So the kids are growing up, there are more people in the house now than when it was originally built, and the house is getting cramped. Space is a premium but you need it and can’t afford to buy a new home. What to do? One way of creating new or additional living spaces is to convert your garage into one. In many cases, converting an existing structure to living space will cost less than if you were to build a new annex. There are several issues, though, that you’ll have to consider and plan for.

Municipality regulations. First, you’ll have to find out the zoning regulations and building codes in your area. Some municipalities have very rigid restrictions about parking space, forbid parking in the street and/or the front yard, and require a specific number of parking spaces within the property. If you’re planning to turn that garage into a living space, you’ll have to find alternative parking space for the cars that you’ll displace. Consider too, what effect the garage conversion will have on the resale value of your home. Most homebuyers consider a garage a must when buying property.

Building permits. Your municipality will have specific building code criteria for ventilation, stairs, plumbing, exits, and structural integrity. Find out what is allowable and make sure you secure the necessary building permits before you start renovating.

Garage door. Next is what to do with the garage door. Removing the door will leave you with a huge opening wider than an ordinary door and this will have to be filled in with a wall, preferably one that includes a window for ventilation. In order for the new living space to blend seamlessly with the rest of the house, you’ll need to match its exterior finishing by using the same or similar building materials as the rest of the house’s exterior.

Insulation. Most garage floorings are made of an uninsulated slab of cement. To insulate the floor will involve either placing treated wooden sleepers above the slab, then insulation, then a plywood subfloor, or raising/removing the slab, laying the insulation in, then relaying the slab over it or pouring a new one. The latter is harder than it seems, and both ways will cost money. Insulation will also have to be placed on the walls and ceilings, if not already present.

Floor leveling. Garage floors slope down towards the door, and in some homes they slope down towards the water drain as well. Whichever method of floor insulation you decide to do, the floor level will have to be made even. This means putting in a floor underlayment (if you’re using wooden sleepers) or pouring in a new, even slab.

Heating and cooling. Garages, even though they’re attached to the house, don’t usually have heating and cooling systems in place. Converting a garage into living space will require extending your current heating and cooling system into the converted space, or putting in a new one, such as a room air conditioning unit for the summer and gas space heaters or electric baseboards for the winter. One way of cutting costs is to use portable air conditioning and heating units.

Plumbing. If water supply is necessary for the new living space and there is none in the garage, you will have to lay new drainpipes and supply lines. Consult with your plumber to find out how to most efficiently do it – either by cutting out sections of the flooring or raising the entire garage floor.

Wiring and electricity. If you plan to be using electrical appliances in this new living space, you might need to add another electric circuit so as not to overload the existing electrical lines.

As in every project or undertaking, planning is key. Approach the garage conversion like a business plan, with a budget, a drawing layout, and lots of research. Careful planning can help ensure that you build your new addition efficiently and successfully with no unnecessary expenses or costs.