Whether your newly built home includes a one-, two-, or three-car garage, you don’t have to use it to store vehicles. The average two-car garage has between 400 and 720 square feet — the size of a small apartment in most urban areas. So, before you automatically pull in to park your car, motorcycle, or minivan, it may be worth considering alternative uses for that enclosed space.
Keep in mind that using your garage for living space may mean you need to add insulation, electricity, better flooring, and drywall, but it could still be a smart way to increase your home’s size. And if you live in a climate with lots of snow and ice, you may want to keep at least part of your garage available for storing your car away from the elements in the winter. Another consideration: You may want to keep the changes to your garage flexible enough so it can be converted back to its traditional use if you plan to sell your home in a few years.
There’s an abundance of creative ideas available to make every inch of your garage functional to fit your lifestyle. In the early months of the pandemic, when people began using their homes for everything including work, school, exercise, and entertainment, the America at Home Study of nearly 4,000 homeowners and renters throughout the country found that homeowners looked to their garage for their new needs. Most respondents who made improvements to their garage said they added storage to their garage (78%), and popular projects included adding a home gym, a home office, a craft space, a game room, and a pet grooming area.
Here are 12 ideas for revamping your garage:
- Create a party space. If you Google the term “GarBar,” you’ll find multiple examples of some of the more elaborate conversions of a garage to a full bar. While you don’t have to go as far as importing an actual full-size bar and installing a jukebox, you can convert your garage into a place to entertain friends and family. Think about adding some comfortable furniture, a rug, lighting, a refrigerator and catering station, a source for music, or a TV for enjoying game days. You can also connect your garage to an adjacent patio, deck, or lawn for indoor-outdoor parties.
- Design a “man cave” or a “she shed.” If your home lacks the right configuration for a place to enjoy privacy and activities that the rest of your family doesn’t always appreciate, consider using your garage. A 400-square-foot room with a comfortable recliner or sofa, a TV, good lighting, and a minifridge or small coffee bar could be just the right place for occasional me time.
- Create a fun playroom for the kids. Alternatively, you can send the kids to the garage if you design it to be a safe place to play. Install rubber interlocking floor mats or a soft but durable carpet, provide age-appropriate toys, and add art supplies and a table and chairs. You can easily add inexpensive bins to store toys and books and upgrade the space as they get older. Just be sure to address safety concerns about the garage door with a locking system and have easy access to keep an eye on young kids from a nearby room.
- Turn your garage into a game room. Unless you have a nice big recreation room or family room, it can be tough to find the space for large games such as a pingpong table, a billiards table, and air hockey. Your garage can be the perfect place for these items, especially if you spruce up the space with comfortable flooring and insulate it so you can use it year-round.
- Design a music room or recording studio. If you’re serious about music or just want your kids to practice their instruments where you don’t have to listen, you can convert your garage to a music space. Consult an expert at your music store about whether you need to insulate the space to protect the instruments — and don’t forget to think about the neighbors. You may want to set specific hours for music practice. If you have extra funds and are dedicated to podcasting or recording music, you can set up your garage as a recording studio.
- Establish a creativity zone. Whether you love to do craft projects, paint, or make pottery, a garage can be a perfect place to design your own studio. Install washable flooring or add washable rugs to manage the mess, along with easels, tables, and storage for your supplies. If you also want to use your garage for your car, you can always have foldable options for your art that can be pulled out for occasional use. If you long for the quiet of a writing studio, you can convert a portion of your garage into a nook with a small desk, space for your laptop, a comfortable chair, good lighting, and a screen or curtain for privacy.
- Design a functional home office. If you work at home part of the time or permanently, it pays to create a separate space where you can focus, keep your paperwork and other supplies, and participate in conference calls. More than likely, you’ll need to add insulation, cover the traditional cement floor, and make sure your Wi-Fi extends to the garage. You may want to add a mini-split heating and air conditioning system. If you’re running a home-based business, you can add extra workstations and storage options to the garage.
- Create a personal gym. Gym equipment is another item that can take up valuable floor space in your home. A garage can be an ideal gym, especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t get too hot or too cold. In that case, you can exercise and get fresh air by opening the garage door. Since garages are designed to hold heavy vehicles, you don’t need to worry about the weight of large exercise equipment. You can keep it as simple as you want or add a mirror, a minifridge for staying hydrated, and a speaker for motivational music. You may want to add permanent mats or keep a supply of yoga mats in the space for floor workouts.
- Add a guest room. Converting a garage into an extra bedroom can be valuable for your lifestyle and increase your property value too. Before you make the commitment, check your local regulations and with your homeowner’s association to make sure you’re allowed to convert the space. If you’re using the space for your friends and family, that may be less of an issue, but if you want to occasionally use the room as a short-term rental, you’ll need to find out whether that’s legal. Reconfiguring your garage into a bedroom is easier if you have an attached garage and a bathroom nearby, but it’s possible to turn your detached garage into a guest cottage or add an apartment above the garage in some cases.
- Expand your garage entrance into a mudroom. You can keep your garage for your car while adding function with a mudroom connecting it to the main house. Depending on how much space you have, you can add a bench, storage for backpacks and sports equipment, a charging station for phones and laptops, and a coat closet.
- Add storage. Many people have a garage full of stuff and no place for their car. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A variety of storage systems are available for whatever you want to keep in your garage. But keep in mind that food and paper goods could be a magnet for pests of all kinds — and fluctuating temperatures can damage other items. Make a careful plan of what you want to store in your garage and make sure it will be safe there, then choose appropriate shelves and cabinets to match your needs.
- Create a dog grooming station. Whether you choose to install a dog shower or a sink big enough to hold your dog — or take a simpler path, your garage can be a great place to store pet supplies. A shelf with dog shampoo, towels, and a nearby hose can simplify your dog washing system.
As you can see, your garage can become a multipurpose space that meets many more needs than just a place to park your car. You can use part of your garage for other functions or all of it as long as you have another place to park. Take the time to think creatively, find out what it would cost to make structural or cosmetic changes to the space, and add value to your home at the same time.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.