Best ideas for a garage conversion to maximise your space

A person lifting weights in the garage


Posted May 14, 2024

A garage is the safest place to store your car, but if you want to utilise this space in other ways, here are some great ideas and things to consider before you start your conversion.

From camping gear to spare fridges and seasonal clothing, garages are often used as storage units, and they can quickly become cluttered. Although a locked garage is the safest place to store your car to prevent theft, you may prefer to park your car in the driveway with security measures in place, and use that extra space for creative and recreational activities instead. 

With a little decluttering, fine-tuning and upgrades, you can turn your garage into a comfortable and functional space. But before you reach for your tools, you need to be aware of the safety issues, and the relevant by-laws and building codes that might affect your plans. 

It's also worth looking at ways to improve your garage security with sensor lights, security cameras and by keeping valuables out of sight.

What to know about garage conversions

How to transform your home's exterior | RACV

Building and planning rules for garages

Under the National Construction Code (NCC), a garage is classified as a non-habitable structure. It's fine to use your garage for storage, to play billiards or to set up your workshop. But it's a different matter entirely if you want to convert it into a dwelling.

Under the NCC, a house is a Class 1a building, while the garage is a Class 10a building, and they are governed by different building standards. A building permit is required to change a garage/carport to a dwelling/habitable building. If this is your intention, talk to a builder or architect, and your local council about what’s required.

This is also different from building or installing a granny flat, which is a second dwelling on your property that is separate from your main house. 

If your property is a strata title unit or townhouse, owners corporations (formerly body corporate) usually have rules about the use of car parks and carports for purposes other than car parking. To find out, check with your owners corporation manager. 

Rules for rental properties and apartment car parks  

If you're renting, you can use your garage to park your car and to store some of your belongings, but there are rules around how tenants can modify their rental properties in Victoria.

Apartments or other residential buildings with an owners corporation may have additional restrictions on how you can use your garage or parking space, so check with your rental manager.

In addition, apartment car parks and lockable storage cages are susceptible to theft and opportunistic burglaries, so find out how to safely store your belongings in apartment car parks.



An open home garage with clothes drying and lots of storage in it

Before you convert your garage, get rid of clutter and think about storage space. Photo: Matt Harvey.

Factors to consider for major changes

Whether you're considering turning your garage into a gym, office, studio or games room, you need to think about insulation, heating and cooling, ventilation, lighting, electrical, and flooring. 

The first step is to seal up areas around the floors, walls and ceiling to stop cold air coming into the room. Insulating the walls and floors will also help control the temperature. This may require hiring a professional carpenter as additional floor and wall boards may need to be installed.

Most garages tend to have poor lighting and may require additional light source outlets and switches. Hire a licensed electrician to do this work as it can be dangerous to attempt doing it yourself. You can also request the licensed electrician to add additional power sockets, especially if you’re planning to use electronic devices in the garage.

Garages are often not insulated, so you may need to add insulation. A portable heater may suffice for a games room, but if it's an office, you might need to consider installing a heating and cooling system.

Finally, the garage will also need a thorough clean before you begin your conversion, including sweeping the floor, wiping down surfaces, and getting rid of any debris. Clear out the garage and declutter any items that won't be needed in your new space.

 Convert your garage into a gym

Converting your garage into a home gym makes sense if that's an important part of your lifestyle. Depending on the size of the garage, there may be enough room for a treadmill and exercise bike, or you might want to get it simple with a yoga mat and a set of free weights.

You can make the space more comfortable with rubber floor tiles. Consider changing an old garage door with an insulated one. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors will make the area more dynamic, and a speaker or sound system will allow you to play music to keep you movitivated, but make sure you comply with residential noise restrictions.

If you use a portable electric heater, be aware that this could increase your energy costs. There are, however, ways to improve energy efficiency in your home, including installing solar panels.

You can maximise the floor space with vertical storage solutions, and use utility bins and hooks for workout equipment.

Convert your garage into a studio or workshop

If you have creative pursuits in mind, then turning your garage into a place where you paint, potter or turn wood makes sense. 

The artistic process can be messy, and garages usually have concrete floors that can be easily covered with tarpaulins or drop sheets. But before you let your imagination take over, there are safety measures to consider if you're using paints or chemicals. 

Proper ventilation is critical if you're working in an enclosed space. You can open the garage door, but that isn't practical in winter when you're trying to keep out the cold. Consider your garage security, too. Having your garage door wide open, and your valuables visible from the street could be an invitation to burglars.

Instead, install an exhaust fan in the garage to help ventilate the room. It may even accelerate the drying time of your art if you're a painter. Consult an electrician to see if you need to add more outlets or upgrade the electrical system. 

A woman working at a workbench inside a garage

A dedicated studio or workspace gives you room to focus and a way of keeping all your tools in one place. Photo: Getty.

Convert your garage into an office

Converting your garage into an office can provide a comfortable and productive workspace without the need for a costly renovation. Consider factors such as natural light, ventilation, insulation, and access to utilities like electricity and the internet. 

You'll need adequate lighting to reduce eye strain, including overhead lighting fixtures, task lighting for work areas, and, if possible, natural light sources like windows or skylights. Consider using LED bulbs for energy efficiency. A licensed electrician can assess your garage's electrical system and make any necessary upgrades, including installing additional outlets, lighting fixtures, and data ports for equipment like computers, printers, and chargers.

Ensure reliable internet connectivity in your garage office by extending your home's Wi-Fi network or installing a wired ethernet connection. 

Choose flooring that's durable, easy to clean, and comfortable to walk on. Options include laminate, vinyl, carpet tiles, or epoxy coatings for concrete floors. Consider adding rugs or mats for added comfort and style.

Invest in office furniture that's ergonomic, along with shelving units, filing cabinets, and bookcases. Add artwork, plants, rugs, curtains to make your office space feel welcoming and inspiring. 

More: How to save on energy when working from home

Convert your garage into a games room

If the idea of a games room appeals, sketch a layout that includes eating areas, storage for games and equipment, and other amenities you want to include. Then set up your gaming consoles, screens, sound systems, and any other entertainment equipment, according to your layout plan. Mounting the screen on the wall can save space and provide a better viewing experience.

As with any conversion, you may need to hire an electrician to add more outlets or upgrade the electrical system.

Choose comfortable seating options like couches, bean bags, or gaming chairs. Add decor elements like posters, artwork, and indoor plants, if you have a light source.

Perhaps the best use of your garage is housing an electric vehicle?

You may decide the best use of your garage is to house an electric car and charger.

How to get your garage ready for an electric car

Do you plan to get an electric car (EV) in the near future? Rather than converting your garage, you may wish to consider the steps required to make sure your garage is ready for safe, convenient, and efficient home charging

You may need a licensed electrician to upgrade the garage's electrical system to support EV charging. This typically involves mounting the charger on the wall. The charger should be also easy to reach and not obstructed by other objects in the garage. 

Do you have the space for a designated storage area for charging accessories such as cables, connectors, and adapters? Keep these items organised and easily accessible will ensure convenient charging.

Stay safe 

Watch out for creepy crawlies 

If it’s been a while since you’ve given your garage a clean out, take extra care when updating the space. As a structure that bridges indoors and outdoors, insects and animals can sometimes make themselves at home in your garage.  

Wear protective clothing when clearing out your garage, including closed-toe shoes and gloves, and take particular care in spaces that attract critters – think piles of wood, shoes, in cracks and beneath objects. Keeping you garage clean and tidy will help prevent dangerous pests – here are more tips on how to tidy and organise your garage.  

Consider your security 

Garages are prime targets for burglars, who often see the structures as a weak link in your home security. Burglars know that garages often contain profitable items such as cars and power tools, and that they can ransack the small, often disconnected, building in eight minutes of less.  

Thankfully, you can increase the security of your garage, no matter how you choose to use it, by taking steps like installing sensor lights and cameras which can help deter burglars from targeting your garage, a quality garage door lock is the best way to keep your garage secure. You should also keep valuables out of direct sight and keep the garage door down unless in use.  

Keeping your car secure

The garage is still the safest place to park your car. According to the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA), houses were by far the most common residential location for motor theft in 2023, with driveways and carports being one of the most common specific locations vehicles were stolen from. This emphasises the need to have your car parked in a space that is secure like your garage.

More:  How to improve the security of your driveway or carport


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