If your home has a large garage but you have one or no cars, or there is plenty of street parking, you can easily turn that garage into an extra bedroom. This is an increasingly popular renovation because using your garage is much more affordable than building an entire new addition to the house. However, there are precautions you need to take: research has found that the majority of carbon monoxide leaks in homes come from the garage, either originating in the garage, or seeping in through the street. And since a garage door is not as sturdy as a real wall, a garage-turned-bedroom is naturally not as protected as a regular bedroom. Here are some tips for safely turning your garage into an extra room.
First of all do get a permit
You may think you’re saving money by skipping getting a permit, but it will cost you more money in the end if you are fined, or even sent to jail, for illegally turning your garage into a bedroom.
And there’s a reason for that…
Permits aren’t just in play so the city can make money off of you: they are there because there are several safety risks involved in turning your garage into a living space, and professionals have to make sure everything is done properly so you avoid these risks.
You want to properly connect the garage to the home’s central heating. To save money on that work, some homeowners simply plug in a heater in their garage. But these can start a fire or, if they’re fuel-based, can cause a carbon monoxide leak.
If your home has a gas furnace, odds are it’s kept in the garage. Garages are usually insulated so as to keep any carbon monoxide leaks from seeping into the house, but that means if someone is living in that garage, they’re stuck inside a room with a growing CO content. If your garage does have a gas furnace, it’s crucial that you set up carbon monoxide monitoring in your security system. An alarm will go off the moment even the slightest amount of CO is detected so that all persons can be evacuated immediately. If you’re away from your home when you get the alert, you can call the authorities and send them over.
A fuel-based water heater poses the same risks as gas furnaces. Again in this case it is very important to have carbon monoxide monitoring in place.
Proximity to the kitchen
Another issue with most garages is that many share a wall with the kitchen, and the kitchen has an oven—another carbon monoxide risk.
Garages turned into living spaces often only have one entry-way. Originally there were two: the garage door to the street, and the door connecting the garage to the house. But after the conversion, the garage door will be sealed to the ground, leaving the resident only one way to come in and out. This is a huge safety hazard in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak. If the leak is in the garage, the resident can escape into the house, but what if the leak is coming from the kitchen? Then the resident is trapped. If there is a fire in the house, the resident is trapped again. Be sure to install an additional entrance to the garage-turned-room that leads directly outside. This way the resident can escape quickly if there is a problem.
Proximity to the laundry room
Most garages are also right near a laundry room. Translation: they’re near plenty of electrical appliances, and those are a fire risk. Make sure all wires from laundry machines are double insulated, so that no frayed wires are actually exposed. Set up fire monitors in your home so that if a fire does break out in the laundry room, the resident in the garage will hear an alarm immediately.
Proximity to outside cars
Now that you’re not putting your cars inside of your garage, where are you putting them? Most likely just on the other side of that garage door. That means exhausts and fumes from vehicles are regularly near that new bedroom wall. Properly insulate the garage door on the inside, so that no fumes from the outside can get inside. All windows inside the garage-turned-room should be sealed shut so that no carbon monoxide can get inside from outside vehicles.
Turning your garage into an extra room can be a money saver, but only if done properly. If you don’t take the right precautions to fend against fire and carbon monoxide hazards, you’ll lose a lot more in the end on renovations, or even medical bills.