Space at a Premium? Build Over the Garage!

Face it - spending more and more time at home makes the walls seem to be closing in on us. Wouldn't you love to have your own gym? Your teenagers need a little place of their own? Or maybe a game room, music room, yoga room, an office that's a little less "at home" or a personal oasis for a master bedroom more like a large hotel suite? We all dream of having more space.

If your home is feeling crowded, your family is growing, or you’re getting cabin fever from being cooped up, building a second floor over your garage is the perfect solution to leave you with the space you need. Many people like you are finally making the investment they wish they would have made long ago and following these steps to make their home dreams come true.

It’s perfectly normal for families to grow, change, and adapt over the years, and it’s only natural that your space should grow with your family. But a growing space doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go buy a new house.

No matter how you slice and dice it, moving to a new home is expensive, time-consuming, and often comes with many undesirable surprises. If you love your neighborhood but you’re feeling suffocated with every inch of your current space filled to overflowing, a second floor above the garage may be the perfect fix for your space. If you’re ready to feel relaxed and content in your home again, keep reading!

A traditional home gets a second floor over its garage. Great results!

Take It Up a Notch

Whether your garage is attached to your house or standing as a detached unit, building a second floor on top of your garage is a winning solution.

  • It's significantly cheaper than moving or buying another home. With all of the hidden fees, unexpected expenses, and general hassle that comes with buying a new place, opting to build your own second floor over your garage instead will save you countless headaches. Plus, it’s often more financially advantageous to increase your current mortgage rather than change it.
  • It's an investment that you will probably be able to recoup when you sell your home. More square footage means more value, and higher home value means your place will sell for more when the time comes. While you may not see the payoff for a handful of years, your investment isn’t just a frivolous or inconsequential decision. It’s an investment that will pay off handsomely when the time comes!
  • In the event of a financial problem, this additional space could help you make ends meet. In the event of a financial emergency, such as a job loss or expensive medical operation, this extra room could be the very thing that helps keep you afloat financially. If it’s built thoughtfully, it could easily be transformed into a studio apartment for a long-term renter or an Airbnb room available for a fee to travelers needing a temporary place to stay.

If you still need more convincing, be sure to check out these 6 reasons to add a studio apartment over the garage.

Now you may be thinking, “Let’s do this!” But first, here are 5 things not to overlook to make your renovation project a success.

Is It Legal?

Before you start getting too attached to your dream for this new space or spending any money, contact your municipality to check the regulations that must be respected for your project.

Each municipality requires its residents to follow its regulations when it comes to building permits and home expansion. The costs and requirements associated with your building project will vary from municipality to municipality, so you’ll want to be sure you know what to expect before you embark on your big building project.

For example, all municipalities have specific rules about the height of buildings as well as clearances you’ll need to respect with the property lines between you and your neighbors. Some municipalities even have very specific rules that will dictate every detail of the way your home must look.

If you can’t stand paperwork and want to cut some corners, we have the perfect resource for you. Explore this infographic, published in Michael McDermott's article on CRD Design-Build:

Infographic - 6 Reasons why you should'nt  do home improvements without permits

The Nitty Gritty Details


What is your mortgage like? How much do homes in your neighborhood sell for? What's the "sweet spot" between a great investment and the expenses you can never recoup?

The easiest part about this process tends to be the emotional investment of getting excited about the project itself. The fun part is imagining the final, finishing touches and decor. But after the excitement comes and inspiration strikes, that’s when the hard work begins. Most people undertaking a project like building a second floor above the garage aren’t bankers, real estate agents, or construction workers. They’re regular people who have to jump through a lot of hoops and do an extensive amount of research at every step of the building process.

In the context of the extraordinary times we have been experiencing, making changes to our home, our biggest investment should be done cautiously. Take the time to sit down with someone who will keep a cool head. And count.

What to ask your bank’s credit specialist:

  • What will this raise your monthly payments to?
  • How many years will be added to your mortgage?
  • How long will you have to live in your house to expect a reasonable return on your investment at resale?

What to ask yourself:

  • Will this investment require a lot of sacrifice? Will you still be able to enjoy the activities you love, such as going to restaurants or traveling abroad? Will this situation last for several years?
  • Is your neighborhood (and is your city) a good place to invest in an expansion? Take some time to consider resale value. If the local economy is booming, there’s an influx of people moving in, and you notice constant improvements in the area, it may be a wise investment. If the opposite is true, though, it might not be worth it.
  • Is your relationship with your partner strong? Renovations—even with an excellent contractor and without unpleasant surprises—will add significant strain to your family life. If you see this opportunity as an exciting project to tackle together, then go ahead! If you’ve completed projects together peacefully before (especially projects that are similar in scope to this one), you can likely proceed with realistic expectations and loads of patience. If not, think about it a little more.

According to, adding a second story above your garage will cost between $300 and $500 per square foot.

Split-level house where the carport is transformed into a closed garage. The sidings are changed too.

Planimage photo – The project: The owners of this split-level home transformed their carport into a closed garage, above which they constructed and designed 2 rooms: a bedroom and a music room. Throughout the project, they also upgraded the exterior finish of the house.

Plan, Dream, Build That Vision

Still there? Not too discouraged? Here's an exciting step.

Wait until you put the kids to bed. Take out a bottle of wine or make yourself an herbal tea. Sit down across from your spouse when both of you have the emotional and mental energy to truly think this project through. It’s time to dream!

At this beginning stage, don't hold anything back. Write down all of your most extravagant ideas, and don't be judgmental of each other’s thoughts. This isn’t the time to fine-tune or criticize, even if some of the ideas sound too outlandish. Just make your lists and get down as many ideas as possible!

Some food for thought - 5 practical considerations

1. How to access the new space above the garage

Attached garage

Traditional 2-storey grey brick house with master bedroom above the garage

Planimage photo – The Project: Adding a 2nd floor to the entire house allowed for a loft above the garage. A balcony was also added in the front.

Depending on how the new space will be used, what is the best way to access it?

For example, are you planning to access this room from inside the house? Or are you picturing a completely separate entrance? If this space ultimately becomes your master suite, you’ll certainly want your peace and quiet… but you’ll also still want to keep an eye on your kids.

Stone and wood traditional1-story home with a North Hatley LP, color Sand, and windows

You like the look of this garage door? It's a 9' x 7', North Hatley LP design, in Desert Sand, windows with Richmond Inserts.

If you transform your new space into a home office, a gym, or a den for your teens, consider whether or not you’d prefer to have separate exterior access to preserve your personal privacy.

Also, keep in mind that the easiest, most affordable option tends to be maintaining access to the room by an existing staircase or doorway in the house.

Detached garage

A charming traditional detached garage door with a second floor above the garage, a dormer.

Like this look? It’s Plan 69701 from Planimage

Not sure whether to go with an indoor or outdoor staircase? Consider this: are you willing to sacrifice space on the main floor, where you store your cars, or have your workshop? What if it means including a staircase so you never have to shovel off snow again?

Whether you prefer a contemporary or more traditional style, spend some time considering different looks while getting inspired on Pinterest. Be sure you dedicate some time to analyze the plans and ensure your creative vision will be feasible in your space.

A traditional detached garage in wood and stones  with a second floor, dormers

Like this look? It’s Plan No G-28A from Planimage

2.Plumbing and electricity

There are many construction aspects to consider when it comes to adequate plumping and proper electricity.

For example, if you’re using this extra space as an add-on for a master suite, do you want to include a full bathroom? If you’re planning to use it for a teen hangout, it may require a half-bath, refrigerator, and dining area with a sink.

On the other hand, if you’re hoping to build a small apartment or independent loft, you'll need to check the existing water outlets, plumbing, and ventilation in the house with the professional help of some specialists. Consider your must-haves and non-negotiables that will require electricity. And don’t forget about Internet access!

You must think through everything you want and need, and then provide that information to the designer or the architect who will make your plan come to life. Thinking and planning ahead for what you’ll need based on the purpose of the space will allow specialists to prepare your new space most efficiently and economically possible!

And, above all, don't try to make this plan yourself to save a few hundred dollars.

Many people have tried (emphasis on tried), and the results simply never measure up. There are only so many corners you can cut when it comes to construction projects, and skimping on the plans is just not one of them.

3. Multifunctional or evolving space?

As children grow up, that inevitable day slowly approaches. Eventually, they’ll know (or you’ll tell them) it’s time to leave the nest. As you grow older yourself, you may find that you no longer want to climb steep stairs to reach your bedroom. Whether it’s due to bad knees or other variables, you may end up wanting a bedroom on the main floor of your home.

While that point may seem like a long way off, you don’t want to hold off on making that possible until you desperately need it. Plan ahead now to make that transition easier when the time comes!

Think about it and communicate your ideas with the professional who will take care of your plan. Knowledge means planning ahead. Plan to maximize your space and your investment today, and think ahead to be sure it doesn’t become obsolete tomorrow.

4. Any thoughts about the exterior look?

When it comes to home improvement projects, it’s not uncommon for the creative reconstruction bug to strike other areas of your home.

However, it’s imperative to strike a balance between the common phrase "while we're at it, let’s…" and the importance of sticking to your budget.

When it comes to attached garages, attempting to match the exterior siding, roof color, etc. to the extension (whose colors you may want to change over time) can be very tricky.

If you don’t make it match, it likely won’t turn out to be very attractive! It won’t look cohesive with the rest of your home if you don’t do everything you can to make it match, and that can make your beloved project come out looking tacky.

It won’t matter to people how much you've invested in your project if it doesn’t look good with the rest of your house. This is one thing for the remaining years you’ll live there, but it will scale up quickly in importance when it becomes a reason people are less interested in your house when you want to sell it.

The mismatched effect is a major deterrent to many buyers. That is yet another reason why having a professional plan the whole exterior tends to be a very worthwhile investment.

Budget-wise, if it’s just not possible to make those investments until later, make a plan to get them done in the coming months or years as your budget allows.

Meanwhile, be sure to talk to an expert about ceiling heights, dormers, roofing options, etc.

Aesthetically, the roof can have several shapes. Keep in mind that the feel of your new space will be impacted depending on how the roof is designed. For some projects, it may be best to keep the ceiling at full size. Others, on the other hand, may benefit from a sloped roof with or without dormers.

High-end 2-storey house in stone

Planimage Photo – The Project: The garage was expanded forward to make room for 4 cars. The addition of a 2nd floor above the garage allowed the construction of a complete and impressive suite, featuring 2 walk-in closets as well as a full bathroom.

It may seem like a loss of living space if you have sloped ceilings, rooflines, and dormers intruding on your new room. However, a shift in perspective can bring new creativity to the space! For example, imagine utilizing any awkward angles for storage space, such as bookcases, storage shelves, and drawers.

No matter which roof style you go with, it’s worth taking into account that the exterior, squared-off look isn’t very flattering on many houses. Instead, go with a more attractive exterior shape and try to create a charming interior that maximizes every space.

Use the Right Tools to Expand on Your Vision

Once you’ve cleared up any uncertainties and made all of the necessary decisions when it comes to the building and design plans, you get to enjoy the fun part.

After the structural pieces are all settled, it's time to switch gears and start exploring decoration and style.

There are many ways you can approach the creation of a mood board for interior inspiration! For example, you can scroll through Pinterest and save ideas you love to a board you’ve made. Some people prefer to Google images and save them in a Word document. Others seeking some creative décor ideas pick up a handful of magazines, cutting out images they like and pasting them on a poster or pinning them up on a corkboard. Those who prefer Instagram may follow relevant décor and design hashtags, saving great images to new folders within the app.

No matter how you approach this part of the creative process, your efforts will help you explain your vision and goals to your designer or architect. Even if you don’t have a professional there to help you with the design aspect, it will help you determine your style and next steps to create a beautiful, cohesive space.

What you have in mind when you say "Scandinavian" or "cottage style decors" or "rustic but modern" or simply "blue", may mean completely different things to different people.

Set aside plenty of time to explore Pinterest and inspiring décor or interior design websites. You may also find it helpful to look through the websites of lovely hotels and trendy restaurants for fresh ideas.

Keep it fun, and find clever ways to approach your research. For example, Better Homes & Gardensoffers 25 solutions for unusual spaces.

Look closely, and think outside of the box. For example, maybe you aren’t planning to build a kitchen in your new space, but you adore the look of a set of cabinets in a picture you stumbled across. Images like that could become the cornerstone of inspiration for your storage furniture. You may have been drawn in by the colors, furniture, or another aspect of the image. No matter the reason, don’t let those little sparks of inspiration die out!

Inspiration is everywhere, and it can easily be carried from one room to another.

Country style house with 2 single garage doors in Classic CC design, Ice White color, and 4 lite Orion windows

Like the look of these doors? They’re 9' x 7', Standard+ Classic CC, in Ice White, 4 lite Orion windows

Your Garage Door Should Be Included in the Plan

Once you have an idea of the look and usability you've dreamed of for your space, don't neglect your 4th wall.

Prestigious house with a double garage door in Eastman E-11 design, Black door and overlays, and panoramic windows

Is this look for you? It’s a 16’x8’, Eastman E-11, garage door, overlays, and door in Black, 4 lite Panoramic windows.

Your garage door acts as a 4th wall beneath your beautiful, new space. So, when you're shopping, don't rely on just the R-value. Instead, pay close attention and ask detailed questions to find out if your garage door is really energy efficient. After all, it’s essential for your comfort as well as your energy bills!

If you have a somewhat new garage door, but it lacks windows, we have a simple solution for you. Natural light is both practical for your garage and essential for mental health! Here's how you can add windows to your garage door if it doesn't have any currently without having to purchase a brand new one.

Don't forget that adding a 2nd floor to a garage means first making sure to add all the elements to make this place comfortable and pleasant to live in!

Modern house with a two car garage door in the Shaker-Modern XL design and Iron Ore Walnut color

Love new products and colors that are “in”? Here are 2 of them! The Shaker-Modern XL design and the Iron Ore Walnut color.

Is that garage door looking down in the dumps?

If you’re nodding your head “yes,” then take some time to research, gather recommendations, and contact a garage door specialist near you. Our experts can give you all the advice you need to make your garage door reflect your style, while still meeting your insulation requirements.

Already know what your favorite door is?

If you’d like, at Island Overhead Doors, we can email you a quotation promptly.

Want to get advice from a real person? Call 902-439-7907.

It would be our pleasure to answer any and all of your questions.

Want to try out a fun app?

Try the Design Centre to create your garage door in just a few clicks! Need to get inspired first? Browse our gallery.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Copyright Garaga Inc. | Privacy Policy and Conditions of Use | Sitemap