Gone are the days when garages were merely used for parking cars. Today, garages have evolved into versatile spaces that can serve a multitude of purposes. If you’re looking to repurpose your garage into something more than just a car storage area or simply renovate your garage’s curb appeal, you’re in the right place. In this Redfin article, we’ll dive into expert garage conversion tips and ideas that will help you unleash the full potential of your garage, transforming it into a functional and stylish space that goes beyond its traditional role.
Whether you need to install air conditioning because you own a house in Sarasota, FL, or you’re starting from scratch with a complete garage makeover in Rochester, NY, get ready to reimagine your garage as a versatile hub for creativity, productivity, and endless possibilities.
1. Apply the 20/20 rule for an effective garage makeover
“The 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn, and Ryan Nicodemus, sets the notion that if you can replace something in less than 20 minutes for less than $20.00, you don’t need to keep it. The belief is that there is a low chance you’ll actually have to replace the items once you let them go,” mentions Michelle Urban, Owner of The Organized House
“In my experience helping clients organize, the 20/20 rule works best when decluttering smaller items with little to no sentimental value — the ‘just in case’ items that you think you might need someday. This can include tools, gardening supplies, camping supplies, and household utility items.”
2. Ask yourself these five hard questions when organizing and decluttering your garage
“Garages are one of the most challenging spaces to declutter and organize. Not only do they tend to be a good size, but it’s also where we dump our unmade decisions. We store our keepsakes, miscellaneous items, back stock items, and everything else,” says Michelle.
“If you have difficulty deciding about the belongings you have accumulated, ask yourself these questions to help you decipher whether your items belong in your space:
- Do you love it and have a designated space for it?
- How often do you use it and when was the last time you used it?
- Will you use it again in the future?
- Could it be more beneficial to someone else?
- Would you repurchase it if given the chance?
3. Get air conditioning installed in your garage
“Let’s face it, working in extreme heat or cold is never enjoyable. Whether you plan to use your garage as a workspace, storage area, or both, ensuring year-round comfort is crucial. If you live in a region with extreme heat or snow, climate control becomes even more essential,” says
Julian Rodriguez III from Vista Montana Builders. “With air conditioning, you can make the space more comfortable to work in while also protecting stored items from extreme temperatures and humidity. Consider investing in an air conditioning system during your garage renovation project to make it a comfortable and functional space.”
4. Pre-wire everything in your garage for clean walls and seamless integration
“Depending on your budget for the garage project, consider pre-wiring and installing access tubes behind the walls for future cable or wire installations,” recommends Julian. “This allows you to finish the trim or other details when you’re ready. For example, you may want to install ceiling speakers later on. By pre-wiring your set-up, you can easily install these devices without visible wires or conduit, making your garage space more aesthetically pleasing.”
5. Transform your garage into a social haven of fun and relaxation
“If you plan on using your garage as a hangout spot, why not make it the ultimate entertainment hub? Install a large TV, surround sound speakers, and comfortable seating to create the perfect entertainment room,” recommends Julian. “You can also add a game table for friendly competitions, a mini-fridge for drinks and snacks, and even a popcorn machine for a true cinema experience. With a little creativity, your garage can become the perfect place to relax, socialize, and have fun.”
6. Elevate your garage renovations by breaking the rules
Haleema Burton, Professional Organizer at Jillian & Leigh believes, “Garage renovations offer a great excuse to break the standard rules. Who says that garages have to look like… Well, garages?”
Haleema says you should, “Tap into a monochromatic palette that will add a great visual aesthetic to your garage, whether you choose all white or black accessories, storage bins, and shelving. The addition of colorful tools will provide that extra pop of color.”
7. Organize your garage like a department store
“If you want to organize your garage so everything is super-easy to find, try setting it up like a home improvement or department store with different categories like car care, gardening, home repairs, tools, camping, outdoor toys, cleaning, painting, etc.,” says Christa Mobley, Founder of InnerLift. “Then put those like items together, and even consider labeling shelves, cabinets, or containers so the whole family knows where each ‘department’ is located.
The best way to maximize every inch of your garage and keep it easy to maintain is to use all of the wall space and keep as much as possible off of the floor. There are many different wall organizing systems that have special holders for everything from gardening tools, hose reels, and sports equipment to toys, bikes, and even car seats. Then you don’t even have to sweep the floor, just use your leaf blower and blow the dust and dirt right out the garage door.”
Katherine Picott, a Professional Home Organizer and garage conversion expert from Tidy Milso, brings years of experience in organizing garages. According to her expertise, she suggests, “Starting by dividing the garage into four zones, such as car supplies, hobbies and sports equipment, beach and travel gear, and tools. It’s recommended to maximize vertical space for storing yard tools and non-hazardous chemicals while refraining from storing food items in the garage to prevent attracting insects or vermin.”
8. Simple garage renovation projects that increase value and functionality
“There are a number of simple projects that can greatly increase the value of your garage while making it more functional for everyday use. Start by installing drywall and giving it a fresh coat of paint. This cleans up the space and gives it a finished feel. Once that is done, install shop cabinets or shelving. This will help you organize and store your belongings in such a way that they are easy to find and access,” provides Highline Construction.
“Next, invest in a professional organizing service or take inspiration from someone like The Orderly Space. Organize everything in bins, use a label maker, and have some fun. If you want to take it one step further, install a new garage door. You can opt for something with additional glass to bring more natural light into the space. With an ROI of 97% to 102%, according to the 2023 cost vs. value report for the Pacific region, you can sleep well knowing that you are both increasing the value of your home while increasing curb appeal.”
9. Enhance your garage conversion by maximizing space, light, and style
“Garage conversions are probably the most common form of accessory dwelling units (ADU),” says garage conversion expert Karen Steinberg from Decor Revolution. “At Decor Revolution, our top priorities in designing these small spaces are the following, which we recommend you consider while optimizing your garage conversion:
- Bringing in natural light to make the space appear larger through the creative placement of windows, doors, and skylights.
- Use of multi-functional furniture to make the most of every square foot of space.
- Relying on lots of creative storage to keep belongings contained.
- Combining a neutral color palette with a few bright accents to help keep rooms clear and calm.”
Courtesy of Decor Revolution
10. Cost-effective solutions for flooring that provides protection and longevity
“While fancy epoxy and polyaspartic floor coatings as well as garage tile systems can provide excellent protection and look impressive, they can be expensive for some people. Typically, garage tile systems can range between two to five dollars per square foot, while professionally installed floor coatings can range between four to eight dollars per square foot,” notes garage conversion Concrete Sealers USA.
“Most people don’t realize that all they need to achieve a good look that extends the life of their floor and at a fraction of the cost is a “best in class” concrete sealer. Homeowners should use concrete sealers to extend the life of their garage floor, keep it looking clean and nice, and aid with spills and stains. Adding in some cost-effective rugs or mats in higher traffic areas and placing spill trays under anything that leaks oil and other fluids go a long way in preserving your garage floor. Cleaning your spills in a timely manner and periodically cleaning your floor should also not be overlooked.”
11. Garage conversion essentials for functionality and flow
The Garage Dude recommends, “Incorporating the following design elements is crucial for every garage renovation, along with some valuable tips for functionality and flow:
- Logistical Groupings: Identify and organize categories that are important to family members, such as holiday items, dry goods, sports equipment, gardening tools, toys, and camping gear.
- Frequency of Use: Determine how often each group of items is accessed, whether it’s daily, monthly, or annually.
- Parking Strategy: Assess the garage layout and determine the best parking arrangement for cars, considering which bay to use.
- Electrical Considerations: Evaluate electrical needs, including outlets for refrigerators, freezers, EV cars, and other devices that may require power. Placement of items might be influenced by existing electrical outlets.
- Flexibility: Design a system that can adapt to changing needs, allowing for transitions from strollers to bikes or other evolving requirements.
- Vertical Storage: Utilize wall space to free up the floor, creating an illusion of a larger garage while minimizing bug and rodent presence.
- End Goal: Determine the desired outcome, whether it’s parking two cars, efficient organization, or quick item retrieval within 15 seconds. Goals shape the identification of logistical groupings and the need for garage storage.
- Flow Management: Consider the flow within the garage, including entry and exit points to the house and car, ensuring smooth movement and functionality.”
12. Avoid this common mistake: Not matching the floor elevation for waterproofing
“The biggest mistake DIY folks make when it comes to waterproofing is failing to raise the finish floor elevation to match the rest of the home,” remarks Carl Hamilton from Carl Hamilton Renovations. “By avoiding this oversight, you can prevent the risk of water seeping into your space.”
13. Assess your garage’s layout
“Before diving into the design process, it’s crucial to assess your garage’s layout and envision the potential of the space,” recommends garage conversion expert ADU Resource Center. “Take note of existing structural elements, such as windows, doors, and utility connections, as these will influence your design choices. Consider the orientation of natural light and ventilation to make the most of the available resources.”
Courtesy of Kristi Cirtwill
14. Consider expanding the garage’s square footage
“If you require more square footage for your “Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), it’s possible to expand your garage by extending its physical footprint,” mentions ADU Resource Center. “Consult with a professional contractor or architect to evaluate the feasibility of expansion based on your property’s layout and local building regulations. By adding extra space, you can create a more comfortable living area and enhance the overall functionality of your ADU.”
15. Furnish by opting for flexible furniture
“Choosing furniture that serves multiple purposes is paramount in a small ADU,” suggests ADU Resource Center. “Look for convertible sofas that can turn into guest beds, storage ottomans that offer extra seating and stowaway space, or drop-leaf tables that can expand or contract based on your needs. These versatile pieces enable you to adapt your living area to different activities and maximize the utility of every square foot.”
16. Create an open and airy atmosphere
“To counteract the potential sense of confinement in a small space, focus on creating an open and airy atmosphere,” says ADU Resource Center. “Choose light-colored paint or wallpaper to reflect natural light and make the space feel more expansive. Install mirrors strategically to enhance the perception of depth and bounce light around the room. Additionally, incorporating large windows or skylights can further brighten and open up your ADU.”
17. Embrace minimalistic design
“When working with limited space, adopting a minimalistic design approach can be highly effective,” suggests ADU Resource Center. “Minimalism emphasizes simplicity and clean lines, focusing on essential elements and reducing clutter. Opt for furniture and decor that serve multiple purposes and have a small footprint. Utilize built-in storage solutions, such as cabinets or wall-mounted shelves, to keep your space organized and free from unnecessary obstructions.”
18. Stow away seasonal items
“Store big, seasonal items in overhead racks. Ideally organized in labeled bins, such as those black and yellow ones, or clear bins to more easily locate items,” recommends garage conversion expert Andres Garcia-Velez from Casa Garage. “This will get big bulky items neatly stored away and clear up cabinets and wall space for more everyday items.”
19. Epoxy is a must if you want your floor to last and appear bigger
“Flake Epoxy flooring will completely transform any garage. Making a garage look bigger with a seamless floor installed,” shares Andres. “Epoxy flake floor, correctly installed, should last many years looking like new while withstanding to daily abuse, wear, and tear, and will provide much more strength and protection than bare concrete.
Furthermore, overhead storage racks and slat wall paneling are your friends in small garages. They provide plenty of storage capabilities while not taking up a lot of floor space.”
20. Hire professionals for the best materials and finishes
“Hire a professional garage company,” says Andres. “A good company will provide invaluable service and experience. For instance, garage conversion expert Casa Garage will complete a typical 500 square-foot garage within a week, and exceptionally done. Many products for the garage will be of higher quality when working with a professional company as opposed to trying to acquire them as a homeowner. It will turn out to be much more time-consuming, and surprisingly enough, more expensive if attempting to DIY.