The cost of rising fuel prices, as well as office rental fees have increased the appeal and favor of working at home for many go-getters. Professionals are taking ergonomic advantage of everything within their homes from unused rooms to garages.
Whether it be due to a shortage of cars or extra vacant space, and regardless of whether you’re doing it for creative or tax deduction purposes, the unused space in your garage can indeed be converted into a home office.
Demanding not so much in funds as it does creativity, within less than a few weeks, your DIY garage office can even rival a traditional office suite in design and luxury.
What Qualifies As a Home Office?
There are two answers to this question: one that satisfies your individual expectations and conceptions of a “home office” and another that fulfills the legal definitions of an office for tax purposes.
The first requirement is easy and depends on your flexibility and personal standards. Some homeowners are satisfied with an unfinished basement, while others are restless until they spend thousand on a complete do-over of the basement.
Ask yourself, how cozy would you like your basement to be? Are you going for a traditional office look or are you shooting for simplicity a modern minimalist philosophy? Would you go out of the way to replace the concrete floor with a hard wood floor? Are you happy with the current coat of painting in your garage interior and exterior (for attracting clients)?
Is there enough lighting in your garage for your work to be done? Since it’s a garage we’re talking about, the answer is likely a negative.
Why Use Your Garage As An Office?
There are a myriad of reasons more and more people are converting their garages into offices. One of the main reasons is the time and cost saved from driving to their rented offices daily, miles from where they live.
A home office saves time and completely eliminates the risks that come from driving daily. The added bonus of a home office situated in your garage means even more space than a traditional bedroom or loft, providing space for multiple computers, desks, bookshelves, and other furniture.
A garage office rests in an interesting threshold between civility and the outdoors. This “grey area” can be even more advantageous than both rented offices or traditional bedroom offices, as working in one’s garage will force you to dress up for the occasion while providing rapid access to your driveway should you need to get something from say, the grocery store.
Or, perhaps your garage and/or driveway is a few vehicles short, and you’ve been meaning to fill that vacant space with productivity and/or aesthetics. Designing interiors can turn out to be a secret talent or hobby for many DIY enthusiasts, and many take pride in designing a top notch office from a scrappy garage.
Making use of unused spaces and turning such vacancies into areas of productivity is one of the most productive and rewarding things we can do, and can potentially return and pay itself in interest many times over.
Why Wouldn’t —or Couldn’t— I Turn the Garage Into An Office?
Barring legal common sense (you wouldn’t be able to refurbish and renovate the built-in garage within, say, your townhouse), there may be a handful of reasons why one couldn’t have a garage office.
Perhaps your job requires you to be at your company headquarters as much, or more than the time you’re allowed to work at home. It’s not recommended to go through all the time and effort to create a brand new, shiny office when it’s only used once or twice per week!
Garages are also designed with less equipped perks and adaptability than an ordinary room within a building or house. Some individuals find window-less offices depressing, and if your garage doesn’t have windows you’ll be denied access to fresh air.
Another example is the fact that virtually no garages have air-conditioners built in, or other means of temperature control. You’re going to need to figure out how to insulate your garage office properly during the Winter season and sweltering Summer humidity.
Last but definitely not the least, dressing up your garage too extravagantly can make it quite an appealing driveway for potential burglars. Achieving a balance between good looks and sensible simplicity would mitigate this risk, as well as installing alarms and other security devices by night.
Do I Need Permission From State/Federal Authorities to Turn My Garage into an Office?
Depending on what nation and region of the world you’re in, it is not usually required to secure planning permission to convert your garage into another room— in this case, an office.
Keep in mind, however, certain development rights are automatically removed from certain conditions being set. For example, if your garage is located on housing estate. Or, if your garage is part of a listed building, you need to acquire the building consent.
Or, these planning permissions may include a condition such as your garage remaining a parking place, for which you have several avenues of approach: either modify your garage to accommodate both space for your car and office, or undergo the process to apply to vary or waive (remove) the condition itself.
If permitted development rights are non-existent or taken away, you will have to do the above and apply to remove the condition. If you live in the United Kingdom, you can apply for the application and forms here. Write professionally and convincingly, as the Council will ultimately have to decide if the removal of a parking space would have any “harmful impact” upon public highway safety.
The Basic Necessities for Your Garage Office
A garage office requires all the necessities a traditional office would demand, with some warehouse-specific requirements. Among these include, but are not limited to:
- Lighting: If you are installing windows, make sure they are placed strategically to allow natural lighting in. There should be enough lighting in every corner of an office, to say less of a garage. Incandescent lamps are inefficient and give off heat, and your personal desk, especially the one with the monitor resting needs a separate lamp itself. Avoid using excessive bright lights which can attract burglars.
- Some Means of Temperature Control: If it’s just an office for one, installing a thermostat system may not be necessary. Using heat lamps/projectors or fans and portable air conditioners may suffice.
- Hydration: A water tank? A pack of plastic bottles in the corner for easy reach will decrease chances of dehydration.
- Space for Office Tools: Have plenty of drawers or shelves for storing papers, pens, files, and other tools, without allowing clutter to stack up. Dispose of the old paint cans or out-of-season Holiday decorations, which are a sight for the mind as well as the eyes.
- Decorations: We saved the fun stuff for last. If you’ve always felt including an overhanging clock on the wall to keep track of time, then the world within your garage is your oyster.
- Seal Off Exposure: Are there cracks in the old walls of the garage for animals to sneak through? Is there a family of bats or opossums nesting in the ceiling? You’re going to have to deal with the removal of these critters before undergoing any craftsmanship.
- Height of the Ceiling: Is the height of the garage optimal for the people using your office? You may want to structure a vaulted ceiling on it for added spaciousness, if it isn’t.
- Security: Not only are you keeping unwanted burglars out but also intruding critters. A locked and secure door can only keep an ambitious thief out so well. Motion-activated cameras, as well as light and even an alarm system may be necessary to avoid forceful break-ins. Buying Kesinton locks to secure your electronics such as your computers to your desk should not be overlooked.
How Much Does It Totally Cost to Build a Garage Office?
Garage remodels can cost anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000 dollars. Depending on the scope of your project (as well as surplus of furniture ready-at-hand), this can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000.
Since you may be attempting a DIY Garage office, it may cost no more than $10,000 for your endeavor, with costs as low as $2,500 to $5,000 (source: homeadvisor.com)
Some or even all of the construction costs for building a garage office may be tax-deductible. Consult an accountant for the exact details regarding this information. The biggest projects may require interior designers or architects, whose costs vary in professional experience and level of involvement.
The Steps for Turning Your Garage Into An Office
Step One: Inspection
Your first priority is to check and evaluate the garage to see if it’s suitable for converting into an office in the first place, both legally and structurally. Is there proper heighting in the garage? Is the condition of the garage salvageable so that it’s worth your time and effort to renovate it? Answering as many questions as possible can help.
Check with the local housing laws and regulations for permissions and allowances on remodeling your garage before taking any further action. After clearing this hurdle by securing the legal “Ok,” you may begin your inspection of the garage.
Step Two: Cleaning
One of the distinguishing features of a home office that makes it stand out from the other compartments in a building is that it is work-ready and ship-shape at all times. This is even more important since you’ll be making one out of your garage, which frequently collects dust and dirt from outside.
Be sure to take all the steps one would take to clean any workspace, including but not limited to:
- Sweeping and mopping the floor.
- Remove any and all animal excrement or other remnants, from bat or mice droppings, to cobwebs.
- If you want to keep the concrete floor, you have the option to bleach it.
- Or skip the above option if you plan to install carpet or wood flooring. Then vacuum when needed.
- Dust and clear cupboards and corners.
- Clean and wipe down windows, or replace them immediately if you wish.
Step Three: Install An HVAC System
The main difficulty with renovating garages as a living or working space is the fact that they are not naturally insulated or provided with an air conditioning system. Thus, heating and cooling are pretty much left to the mercy of the elements, which can make operating in the garage unbearable during extreme seasons.
The absence of a window, as well as the existence of a faulty, imperfectly-installed one can make matters worse. Windows provide natural cooling and fresh air, but also allow freezing cool air to enter through your garage office during the Winter if there are leaks.
For those on a small budget, or if you’re the only one planning to use the office space, a single fan and a portable heating unit would more than suffice.
Or for the serious and ambitious, you can always take the time and funds to install a full-room air conditioner and heater, and even radiant floor heating for during those freezing winter months.
You can take steps to insulate your garage by hiring a contractor to install insulation or dry wall for your garage walls, as it will cost more to heat or cool your garage office without them.
Step Four: Painting
Painting the walls of your garage is not just a step to satisfy one’s personal sense of aesthetics, but also meant to seal the old, cracked and peeling paint from decades ago and to lock in dust and other debris.
You don’t have to paint every corner and wall of your garage. Sometimes, partitioning one corner or angle is enough to give the garage a rejuvenating look.
Optionally, if you’re remodeling the entire garage, you can paint or stain the concrete floor as well.
Painting the ceiling, however, is an entirely different matter. If you’re one of the few fortunate homeowners who have a finished garage with a completely flat surface for a ceiling, you can resurface or remud the ceiling to get rid of old taping and painting.
Step Five: Installing Windows/Lighting
Having a healthy, liberal stream of lights in your garage may be a problem, since most garages are constructed to have the minimal amount of lighting allowing one to navigate to their car door. Buying portable lamps, as well as installing light fixtures and recessed lighting can rectify this.
Windows, of course, serve as a source of natural light, but only during daytime. During the fall and winter afternoons, you’re going to need electrical outlets, perhaps multiple as many old garages are not equipped with enough outlets to plug in other electronics not including lighting.
You can hire an electrician to install outlets or do it by yourself. Just make sure you don’t overload your outlets with too many devices, as this can start an electric fire.
Step 6: Garage Disguise/Removal and Installing Door
You can either choose to disguise signs of your garage office having ever been an office or remove the garage door entirely. Clean the garage door track, or remove both the track and the door.
Sometimes, hiding things such as old paint buckets and the water heater can be accomplished through something as simple as draw-able blinds, or curtains.
Once you’ve removed the garage door itself, you may remove the garage door button and mechanisms which enabled its opening and closing. Finally, you may want to paint or even install an entirely new door for your garage to make it look truly worthy of an independent office.
Step 7: Decorations
Now comes the fun part! Add furniture and artwork where you see fit, from diplomas to children’s artwork to give your office character and an inviting atmosphere. Feel free to cover as much wall space as you want, as bare walls will only remind you that this area was once a bland garage.
Picking a table should be its own article, as a desk is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time in your home office. A glass-topped desk would be more resistant to outside elements (befitting a garage). Avoid cheap wood/plastic desks that warp under the same conditions.
Add storage units for the safe-keeping of all your important documents, folders, etc. File cabinets, portable drawers, and even creating your own custom shelving can accomplish this.
At any time, you can install a dehumidifier if your garage and local climate is damp and usually humid, which can harm your office electronics and other equipment. A dehumidifier can also help minimize odor as a result the buildup of moisture in your garage.
You may partition and designate a chosen corner for your office if your legal permissions demand that you keep the garage as a parking space. Measure carefully your designated work area and make sure there are at least two walkways providing access to it at all times.
If your wifi signal isn’t strong enough from your house, you may want to install a separate router and internet service for your garage, with a range extender to extend the range of the signal. A crawlspace would enable you to slip an ethernet cable between your house and the garage.
Can I Rent My Garage to Other People to Use?
If you’ve done an exceptional job and feel like showing off your handiwork, as well as earning back the cost spent for renovation, it is possible to rent your garage for other people to use.
Either collect money by cash, under the table, or through checks, which will have to be legally approved as office usage for taxes.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare