How to Add a Room Above the Garage

Two garages in the front of a house.
  • 12-48 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 500-5,000

Furnishing a garage attic is a great way to add living space to a home. It's increasingly common these days for sons and daughters to move back home after college for short (or not so short) stays. And with college classes starting up again for the year, you may want to consider renting out your space to a local student who needs housing.

An above-garage space is also perfect for older offspring who need a bit more privacy and autonomy than they used to have, and it increases your home's value. Now is a great time to finish out that bonus room that's been sitting over the garage all these years.

Where to Start

The first step is to assess how much work needs to be done, and where. If the attic is mostly finished with insulation, walls, and flooring already in place, this will be an easy job. If not, the project will require some extra enthusiasm and elbow grease to complete.

Insulation is of critical importance to any garage attic, so don’t cut corners here. Done properly, it can create a comfortable and livable space, but subpar insulation means extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers. Attic spaces tend to trap heat, which is a boon in the winter, but make sure HVAC is in place for proper ventilation and cooling during the summer months. A window air conditioning unit is a budget option, but make sure the BTUs are sufficient for the square footage.

If electrical wiring isn’t already in place, now is the time to do it. Consider what kind of electrical load the system will need to support. Chances are you won’t need to run any washers, dryers, or other heavy-duty appliances up here. Also, install plumbing. At least a half bath is necessary if the garage does not connect to the house.

Putting It All Together

With the basics in place, it’s time to start turning the attic into a cozy room. After installing insulation, put up drywall and finishing compound. Now the walls are a blank slate, with infinite possibilities. Painting may be the easiest option, but don’t rule out wallpaper, paneling, textured plaster, or even wainscoting for a classic look.

Kitchen appliances probably aren’t necessary if the new resident plans on eating with the family. However, a mini-fridge or a microwave could be handy to have around—just make sure the electrical system can handle the load. Bathroom fixtures should go in now, as well.

Carpeting can lend a homey feel, and help warm up a cold attic floor. Area rugs work, too, and are a more cost-effective option.

Finishing Touches

Start thinking in terms of rooms, or living spaces. Even without installing interior walls, it is possible to separate the floor space into separate zones. Area rugs can help to visually define a living room area or a bedroom area, as can strategically grouped furniture. Try placing a sofa in the middle of the floor, rather than against a wall, and face it toward one or two small armchairs or a bookshelf to create an inviting den area.

In many cases, furniture is in the garage attic already, collecting dust. Put it to use again. Or, hit the thrift shops and antique malls for unique finds. Some garage attics have window nooks or irregular corners that work great for small, tucked away spaces with window seats or bookshelves.

When selecting furnishings and decor, keep versatility in mind. Without someone living there, the above-garage room can become any number of things: a studio, a guest room, a library. Above all, have fun, be creative, and enjoy the new space.