What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (2023)

According to a recent Housing Survey, around 80 percent of American households have a garage or carport. Nonetheless, the majority of people do not utilize them for parking. For many, these are merely disorganized storage areas.

Consider that a two-car garage can comprise about 10-15 percent of a home’s total square footage area. Converting your garage into a studio garage apartment is a terrific idea if you want to make better use of the space you have, as many of us do now that the workforce has shifted toward remote work. A contractor that specializes in garage conversion may assist you in creating a beautiful, pleasant, and functional new living space. Here are some pointers on what to anticipate.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and San Diego Counties with reliable contractors, we speak to homeowners every day about creating garage apartments out of their existing spaces – here are some ideas & tips to get you started.

Need Some Guidance? Call Now – 818.317.3567

Need Some Guidance? Call For Free Advice

Contents hide

1 What is a garage apartment used for?

2 How much does converting a garage/carport into a studio apartment cost?

3 Tips for selecting the best garage conversion contractor in OC

4 How can I start the conversion of a garage into a studio apartment?

5 How long does the construction of a garage apartment take?

What is a garage apartment used for?

What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (1)

In recent years, California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) restrictions have been significantly loosened, making it easier to rent them out for extra money. In Orange County and Southern California, where rents are at an all-time high, even a studio apartment may fetch over $2,000 per month.

Even if income is not your major motivation for converting your garage into an apartment, there may still be a financial advantage. For some families, it may make sense to establish an elegant studio apartment to house elderly grandparents or to accommodate a nanny or live-in housekeeper.

In addition, a garage studio apartment may serve as a man cave/she shed, home office, home gym, music studio, and more. At the end of the day, the area is yours. Why not maximize the situation?

How much does converting a garage/carport into a studio apartment cost?

What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (2)

In Orange County, You can expect to pay between $90,000 and $125,000 to convert a garage into a studio, while costs may vary based on your location, the size of the project, and the materials you choose. Additional elements, such as whether you’re constructing a two-story home or installing plumbing, will also impact the total cost of your garage conversion.

Because of the substantial expenditure involved in a project of this nature, many homeowners may require financing or a loan in order to finish a garage apartment. Since an increasing number of lenders offer ADU loan programs, there are a variety of alternatives to examine. They include home equity lines of credit, home equity loans, cash-out refinancing, remodeling loans, and construction loans, among others.

Tips for selecting the best garage conversion contractor in OC

What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (3)

With the costs associated with creating a studio garage apartment, as well as the fact that you want this to be a secure and comfortable living space, it is essential to engage with a contractor that possesses the knowledge and expertise necessary to ensure the success of this project.

Best case, you should receive at least three bids from contractors; and ensure that these contractors have appropriate expertise with garage apartment conversions, preferably in your city. Developing a scope checklist that details all of your needs and specifications can save you from incurring unexpected overruns and costs as the project develops. Also, it is essential to inquire with each contractor about how and where on your property they suggest running utilities, as well as the accompanying expenses to do so. Contractors’ bids will be more accurate the more comprehensive your checklist and communications are.

So, what should your scope checklist include? Typical examples include the installation of new sewer lines, water, and gas lines; rough construction elements such as the foundation, framing, windows, and doors; kitchen and bathroom construction and appliances; and site elements such as landscaping, fencing, and hardscaping.

Frequently, fixtures, finishes, and appliances are not included in a proposal, therefore it may be required to budget for these additional costs while considering your bids. Start investigating these materials as soon as feasible; delaying the selection of your preferred items might result in delays and expense overruns.

At GreatBuildz, we make it simple for Orange County and Southern California residents to connect with garage conversion specialists who have been thoroughly vetted.

Related: 10 Best Tips For Finding an ADU Contractor in Los Angeles

How can I start the conversion of a garage into a studio apartment?

What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (4)

The initial step in planning a garage-to-apartment conversion is to visit with one or two contractors to receive an estimate of the budget. Next, you must employ a small architect or design firm to create blueprints. These experts will discuss your objectives with you; do you want your garage studio to feature a bedroom and a bathroom? Will this apartment be rentable? — and utilize your feedback to showcase several ideas.

After finalizing your designs, the architect will submit them to the city’s building department for compliance review with all applicable building codes. During this approval process, which typically lasts between two weeks to a few months, you may begin discussing your garage-to-studio conversion designs with garage conversion contractors and soliciting bids.

How long does the construction of a garage apartment take?

What To Know About Building Garage Apartments in the OC (5)

After the building begins, the duration of the project is estimated to be between three and five months. The contractor and his crew will need to dig trenches in the yard to install sewage and water lines, despite the fact that it may appear that the majority of the work will be confined within the garage. In other words, landscaping tasks should be postponed until after the garage conversion is complete.

In addition, your local electric and gas utility may need time to place your meter, which might potentially lengthen the period before your garage studio apartment is ready for occupancy. Speak to your garage conversion contractor about the timeline of your project so that you can be prepared in advance for anything that might arise. Also, make sure to select and purchase all your finished materials as early in the process as possible…so that material delays don’t hamper the project.

Either way, you’ll need to acquire insurance coverage immediately for your new garage apartment. Although some homeowner’s insurance plans include “additional structures,” the coverage level is insufficient for a full accessory housing unit. In addition, some lenders will need you to obtain a Course of Construction coverage, which protects against fire, theft, and vandalism.

When it comes to converting your existing space into a studio garage apartment, you shouldn’t have to go it alone – GreatBuildz can help simplify your renovation experience.

GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.839.6855) to chat with a real person about your next remodel project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com

Starting a Renovation? Call Now – 818.317.3567

Starting a Renovation? Submit Your Project Today


Is it worth turning garage into apartment? ›

For the most part, experts agree that converting your garage into living space does not add value to your home. This isn't always the case; it depends on where you live. And if you're planning to sell your home within three to five years, a garage conversion is usually not a good idea.

How much does it cost to convert a garage to an ADU in Orange County? ›

The garage conversion to ADU cost commonly ranges from $90,000-$120,000 depending on location and the homeowner's desires. Building an ADU above a garage will be more expensive because the garage needs to be structurally reinforced to support the weight above.

Can you convert your garage into living space in California? ›

Altering or converting a garage into a living area is a violation of the California Health and Safety Code Sec. 17920.3 (n) and the California Building Code Sec. 105.1. When a garage is illegally converted into living quarters, serious health and safety issues can be created.

What is it called when you turn a garage into an apartment? ›

Turning a garage into a house by building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a win-win situation that will allow you to turn underutilized space into long-term equity in your home.

What is the ROI on garage conversion? ›

Does a garage conversion add value to your home? Yes, a garage conversion typically adds value to your home since you're increasing the amount of liveable square footage. Generally, you have an ROI of about 80% with garage conversions.

Do you have to raise the floor in a garage conversion? ›

Did you know that your garage floor isn't level with the rest of your house? It's true. So if you're going to convert your garage into a living space, you'll need to raise the floor first. Raising the floors of your garage also allows you to insulate them.

What is the most cost effective way to build an ADU? ›

A garage conversion is the cheapest way to convert space into an ADU. If your budget is modest keep the existing envelope of the garage, meaning don't expand on the current footprint. This will add extra cost.

Do I need a permit to build a shed in Orange County CA? ›

A building permit is required for all structures.

How long does a garage conversion take? ›

On average, a garage conversion takes as little as 4-6 weeks. Compare this to a loft conversion (8-10 weeks) or rear extension (10-14 weeks) and you can appreciate why homeowners love how quickly this project can be turned around.

Are garage apartments legal in California? ›

1. Is it legal to convert a garage into an apartment in California? - As with anything else- its important to consult with your local government agencies such as city planning, and read up on current local laws, but generally speaking the answer is yes. It is legal.

What permission do I need to convert my garage? ›

In most cases, a simple garage conversion won't need planning permission unless you're making changes to the exterior of the building. Changes to the interior, such as laying down carpet or even having a kitchen fitted, tend to be classed as permitted development.

Do I need a permit to convert my garage in California? ›

Permits are required for most types of construction in California, and garage conversions are no exception. But permits are just the first step. You also need to take building ordinances into consideration as you are planning a conversion.

What is the cheapest way to turn a garage into an apartment? ›

Typically, the cheapest type of garage conversion will just involve blocking up the garage doors and finishing out the walls, floors, and ceiling with insulation, drywall, carpet, or other flooring material. Think of a bonus room, family room, playroom, game room, or man cave.

Can you add a bathroom in a garage? ›

In a garage bathroom, you could easily fit both shower and bath installations for example, or create your very own home spa by installing a wet room. The options really are limitless, especially if you have a good-sized budget to work to.

How to turn my garage into a studio apartment? ›

How to Turn a Garage into an Apartment
  1. Obtain the permits you will need with a trip to the county courthouse or your town hall. ...
  2. Come up with a plan for the door. ...
  3. Measure and evaluate the floor's slope. ...
  4. If you wish, paint the floor. ...
  5. Connect your new apartment to the pipes and wiring of the house.

What is the downside of a garage conversion? ›

Con: Structural Changes

Garages are not often insulated or raised in the same way as living spaces, meaning that some additional renovations must take place before garages are livable.

Why are garage conversions so expensive? ›

Since most garages are not plumbed for a utility room and don't have the necessary drains and hookups, the cost to convert a garage into a utility room is mainly based on plumbing and wiring costs. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $3,000 and $8,000 for a utility room conversion.

What is worth more a garage or extra room? ›

Ask any homeowner what they'd change about their property and the answer is almost always the same: more space.

How deep do foundations need to be for a garage conversion? ›

Dig a foundation 1m deep or to the same depth as the foundations of the existing garage, call us to inspect the foundation and then fill it with concrete. If the opening is only the width of a single garage door install two 150mm deep concrete lintels across the opening supported by the existing foundations.

How do you insulate a garage floor for living space? ›

How to Insulate a Garage Floor
  1. Clean and Repair the Garage Floor. Inspect the concrete garage floor, thoroughly clean it, and repair any notable problems before adding the vapor barrier and subfloor. ...
  2. Lay the Vapor Barrier. ...
  3. Lay the Rigid Foam. ...
  4. Lay the Plywood Panels. ...
  5. Install Thresholds and Transitions. ...
  6. Install Flooring.
Dec 1, 2022

How can someone tell if their garage is suitable for conversion? ›

An architect or surveyor will be able to advise you whether your garage is suitable to convert, particularly the soundness of the walls, roof and foundations. Some are too poorly built or decrepit in which case it might be cheaper to knock down and replace.

What is the drawback of ADU? ›

Losing Storage: If you decide to build an ADU, whether it is a garage conversion or a new custom one, you can lose room for a car and/or miscellaneous items. Disruption of Daily Life: As a landlord, you have to manage the tenant's living space (repairs and house maintenance).

How much is a permit for an ADU in California? ›

Permitting Your ADU

Depending on your location, you may need both zoning and building permits. Zoning permits can range from $25 to $4,000 and building permits can run from $450 to $15,000.

How much does an ADU cost in California? ›

The cost of building an ADU varies depending on the city you're in, and also the contractor you use. Prices vary by city: San Francisco: The average cost of an ADU in San Francisco is around $200,000. Los Angeles: The average cost of an ADU in Los Angeles is around $150,000.

What happens if you build without a permit in California? ›

Contractors who violate the law are subject to disciplinary action by CSLB, including civil penalty assessments of up to $5,000 per violation, an order of correction that requires payment of permit fees and any assessed penalties imposed by the local building department, and suspension or revocation of the license.

What is the biggest shed you can build without a permit in California? ›

One-story detached accessory buildings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses, and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet, do not require a Building Permit (per California Building Code 105.2 "Work Exempt from Permit").

What's the biggest size shed without permit? ›

The quick and simple answer to whether you need a building permit for your shed is: it usually doesn't if it's 120 square feet or less. In California, most jurisdictions have adopted the 120 square foot rule. If your shed area is larger than 120 square feet, it needs a building permit.

What to do first in a garage conversion? ›

The first step with any garage conversion is to conduct an assessment of the existing structure, in particular the soundness of the foundations, walls and roof. This will go a long way to revealing the extent of works required to create a comfortable living environment – so it's a key part of the design stages.

Can I convert a garage without planning permission? ›

Planning permission is not usually required to convert your garage into additional living space for your home, providing the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building.

What is the granny flat law in California? ›

Granny Flat Size Requirements

The maximum size is 50 percent of the size of the existing house, up to 1,200 square feet for attached units. The maximum detached unit size you can have is 1,200 square feet. Square footage is measured as accessible from the inside of the unit.

How much is it to convert a garage into a studio apartment in California? ›

What does it cost to convert a garage into a studio apartment? To convert a garage into a studio in 2022, you can generally expect to pay between $90,000 and $125,000, though costs will vary depending on your location, the size of the project, and the materials you select.

How much does it cost to legalize a garage in California? ›

How much does it cost to convert a garage to ADU in Los Angeles? $100,000 – $130,000, Depending on your specific situation, is what you can expect for your garage conversion cost, including plans, contractor labor, materials, and city garage conversion permits.

Can I rent out my converted garage? ›

Answer: It is possible but not straightforward. First things first: check the title to the premises carefully to ensure there are no covenants blocking it from being used as anything other than a garage.

Can I convert my garage without building regs? ›

Most garage conversions don't require planning permission but they do need to meet building regulations. If the work is not up to building control standards, you will likely be unable to use the garage as a 'habitable' room.

Can I convert my garage to live in? ›

A garage conversion is a relatively easy and affordable way to add living space and value to your home. If your garage is attached, knocking through the connecting wall could allow you to transform a small kitchen into a spacious, open-plan kitchen diner.

Is it legal to live in a shed in California? ›

Yes, it is. However, zoning regulations and zoning codes may not allow you to legally live in it full-time. Obtaining a shed building permit doesn't take much time. Also, building it is fast, and building materials can be found easily.

Can I convert my garage into a ADU in California? ›

Is it legal to convert my garage into an ADU? If you own a single-family home anywhere in California with residential zoning, then yes, you can build a Garage Conversion ADU.

How to add a bathroom to a detached garage? ›

While adding a toilet to a garage is challenging, it is possible. If your garage has a concrete pad, it's necessary to break through the concrete to install pipes. Another option is to create raised platforms for the toilet, shower, and sink to allow waste pipes to run through your wall before routing underground.

How much does it cost to build a garage with an apartment on top? ›

A garage is an excellent opportunity to expand your living space by building a room or an apartment above it. However, depending on factors like the size of the space, electrical, plumbing, finishes, etc., building a garage with an apartment above can cost between $60,000 to $270,000.

How to convert a garage into a bedroom without removing the garage door? ›

Building a wall is a great way to convert a garage into a bedroom without removing the garage door. The main reason why walls are often used to create enclosed spaces is that they provide privacy and security. The wall can be built out of any sturdy material, such as concrete, brick, or wood.

How much does it cost to put a toilet and shower in a garage? ›

How much does it cost to add a bathroom to an existing garage? Adding a bathroom to a garage will vary depending on the scope of work required. If the garage has existing plumbing that can be used & walls in place then it may cost between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on the tiles & products chosen for the room.

How much does it cost to build a full bathroom in garage? ›

Converting a room such as a basement, attic, or bedroom into an extra bathroom may cost anywhere from $9,000–$50,000.
New Bathroom Cost by Location.
Bathroom LocationCost Range
Garage bathroom$8,000–$25,000
Basement bathroom$9,000–$16,000
Attic bathroom$9,000–$36,000
Upstairs bathroom$15,000–$50,000
3 more rows
Feb 14, 2023

How hard is it to add plumbing to a garage? ›

Retrofitting a garage for plumbing is a challenge best handled by a pro unless you are a seasoned DIYer. Adding a sink, tub, shower, washing machine, or toilet means that you'll need water lines run, drain lines connected, and shutoff valves added.

Is it legal to convert a garage into a bedroom in California? ›

Altering or converting a garage into a living area is a violation of the California Health and Safety Code Sec. 17920.3 (n) and the California Building Code Sec. 105.1. When a garage is illegally converted into living quarters, serious health and safety issues can be created.

Is it a good idea to live in the garage? ›

Garages are not the most secure living spaces, nor are they the most sanitary. Living in a garage likely means you share your home with biting bugs, spiders, mice and disease-carrying varmints. And, unless you've installed an industrial lock, garage doors are fairly easy to break into.

Can I turn my garage into a livable space? ›

Can a garage conversion become a living space? Yes, your garage conversion can most definitely become a living space! To legally do this you must convert a garage by turning it into either a guest quarter or an accessory dwelling unit. A guest quarter is a living space that has a bathroom and a wet bar, but no kitchen.

Does garage count as livable space? ›

Does the garage count in the square footage of a house? The garage does not count towards the square footage of a house, as that is considered an unfinished space. A garage will only count towards the square footage of a home is if it has been legally converted into a living space.

How much does not having a garage devalue your house? ›

Therefore, she says the absence of a garage can decrease the appraised value by as much as 20 percent. But those who've been priced out of certain neighborhoods may find the savings appealing.

How to turn a garage into an apartment? ›

How to Turn a Garage into an Apartment
  1. Obtain the permits you will need with a trip to the county courthouse or your town hall. ...
  2. Come up with a plan for the door. ...
  3. Measure and evaluate the floor's slope. ...
  4. If you wish, paint the floor. ...
  5. Connect your new apartment to the pipes and wiring of the house.

Is it warmer in a garage than outside? ›

Garages act as a nice buffer as far as temperature goes from the outdoors to inside your home. Garages should be warmer than outside, and, though they may not always be as warm as your home indoors, you should be able to go from your home to your garage to grab something without having to put on all your winter layers.

What makes a garage habitable? ›

Ceilings need to be at least 7 feet and 6 inches in height. Heating that keeps rooms at a temperature at 70 degrees for at least 3 feet above the floor. Rooms must have natural light that is at least 10 percent the size of the square footage. A room used for sleeping cannot have a garage open into the room.

How do I insulate my garage? ›

If you want to insulate a garage, consider these top choices for insulation material options.
  1. Fiberglass batts: One of the most common types of insulation for garages is fiberglass batts. ...
  2. Rigid foam boards: Another affordable choice, rigid foam boards are also easy to work with.
Mar 3, 2021

What is a livable garage called? ›

ADU stands for “accessory dwelling unit,” and these small living spaces go by many names. You may know them as in-law suites, granny flats, tiny homes, or more.

What is a garage with living space called? ›

What are garages with living quarters called? Garages with living quarters are called ADUs or garage apartments. They're typically smaller than the primary home, located on the same lot, and have a separate entrance. ADUs can be attached to a house or garage or built as a standalone structure.

How many square feet is a 2 car garage? ›

2-Car Garage Size

The width of the door hangs around 16 feet, with an interior width of 18 feet. To know the total square footage, just multiply the length and width. However, if you're not up for calculations, the average square footage is around 360 sq. ft.

Is no garage a deal breaker? ›

no garage homes did show a distinct increase in value for having a garage. That being said, not every buyer will consider a home without a garage as a deal-breaker. On the other hand, it's not likely a buyer will object to a house that has a garage and meets their needs.

Does closing in garage increase home value? ›

Real estate agents say finishing your garage may add almost $10,000 to a home's worth by making it more appealing to prospective buyers. A garage's worth is increased more by finishing than converting it.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Msgr. Benton Quitzon

Last Updated: 09/01/2024

Views: 6587

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Msgr. Benton Quitzon

Birthday: 2001-08-13

Address: 96487 Kris Cliff, Teresiafurt, WI 95201

Phone: +9418513585781

Job: Senior Designer

Hobby: Calligraphy, Rowing, Vacation, Geocaching, Web surfing, Electronics, Electronics

Introduction: My name is Msgr. Benton Quitzon, I am a comfortable, charming, thankful, happy, adventurous, handsome, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.