Steps for Converting a Garage into an ADU

The current housing market has become incredibly unpredictable and stressful. Housing shortages paired with record breaking interest rates have left homeowners searching for alternative ways to generate income and create additional space in their home. Garage conversions are one of the best ways to achieve this by adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). You are not only gaining usable living space that could potentially provide you with more income, but you are also adding value to your home. 

You can use an ADU in a number of ways like building an additional space for your family to creating a rental space that generates income. To make the change to an ADU there are a few guidelines you have to follow to ensure you meet local building codes and laws. Every region is different so it’s important to make sure you consult with your local by-law agency. They will be able to provide you with the guidelines and procedures you need to follow to complete your garage to ADU conversion.

Make Sure Your Garage Conversion Is Legal

This may seem obvious, but when you are converting a garage into an ADU, there are many legalities involved. Not all areas are zoned for converting a garage to ADU in California, so it’s important to consult with local by-laws and building codes. Most cities and states now have guidelines and laws to help make this process easier for homeowners.

A visit to your local city by-law office should be able to provide you with the right information on converting a garage into ADU. For example, some cities may require that your ADU incorporate a kitchen and bathroom area to ensure it is safe and liveable. These are important factors to consider when putting together your budget.

Check The Condition Of Your Existing Garage

Is your current home designed for converting a garage to ADU in California? It may seem like an easy way to add more space to your home, but an ADU needs to be as structurally sound just like any other dwelling. This may mean that you have to make improvements to other areas of your garage including:

  • Replacing or improving the foundation
  • Adding or upgrading walls
  • Adding plumbing and sewers

The requirement for insulation, heating and air conditioning for temperature control should also be considered when examining the existing structure. These may require an upgrade in order to provide adequate service to residents. 

An ADU is not like adding a spare room – it’s meant to be a place where someone can live comfortably and should meet all the requirements for creating a liveable dwelling as outlined by your city or state.

Plan For Size

How much space do you actually need for a garage to ADU conversion? This depends on how the space is going to be used. A traditional one car garage measures 20 feet by 10 feet, which may not be enough space for someone who wants to create a functional living space. However, this certainly falls within the range of a ‘tiny home’ and may fit the criteria for someone who is looking for a place to call home.

It’s always recommended to explore what you can do to create the largest and most comfortable space for the people who will be living in your ADU. This will help to avoid costly expansions or extensions later. You will also have to consider how much site space there is around the dwelling, as most cities will require you to provide at least one parking spot for your residents.

Do A Thorough Cost Estimate

If you want to turn a garage into an ADU, you will want to sit down and do a comprehensive budget. Just like building a home, there are a number of things that will be required in order to meet building codes that you may not have considered yet. It’s likely that your garage will require significant upgrades. This will impact material and labour costs. You will also have to add things like heating, plumbing, upgraded hydro, and other services to make it a liveable space.

It’s also important to consider the building materials you will use including the finishes you’d like to give your ADU so it’s both comfortable and inviting for those living there. It’s also important to consider how you’re going to split the utility costs with your residents. This may mean that you have to add a separate meter to ensure that you’re only paying for the services you are using.

Prepare Site & Building Plans

Before you begin building, your local council will likely require a site plan review. This is completely normal and benefits both you and your future residents. 

The site plan review checks to ensure all the paperwork is in order before you begin your conversion to an ADU. This may include:

  • Floor plans
  • Building permits
  • Bank slips
  • Land use application

You’ll also have to provide a building layout for your ADU with elevations to ensure that the area around your space doesn’t leave you at risk of flooding. Once these are approved, you will be issued a permit for turning a garage into ADU.

Have Your ADU Inspected

The final step in converting a garage into an ADU is the final inspection. This is done by a building inspector to ensure that any renovations or building adjustments meet all the necessary by-laws and guidelines. The inspector will do a complete review of the interior and exterior of your ADU including:

  • The existing structure that remains such as walls and the roof
  • The foundation
  • Structural tie downs
  • Insulation 
  • Electrical and plumbing (this includes solar or off-grid installations)

Once all regulations and by-laws have been met, the building inspector will issue a certificate of occupancy which means that your family or tenants will be able to move in.

Contact Us 

If you’re ready to begin converting a garage into an ADU, then contact the trusted team at Top Home Builders. Our ADU experts can guide you through the entire process, from planning and budgeting to construction and final inspection. We will make sure that your ADU adheres to all city and state requirements, so you can enjoy your new living space. Give us a call today for more information on your free quote and consultation.