How to Convert a Garage Into an In-Law Suite

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Converting a garage into an apartment isn't cheap. Estimates run anywhere from $10,000 - $25,000 for a basic remodeling job, which includes closing in the garage door wall, wiring, flooring, ceiling, plumbing, cabinetry, insulation, drywalls, and doors and windows. For many families who are "doubling up" in their home to save on housing costs, it's well worth the expense. It allows adults to share the costs of maintaining a property but allows for privacy as well. If family members have agreed, converting a garage into an in-law suite can be a wonderful opportunity for economic relief and family bonding.

Things You'll Need

  • Architectural plans
  • Contractor
  • Zoning regulations

Converting a Garage to an In-Law Suite

  • Research the area's zoning laws regarding renovating a garage into an apartment. Map out the entire property and then visit the local zoning board to find out what the options are.

    Ask whether, if the renovation is allowed, what relevant laws and regulations will apply. Check with the local subdivision or co-op board (if applicable) to find out if there are any hurdles there.

  • Visit an architect to get ideas for remodeling a garage into a suite. Obtaining an architectural plan will add cost to the project but in the long run will allow the project to run smoothly. Converting a garage for in-laws involves many adults and it's a good idea to have a plan ready that all the people involved have agreed upon before starting on the actual work.

  • Get estimates for the work from at least three licensed contractors (see references for finding licensed contractors).

    Make sure that the contractors' estimates spell out all stages of the work that is expected. Everything should be carefully written down to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Discuss the budget with all family members who are involved. There is no better opportunity for misunderstandings than when the individuals involved are family. Is it clear who is going to be paying for the renovation? Is it clear whether (or not) this will be factored into future shared expenses (mortgage payments)? If "extras" have been decided on (expensive cabinetry or fixtures, for example) do all the parties involved understand that this is an added expense that is raising the cost of the renovation?

  • Decide whether the entire job will be done during the renovation or whether some work will be done in the future. Some jobs such as vinyl siding, exterior painting, trim, etc. can theoretically wait until more money is available. Consider whether that is acceptable to all involved.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider the age of the in-laws and their physical condition. Even if they are in good shape at the present, elderly people often become more frail with time, so the converted garage should be remodeled with the future in mind. Nothing needs to be said to the in-laws but the renovation should be done in a way that will allow for future rails, ramps, and other additions that may be necessary down the road.

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