Remodeling a Garage into Living Space in Nashville

How to remodel your garage into living space, a rental studio, or even a gym

garage remodel nashville

If you are like many homeowners, you may be looking in all directions to increase living space. Looking upward means building a second story. Looking toward the back translates to a house addition. But one direction that is often overlooked is to the side or front: the garage. Sweeten outlines how a garage remodel in Nashville could be your solution amid several home addition options. 

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Types of garage remodels

  • Living rooms or family rooms

Garages are often remodeled to provide supplemental living or family room space. The garage is insulated, wired, painted, and flooring is installed. Sometimes, a small powder room, with only a toilet and sink, is added. The powder room eliminates trips to the main part of the house.

  • Living quarters for renters

Some homeowners choose to install a self-contained apartment for renters. This arrangement can give the homeowner a source of passive income. Over the long term, it may defray the cost of the garage remodel. 

Living quarters typically include a bedroom, full bathroom, and a kitchen. A lockable pass-through to the main part of the home is usually included. With this, homeowners can lock the door on their side to prevent the renters from entering. Most remodels of this nature include a separate exterior door so that renters can enter their apartment without going through the main house.

  • Living quarters for self or family

Garages are often remodeled to provide living quarters for elderly parents, friends, or children. In many cases, this apartment has the same facilities as does an apartment for renters. 

  • Dedicated entertainment or work area

Your garage remodel may create a single room or multiple rooms for a specific purpose. The remodeled garage may become an entertainment room, home movie theater, gym, office, workshop, or studio.

Garage remodel costs in Nashville

Garage remodel permits alone can cost $1,000 to $1,500. For a simple living-room space that does not include plumbing, the cost will begin in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. Most of this cost is devoted to outfitting the space with a floor and filling in the garage door.

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More often, though, garage remodels intended as living quarters begin at $20,000 and rise sharply.

Garage remodel process and timeline

  1. Before you speak to a contractor, decide on the primary function for the remodel. A basic family or living room can be a relatively simple project since plumbing may not be involved. A full-scale rental apartment will be more expensive and will take several weeks or months.
  2. After you’ve received multiple estimates and chosen your contractor, discuss if any Nashville overlay and zoning issues need to be considered.
  3. You will meet with the contractor and an architect. The architect will draw up plans. The contractor applies for permits.
  4. After a roll-off dumpster is delivered to the property, workers demolish parts of the interior of the garage. The garage door is removed.
  5. Carpenters fill in the empty space where the garage door was located. Usually, this will be an exterior wall system, complete with insulation and perhaps even windows.
  6. Depending on the plan, workers may need to frame the floor with joists. This will raise the floor to the height of the main house’s floor.
  7. With the walls open, electricians and plumbers run wire and pipes through the walls.
  8. Carpenters frame the interior walls and the ceiling.
  9. Workers add a heating and cooling system.
  10. Drywall installers hang and finish the drywall.
  11. Floor installers add the floor covering of your choice on top of the subfloor.
  12. A painting team will paint the inside of the garage remodel. They will also paint areas outside of the garage, in front.
  13. Plumbers finish installing bathroom fixtures. Electricians complete the rest of the wiring.

How a garage remodel affects house value

One important consideration before starting a garage remodel is whether it will increase the value of your home.

If you are considering a garage remodel in Nashville, you might be thinking of immediate, personal needs. Your family may be increasing in size. Or you may have elderly parents who need housing. In either case, remodeling your garage may represent a lower net financial cost than building a separate structure or buying a new house.

On the other hand, if you do intend to eventually sell your home, consider how the garage remodel will affect your home’s value. Potential home buyers may view the lack of vehicle storage as a deficit. Other buyers may welcome the extra space.

Permits and restrictions

The City of Nashville requires a building permit for any new building or a modification of an existing structure. You must also have permits for individual tradework, such as for electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work. 

Nashville is a city of many historic structures. The Nashville Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission (MHZC) was formed to protect Nashville’s architectural styles and character. If your home is located in a historic preservation and historic landmark overlay, you must apply for a Preservation Permit.

MHZC permit applications require a full set of plans, elevations, photos, and more. After you submit the permit application, the MHZC will meet to consider your project. After a permit is approved, you must stick to the conditions of the permit. For example, the MHZC will impose penalties or injunctions if the garage siding does not match that of the rest of the house.

In Nashville and Davidson County, neighborhood leaders and government officials take a close look at Airbnb-type rentals. These types of rentals are called Short Term Rental Properties (STRPs). The Metro Codes Department must approve of your rental property before you list it as an STRP (but not before you build it).

Heat and cool your garage remodel in Nashville

With Nashville’s extremes of heat and cold, you should add a heating or cooling system to your garage remodel. Generally, there are three options:

  1. Continue with the main house’s HVAC system. Workers continue the ductwork from the main house into the garage. The main house’s HVAC system must be adequate to handle the increased loads. This option works well when remodeling a garage for a living or family room: one that will flow seamlessly from the main house.
  2. Install a separate HVAC system. This is the best option when remodeling a garage as living quarters. It is also the costliest option.
  3. The lowest cost installation option is heating in the form of baseboard or wall heaters. For cooling, install one or more window or wall unit air conditioners. Installation is less expensive but the cost of service is higher. This is because baseboard heaters, wall heaters, and window unit A/Cs are less efficient than HVAC systems.

Where to park your vehicles

When reviewing permit applications for garage remodels in Nashville, the city will want to know where the displaced vehicles will go. Like most large cities, Nashville wants to reduce the number of cars that are street-parked.

If you have a paved driveway, the solution can be as simple as moving the cars to the driveway instead of in the garage. This is the lowest cost solution, though your vehicles will be left out in the open.

If you have ample room in the front of your property, you may wish to build a carport or even a new garage. This will completely or partially protect the vehicles. It also may appeal to future buyers. Zoning issues may come into play since a 20-foot setback in front must be maintained. 

A garage remodel is a lower-cost alternative to building an addition but it is not low-cost. Think of a garage remodel as an investment in your home’s value and in your happiness.

Renovating in Nashville? Here’s a home remodeling cost guide for this city to get your budget in order.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration.

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