12-2007, 03:35 PM   #14
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It can be a real pain in the a$$ to install epoxy on an older garage floor. You have to acid etch it and remove ANY oil/grease/paint or the epoxy will peel up. I've seen some 2'x2' interlocking 1/2" foam panels in both colors and a dark gray, the latter intended for garage flooring. I bought some to put on our back patio when Gabe was just at the stage where he could fall off of stuff as well as he could climb onto it, and our patio seating over concrete was too scary for protectodad. My in-laws took it when we moved and FIL lined his shop floor with it. I think either costco or sams club had some larger panels of harder grooved up stuff that was meant to be driven on. I'm not sure I've ever grasped the idea of putting a lovely floor into a garage so you could park a car on it... *shrug*

Edit: yep, this is the stuff from costco...comes in red and blue...
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File Type: jpg garage flooring.jpg (15.6 KB, 86 views)
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:25 PM   #15
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While I understand your situation, I simply couldn't fathom the idea of giving up my garage.

It's my"play room" work room, warm weather beer drinking room, and of course the bedroom for my cars.

CFB - I'm going to do the epoxy floor on my garage next spring. The muriatic acid part isn't pleasant, but the result is nice. For a lot of people, the garage is a place to hang out and display your cars, so that is why a nice floor helps.
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:38 PM   #16
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Garages were slow to catch on in Hawaii. Even 20 years ago most homes had carports and only new/rich places had garages. So today most local garages are used as formal diningrooms (because the table in the house formal diningroom is piled high with crap) or as "man caves". Our house's previous owners had a mother-in-law living in the garage; they'd even caulked the garage door shut to keep out the drafts.

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All right, I think I have the peg on where I want to go. We'll do one of those "perfect garage" epoxy type floors and put down an area rug...
I just wish there was something we could do about the 3 steps down, I worry about the kids running and tripping down them.
Man, I wouldn't go epoxy. Prep is highly critical and difficult to get perfect. The acids and other chemicals are a mess of toxic fumes & spills, and the epoxy itself is pretty nasty until it cures. Even if you get a contractor out there the kids will find every defect.

Go with CFB's interlocking floor tiles. (It's probably cheaper than epoxy, especially considering the cost of professional prep work.) We have something similar at our dojang and they're perfect-- non-toxic, bouncy for falls, easy to wipe clean (or run a Scooba over). You can find bright colors like greens & oranges, not just black & white.

No good answer on the steps, other than to stack the tiles two deep at the bottom or put plastic bumpers at the edges of the treads. Otherwise you'd be best off building a heavy-duty plywood ramp over it. Of course then you'd get to hear "Hey, Dad, watch me push Olivia down the ramp in her wagon!!"

Two families in our neighborhood (one with three kids, the other with five) turned their garages into playrooms by using cubicle dividers. It gave the kids "walls" for their artwork and it shielded the whole project from street view even when the garage door was open.
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:39 PM   #17
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Neither of my cars inspire any passion from me. If I ever get my Porsche we might need to revisit the issue.

CFB, that floor looks awesome, I sent DW the Costco link. I like the black and white checkerboard look, I wonder if it looks as nice in person.
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:47 PM   #18
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Checkerboard floors make me feel like I am going to have a seizure or something.
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Old 11-12-2007, 05:25 PM   #19
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LOL! DW's first comment when I sent the link was, "Does it come in other colors?" I said, "What did you have in mind?" "I dunno, just not checkerboard!".

A nice tan colored tile, something that had the first impression of ceramic tile so we could do area rugs and paint the walls would be nice.
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Old 11-12-2007, 05:44 PM   #20
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Checkerboard floors make me feel like I am going to have a seizure or something.

Some years ago we did up a bathroom at some student apartments. Painted the outside of the clawfoot tub black, B&W checkerboard floor, mirror and black trim accents. Apartments are fun - you can do things that you don't really feel like trying in your own
home:
http://i37.photobucket.com/albums/e7...3/Image004.jpg

Just rented it again last week. Keep finding people who like the look.... But it's sure not for everyone!
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