How to Turn a Garage Into an Apartment

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Need a space to call your own while you're job hunting, going to school or otherwise adjusting your income? If somebody's offered you an empty, single-car garage, take it! A cozy apartment can be yours with a little work.

Things You'll Need

  • A roll of insulation
  • Two sheets of plywood or wallboard, cut to fit
  • Wallboard for the garage walls
  • Paint for the walls
  • Paint roller
  • Two paint brushes, one medium and one small
  • Metal brackets to hold small wood shelves cut from leftover wood
  • Two heavy canvas drop cloths
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Handsaw
  • Floor covering (e.g. peel-and-stick tiles, large jute mats, or several heavy rugs)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Sewing materials
  • Mask and gloves
  • Three plastic shower curtains
  • Curtain pole the width of the garage, with supports

Sweep the floor thoroughly, and then scrub it with laundry detergent. If the floor isn't too grease-soaked, you can use the same broom to work up some good suds. Rinse with several buckets of water, and then sweep the water outside. Let the floor dry for a day or two before you put down any flooring. In the meantime, if the floor isn't too wet for you to stand on safely, paint the walls before the flooring gets installed. Once the floor is totally dry, put on your mask and gloves, and fit the roll of insulation into the garage-door area. Then, fit the two plywood panels into position, and nail them to the studs surrounding the former garage door. Your apartment door is going to be the normal-sized one, and you don't want cold wind or weather slipping into your home around the big garage door.

Install your choice of flooring once the fresh paint is dry. For peel-and-stick floor tiles, just follow the directions on the box. For the woven jute mats, position them in strategic areas, like beside where your bed will be, your sofa and under your dining table. Now, take one of the heavy canvas drop cloths, and nail the top hem of it to a crossbeam, one that is at roughly one third the length of the garage. Take the second drop cloth, and nail it up the same way, but at the beam that is about two thirds the length of the garage. Admire your handiwork for a few minutes! You've just divided your long garage into three areas of your apartment: your living area, your bedroom and your kitchen/dining area. If you're lucky enough, your garage has a sink in the end of it. That room is logically the kitchen and dining room. Put your living room in the middle area, and your bedroom in the last area, so you have privacy for sleeping.

Assuming you have bathroom privileges inside the house to which the garage is attached, you won't have to worry about a toilet. But if you don't, or the garage is in an industrial area, you're going to have to get a chemical toilet. Check to be sure there's a safe and legal place for you to dump the chemical toilet regularly without violating health and sanitation laws. To find a chemical toilet that works well, go to one of the camping-equipment stores, and purchase one there, as well as the supplies you'll need for its use. Install the shower curtain rod supports, at a point that is approximately one quarter of your bedroom. Take the three shower curtains, and gather them tightly onto the rod before hanging it to completely close off one small end of your bedroom. Put the chemical toilet in the new bathroom. Put up a small shelf on the back wall to hold hand sanitizer and other supplies, and hang a curtain from it to provide storage for the bottles of chemicals to make the toilet work properly. Put your bedroom furniture in the other three fourths of the room area, and hang mirrors, pictures or whatever you have on hand to make it more comfortable and appealing.

For the living room, position your furniture, stereo, TV or whatever else you have for entertainment so that you can be seated comfortably without having to crane your neck or sit awkwardly. Accept whatever furniture someone offers you--remember, you can always paint or refinish it, and if it's too hideous, put it in a yard sale, and then buy what you'd rather have with the proceeds. You can make a coffee table out of a square of painted plywood put atop four small "pillars'"or legs of salvaged brick. You're going to need either a floor lamp or some small end tables to put lamps on, providing light for reading or just relaxing. Add pillows for the sofa or a big easy chair.

For your kitchen, build yourself some more small shelves using the metal brackets and leftover wood boards. These can hold a clock, spices and a cook book or two. You'll need a small refrigerator and a microwave. Add a coffee maker and a slow cooker if you have the money and space. You can build a kitchen counter with several brackets and a longer board; then hang a short curtain from it for a cupboard, and store canned goods on the floor behind the curtain.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have a party for your friends when you're all set up in your new home and enjoy!
  • If your sink is one of those deep industrial kinds, get a dishpan to wash your dishes in so they don't rattle around and break. (Cleaning broken glass out of a deep sink with a drain in the middle is not fun.)
  • Be sure to wear your mask and gloves while putting up even one roll of insulation.

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