How to Convert Your Garage into an Office

by Gil Zeimer on December 17, 2010
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If you have a small business, most entrepreneurs like yourself start with a home-based office to save money. But if your home is too small to house your office, what should you do? Many people convert their garage into an office to have a quiet refuge from their kids, their pets, or a spouse who may also be working in the home.

We interviewed Joshua Larson of Larson Shores Architects, Inc. in Oakland, California, for his recommendations concerning the garage conversion process.

ISBB: How much space do you need for a home office?

Larson: You should first speak to the Planning and Zoning Department in your city to determine if you’re permitted to have an office within your home. I also recommend that you speak to an architect who can help you conceptualize what type of space requirement and configuration will best suit your needs.

Do you need a permit?

Getting a permit is always required if you’re making capital improvements to your home, especially if you’re making major changes like reconfiguring or adding windows or walls, upgrading your electrical or mechanical system, or making any changes to the exterior of the house.

How do you handle Internet connectivity and electricity?

Consider installing a router to create a wireless network within your home to share your existing connection. Working with an architect, and perhaps with a general contractor, will also help you understand in advance where new equipment will be located so that outlets can be placed properly to avoid the unsightly use of extension cords.

Are there any creative design considerations?

Your new office should look integrated with the house, but you may need to find a subtle way of indicating the difference between the entry door to your house and the entry to your office. Signage and new landscaping can go a long way to support this.

Natural light is also a special consideration – think of adding skylights and windows which will make your new office much more pleasant to be in during the day. 

I’ve also seen some creative designs that split the garage in half, so you can park the car on one side, perhaps add a loft or storage above it, and have your office on the other side.  This is obviously more of major design renovation.

What’s the approximate cost?

HVAC, insulation, plumbing and electrical can be big ticket items on a garage conversion.  After you get those items taken care of, the remaining cost is typically driven by finishes: flooring, walls, built-in cabinetry and lighting fixtures, furniture, and more. But a good rule of thumb for pricing is $150 per square foot.

Don’t forget to include landscaping to provide a friendly transition from the street to the office. And remember to consult with a professional organizer who can take all of the stuff that’s now taking up valuable space in the garage and consolidate it, give it away, recycle it, or throw it out.

What if you need a bigger office with a living space?

You can consider one of the four modular, freestanding, backyard cottage designs at our InspiredInLaw.com website. These range from 465 to 538 square feet with a living room/office, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette, which provides you with a livable office space that’s efficient, beautifully designed, features natural daylight, and offers sustainable materials such as cork floors.

For more architectural advice or to see some of their office conversion work, visit Larson Shores Architects, Inc.

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