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  • Daniel Saloner

How to Turn Your Garage into an ADU

Let’s talk about the space in your house you usually try to avoid thinking of: the garage. Too often, our garage becomes, at best, a storage space and, at worst, simply full of clutter.


But what if you could actually put your garage to use for something more valuable than storing seasonal décor? What if your garage could generate income? Fortunately, it can, and Building Buddy is ready to guide you through the process.





Garage conversions are a unique way to convert an underutilized space into a source of regular income. Let’s go over some of the most important factors and requirements you’ll want to know about as you consider converting your garage into an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).


When converting your garage into a residential dwelling unit, the new unit will need to comply with Building and Fire Codes. Some of those include: a foundation with structural integrity, appropriate utility hookups, suitable HVAC, and proper insulation.


Additionally, when you make alterations or additions to an existing structure and turn a non-residential space into a residential one, like you do with a garage conversion, the structure has to comply with Building Codes for new construction.


Potential changes include:

  • Making changes to or replacing the existing roof.

  • Upgrading the structural foundation when replacing a garage door and adding windows.

  • Creating a moisture barrier between the new floor and the concrete slab.

  • Making sure you have proper insulation to meet Title 24 energy code.


If the foundation of your garage needs to be replaced or repaired as part of the ADU conversion, the costs of the project will rise dramatically. In most circumstances, you will need a structural engineer to make sure the foundation is adequate for your new plans before building begins.


Another of the major requirements for garage conversions are plans for changes to utilities and electricity. Before building begins, you will want to consider water heaters, washer/dryer, storage, water and sewer line upgrades.


Some solutions to these problems can include:

  • Placing a stackable washer/dryer in the unit.

  • Adding a tankless water heater outside the structure and plumbing into the new ADU.

  • Upgrading sewer lines to a larger diameter in preparation for the increase in water flow.


Now that we have covered the changes and requirements you might encounter, let’s talk dollars and cents. If the current garage structure is in good condition, a garage conversion ADU will typically cost less than a new, detached, ADU.


The cost of your ADU will depend primarily on the following:

  • Garage size.

  • Upgrades needed to meet building and fire code.

  • Structural improvements to garage, if needed.

  • Upgrading utilities (sewer line, electricity, water).

  • Roofing and ceiling upgrades.


Factoring in each of those elements, you can expect a garage conversion will typically cost anywhere from $75,000-$130,000. It is important to understand the rents in your neighborhood and see if an ADU garage conversion is a sound investment in the future of your property and portfolio.


Give Building Buddy a call. It’s time to turn that empty space into another source of income.