Converting your garage into an in-law suite is a project that can considerably enhance the value of your home, in terms of financial returns, convenience, and/or peace of mind. As your family grows, having an in-law suite is an excellent way to make your home more functional, providing a comfortable retreat for guests or a feasible way to keep aging parents close while still allowing you all to maintain much-needed independence.
How to Start Planning Your Garage Conversion
When completing the conversion of your garage into an in-law suite, the journey to the final reveal can be quite stressful, especially if you don’t carefully research and anticipate the main pitfalls of such a complex undertaking. To convert your garage into your brand new in-law suite, you’ll need to:
- Add framing and drywall
- Install and/or repair electrical wiring and plumbing
- Lay down flooring
- Add new decor
- Furnish the suite.
But before you can tackle those steps, first, you’ll need to have a game plan for your in-law suite design. Depending on the set-up of your home’s plumbing and wiring, deciding where a new bathroom or new outlets and lighting will go can a simple process of elimination or might require some creative thinking.
Adding plumbing can be especially tricky when working with a concrete floor, and you might even need to put any bathroom editions up on a raised platform off the floor. Before committing to any plans, get out a notebook and make a list of your top priorities for this space, keeping in mind whether it will be guests or specific family members living in the suite most often.
Then, if you don’t have the expertise or experience to weigh your ideas on your own, you can take your ideas to a renovation consultant. These professionals can explain whether your plans are feasible for your garage and the closest electrical wiring and plumbing in your house and help you decide where to cut back to keep this garage conversion cost-effective, giving you a roadmap of where to invest your money in your new in-law suite.
1. Install Framework and Insulation
The first step towards making your garage a livable space will be adding the wooden framework to build the footprint of the in-law suite. Once the studs are in place, you’ll get a better idea of what your planned layout will look like in the space.
If you’re particularly ambitious DIYer, you might be interested in doing the framing yourself, as it can be a great way to save money and gain home improvement experience. You’ll need quite a few tools to get the job done, including safety glasses, a stud finder, a framing hammer, carpentry hand tools, and more.
Whether you decide to tackle this part of the project yourself or get the professional to do it, having the structure of the suite’s walls will allow you to take measurements for furniture, a step we’ll get to later. But first, before you can drywall your framing, you’ll need to have electrical wiring and plumbing installed.
2. Add Electrical Wires and Plumbing
No matter how much of a DIY champion you might be, this is going to be the step of your garage conversion that requires a professional touch. While homeowners are allowed in most jurisdictions to do this kind of DIY work to their properties without the applicable licenses, you’re going to want your in-law suite to be safe, long-lasting, and well-finished.
The last thing you want to deal with is a dangerous and expensive problem down the line, in the form of an electrical fire or flood. Additionally, your home insurance company may not be too pleased with your choice to go it alone, and doing your own electrical or plumbing work can void your policy, and leave you without the financial protection you paid for, even if that work wasn’t the cause of a claim.
Instead of putting your home, your wallet, and your family at risk, let the trained professional handle adding electrical wiring and plumbing you may want to add for fancy light fixtures, electrical outlets, and any appliances you may want to add in a kitchenette or combo laundry-bathroom.
3. Choose Flooring Materials
Once you have your wiring and plumbing laid down, the suite will start to quickly come together as you close up the framing with drywall and move on to flooring. Because you’ll be adding flooring to a relatively small space, you can potentially afford to spend a little more on flooring that will make this room stand out.
Weigh your options carefully thinking about how you’ll be using the space. If you have older family members at risk of falling living there, carpet in the living and bedroom areas of the suite might be the safest option, whereas a ceramic tile or hardwood flooring might better suit the look you’re going for if that’s not a concern. If cost-effectiveness is your biggest concern, consider laminate flooring, an option that’s both easy to install and maintain.
4. Plan the Color Scheme and Paint the Walls
Now that the groundwork has been laid, this stage of the renovation is when you can start to add some personality and uniqueness to your project. Based on the flooring you’ve chosen, browse online for interior design color schemes that include a similar color that is relaxing without being too bland or monotone.
Knowing in advance whether you’re aiming for a warm or cool-toned theme can help you coordinate the wall colors you choose, the furnishing style, material and color, and even the type of appliances you purchase. Once you have the walls primed and painted, all that’s left will be filling the space with furniture that makes the space livable but still aesthetically pleasing.
5. Add the Furnishings and Decor
When planning your in-law suite, although you’ll want to have a relatively cohesive theme throughout the space, it will be up to you if you want the entire suite to coordinate seamlessly or if you want to convey a different vibe to distinguish the living, bedroom, and bathroom areas from one another.
Whichever approach works best for your space, deciding on the largest furnishing in each space, such as a bed, a sofa or armchair, a coffee table, and a bathroom mirror or vanity, can help you anchor the design of each room so that, in the end, everything you purchase works with the major items in the suite.
That way, other pieces like a side table, dresser, TV stand, shelving, or dinette and seating set won’t like a random collection but instead like a purposeful design with a central theme that’s been coordinated through your garage conversion.