Category: Basement & Garage


Convert Your Crawl Space into a Storage Area

There's nothing stopping you from storing off-season items in your crawl space—nothing except for moisture, mold, insects and potentially rodents. Here, learn what's involved in converting your crawl space into a safe haven for belongings you want to keep but don't frequently need access to.

Crawl Space Solutions - Dirt Floor

Photo: basementsystems.com

For children and perhaps even many adults, the crawl space is shrouded in mystery. Rarely do we think of the dark, dingy, low-ceilinged, and dirt-floored crawl space as providing opportunity. And yet, with planning and elbow grease, you can make even the most intimidating crawl space into an ideal storage area for off-season items. Plus, many of the improvements you’d pursue to make the environment storage-ready would also contribute to overall home comfort and energy efficiency. You’ve got nothing to lose! Read on to learn what crawl space solutions other homeowners choose, then decide which are right for where you live.

Assessment
What’s this going to take? That largely depends on the crawl space’s current condition. For most homeowners wishing to convert a crawl space into a storage area, moisture is going to be the main impediment. Your crawl space may not have a moisture problem, but there’s only one way to know: get down there and assess things. Look for evidence of mold—on the walls, joists, ductwork or insulation. Where there’s mold, there may also be insects, including termites—and the presence of insects might one day attract rodents, if it hasn’t already. Mold also indicates a level of moisture that could eventually affect the flooring, drywall, and insulation in the upper portions of your home. So before you can confidently keep any of your belongings in a moldy, potentially rodent-ridden crawl space, your first order of business is getting the moisture under control. And it’s worth doing, not only for the immediate benefit of additional storage, but because your home might otherwise be at risk to a host of moisture-related problems. For help here, consider consulting a contractor who specializes in basements and crawl spaces.

Photo: basementsystems.com

Moisture Control
In crawl spaces, much of the humidity and moisture comes from the soil floor. To contain that moisture, line the floor (and the foundation walls) with a plastic vapor barrier. Proper installation of the vapor barrier depends on your climate and the product used, but generally speaking, the liners overlap, with taped seams, to leave no patch uncovered. There are many types of vapor barriers on the market, with varying composition, thickness, strength and durability. Because you’ll be using the crawl space for storage, choose a product thick and durable enough to withstand foot traffic. Of course, some homeowners eschew vapor barriers in favor of poured concrete, the best and longest-lasting defense against crawl space moisture. But given the complexities of working within a crawl space, we recommend that approach only to experienced do-it-yourselfers or those prepared to hire a professional crew to handle what’s not an inexpensive job.

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Insulation
Insulation further protects against moisture by helping to control the temperature within the crawl space. A bonus: If pipes run through the crawl space, the insulation prevents them from freezing during the coldest parts of the year. Of course, there are many types of insulation available, but only rigid board insulation is appropriate here, because it resists water damage. Install these foam boards against the foundation walls—not along the ceiling—using either construction adhesive or mechanical fasteners. Once the insulation is in place, the vapor barrier goes up on the walls. Climate depending, it may also be wise to install mat insulation over the earthen floor (below the vapor barrier). For advice specific to your home and region, invite an expert to take a look.

Photo: crawlspacedoors.com

Ventilation
You wouldn’t think so, but crawl space ventilation is a contentious topic. For years, building codes required crawl spaces to be vented, and many still think year-round venting makes sense. (In coastal areas, vents are undoubtedly necessary to prevent a buildup of water pressure from destroying the home’s foundation during a flood.) But more and more experts are saying crawl space vents fail to do what they were designed to do—eliminate moisture. Those experts argue that on the contrary, crawl space vents invite moisture, particularly in the summer when moist, warm air from the outside meets the cooler air under the house. Given the competing opinions and that there are geographic factors at play, we recommend getting advice from a local contractor steeped in the issues at play.

Crawl Space Solutions - Dehumidifier

Photo: basementsystems.com

Conditioning
If you go so far as to block or seal up the vents to your crawl space, the only way for moisture to escape is by means of a dehumidifier (that is, if it’s impossible to install an HVAC register in the crawl space). Dehumidifiers vary widely, from small, portable units to crawl space-specific models plumbed in to the home’s drainage system. Similarly, the cost of a humidifier can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000. A dehumidifier may not seem necessary for your crawl space, but if you find that moisture problems linger, be sure to purchase a unit whose size is up to handling the square footage of the crawl space.

Crawl Space Solutions - Storage Bin

Photo: thehomedepot.com

Storage Matters
Even if you’ve eradicated most of the moisture (and its attendant issues), we recommend storing items in airtight plastic containers. Depending on the height of the crawl space, you might consider shelving. No matter what storage methods you opt for, be sure so leave enough space around plumbing and ductwork, in case a contractor needs access for repair work. Now that you’ve converted the crawl space, you should have many more square feet of storage than ever before. Though inappropriate for frequently used items, crawl space storage works great for those items you can’t bear to part with, but which you don’t need regularly.


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Basement Window Leaks

Don't blame basement window leaks on the amount of rain. Likewise, the problem probably isn't due to the age or installation of your windows. The first things to are your gutters and window well drain. Here's what to look out for.

Basement windows are great for letting natural light into subterranean space, but what if they also let in water? The culprit could be your gutters and downspouts.

Basement Window Leaks

Photo: ventanabuilds.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BASEMENT WINDOW LEAKS or read the text below:

Check the gutter running along the roofline nearest the window well in question. Check, too, the nearest downspout—that is, the gutter leading from the roofline to the ground. If there’s a clog in both or either one, then excess amounts of water could be spilling right into the window well. That’s not necessarily a problem in itself, but it might be a contributing factor.

If the window well was installed correctly, there’d be a drain at the bottom designed to let water permeate into the soil. If you don’t see a drain, dig down a few inches. If you still don’t see one, that’s a problem. In an exceptionally heavy rain storm—or in combination with a clogged storm drainage system—the absence of a drain could very well be the causer of basement window leaks.

You can add a drain, but it’s not the easiest of jobs. An alternative is to remove about two feet of the soil at the bottom of the window well, replacing it with crushed stone. Keep the level of the stone about three inches below the bottom of the window. That will help keep the water out.

For added protection, hinge a clear window well cover to the foundation. Being clear, the cover will still admit sunlight without inviting in water, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Flooded Basement Cleanup Tips

Among the litany of ways in which a serious storm can damage your home is the pernicious, hard-to-solve problem of basement flooding. These cleanup tips can help you back to life as you knew it before the rain.

What a huge job it is to clean up a flooded basement! But the job can be a lot less of a headache if you keep some key points in mind.

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING BASEMENT FLOODS or read the text below:

First, don’t panic. You do need to act quickly, though, to salvage your belongings and also to minimize the growth of unhealthy mold and bacteria. Use a pump or wet vac to suck up as much water as you can.

Next, haul wet items up to an area where they can begin drying. Get a couple of dehumidifiers going, plus as many fans as you can muster. If the flooded area is large, it may be a good idea to call for some heavy-duty commercial fans and dehumidifiers.

Your aim is to get as much dry air moving around as possible. Pull off baseboards and moldings. It’s probably also a good idea to cut a few small holes in sheetrock so air can get to the inside of the walls as well as the outside.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Give Your Garage Floor a Makeover

Does your garage look a little like a dungeon? Coat the floor with colorful (and highly durable) epoxy paint. Here's how.

Looking to make your garage a little snazzier? Dressing up the concrete floor with colorful epoxy paint may be just the ticket. Besides looking sharp, epoxy resists grease and oil. Plus, it’s easy to clean.

How to Epoxy Garage Floor

Photo: diamondcutgaragefloors.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON EPOXY PAINT or read the text below:

As with any paint job, preparation is key. First, wait for mild weather. Epoxy doesn’t bond well in extreme temperatures.

Next, remove any existing paint. Use a degreaser to clean up oil stains, then an electric scrubber to clean the whole floor. Wet vac the floor to get up as much water as you can, then sprinkle a mix of muriatic acid and water on the floor and go over it again with the scrubber.

Rinse thoroughly and allow the floor to dry completely.

You’ll need to apply at least two coats of epoxy. Be sure to allow plenty of time between coats. And don’t forget to wear protective gear during the job, as epoxy fumes can be toxic.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Apply Epoxy Floor Paint

Give your dingy old garage floor a gleaming, long-lasting finish with epoxy paint.

How to Apply Epoxy Floor Paint - TailoredLiving

Photo: tailoredliving.com

You lavish attention on the bedroom and living room, bathroom and kitchen, but what about the unsung hero of many smoothly functioning households, the garage? If you’ve always been underwhelmed by the bland gray of the concrete slab, there’s a great way to give it a literally lustrous new look: epoxy paint. No, regular paint isn’t a terrible idea, particularly if you rarely set foot in the garage. But if yours tends to get busy, either with foot traffic or comings and goings of at least one car, opt for epoxy paint. This stuff is tough and resistant to grease, oil, various chemicals and all manner of scuffs—in other words, the litany of challenges that would ruin a regular paint job. Plus, epoxy paint boasts a distinctive, gleaming appearance. Best of all, it’s easy to apply. Here’s how it’s done.

First things first: Check the weather report. More important than the air temperature, however, is the temperature of the concrete you are painting. Its surface should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Assuming conditions are prime, proceed to strip off any old paint that exists on the surface, and remove any oil or grease stains that would compromise the epoxy finish. For those stubborn stains, I recommend using the forceful combination of a degreaser and scrub brush.

Once you’ve gotten the slab pretty clean, wet down the whole floor with a mixture of water and degreaser. Follow up with an electric floor scrubber, continuing until you see a healthy head of suds. That’s a sign that you’ve really gotten somewhere. Now, plug in a wet/dry vac and suck up as much of the moisture as possible. (Don’t empty the vacuum bucket, which now contains degreaser, in your yard. Check the product label and heed its advice for proper disposal.)

How to Apply Epoxy Floor Paint - Flake Detail

Photo: sundek.com

Epoxy adheres best to an etched concrete surface. That being the case, you must take the time to prepare the slab before you can begin applying the coating. Cover the floor with a 10-to-1 mixture of water and muriatic acid, then go over it a second time with the electric scrubber. Caution: Muriatic acid is dangerous. Closely follow the printed instructions, and be sure to wear all suitable protective gear.

Next, hose off the floor thoroughly. Allow the concrete to dry overnight. In the morning, it should have a slightly rough surface, with a consistency similar to that of sandpaper. It’s now ready for paint.

Epoxy comes in several varieties, the most common being solvent-based or water-based. Many commercial outfits choose solvent-based epoxies, because they are especially strong. The downside is that their fumes are highly toxic. Water-based epoxies are almost as good and produce no toxic fumes. So in residential use, it’s really best to stick with the latter. But note that if you opt for a solvent-based epoxy, it’s of paramount importance that you wear a respirator when working with the product.

Whether solvent- or water-based, epoxy paint usually requires the mixing of two components—resin and hardener—prior to painting. Mix thoroughly, using an electric drill chucked with a stirring bit. Once the epoxy is ready, you can finally begin to paint the floor, much in the same way you’d paint other surfaces.

Brush paint around the perimeter, then use a roller to cover the rest of the floor, section by section. In the interest of tidiness, keep a collection of rags handy. Use them to remove any misapplied paint. Epoxy thinner must be used with a solvent-based product; otherwise, water does a fine job. Let the first coat dry for at least a day before applying the second, final coat. You’re very close to finished now.

To dry out completely and cure, epoxy needs to sit undisturbed for as long as a week (confirm this with the printed instructions on the container of your chosen epoxy paint product). Only after the recommended amount of time has elapsed should you haul your stuff back into the garage. Yes, that’s inconvenient. But when you pull in the car, you’ll love how it looks parked—like a model in a showroom!


How To: Install a Sump Pump

If you have a wet basement, installing a sump pump can have significant payoffs. Not only will a sump pump help control basement moisture and protect your home and foundation, but it will greatly add to your peace of mind. So dig in!

Photo: harrycaswell.com

In an ideal world, there’d be no basement flooding. But in reality, despite our best efforts to address the underlying issue, basement moisture remains a sometimes expensive, always exasperating difficulty for many homeowners. In one way of looking at it, by installing a sump pump you may be treating the symptom and not the disease—the source of the moisture. But in the absence of superior, inexpensive options, a sump pump is an effective stopgap. Bear in mind that the technology doesn’t do anything complicated: Essentially, it collects floodwater and then pumps it away to the outdoors, where it can drain safely into the ground. Although—or perhaps because—a sump pump operates so simply, installing one can make a world of difference. Read on to learn how to install a sump pump in your basement.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Electric submersible sump pump
- Sump pump basin
- Sledge or jackhammer
- Flexible discharge hose (or PVC and glue)
- Check valve
- Hose clamps
- Filter fabric
- Gravel
- Cement
- One paver that will fit in the bottom of the basin
- Drill/driver with hole-saw bit
- Weatherproof caulk

STEP 1
Identify the lowest point in your basement, the area where you usually first notice moisture accumulation. Here, dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the sump pump (the top edge of which should ultimately sit flush with floor level). Of course, when your basement floor is concrete, digging a hole is more easily said than done. To break through, you need to use either a sledge or jackhammer. After penetrating the masonry, continue digging until the cavity can fit the pump basin.

STEP 2
The most effective sump pumps typically feature weep holes, which allow water to enter from the sides and from beneath. If yours doesn’t have these important perforations, take the time to drill them yourself. Next, wrap a layer of filter fabric around the basin exterior to prevent silt and sludge from clogging the basin. Add two or three inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole you created, then place a paver or fieldstone over those pebbles in order to establish a stable platform. Now place the sump pump into the hole, backfilling around its perimeter with excavated dirt. At this point, the unit shouldn’t wobble even if you gently jostle it.

STEP 3
For the sump pump to do its job, its float valve must be able to move freely up and down. When the water level rises, so too does the float—and when it does, the sump turns on. It’s crucial to test the float valve before going any further. Move it up and down with your hand to make sure there’s nothing obstructing it.

Of equal importance is the check valve, which channels water away from (never back into) the sump. Between the valve and the home exterior, run either a flexible discharge hose or a span of PVC pipe (with glued joints and, if necessary, elbows). Where the output meets the basement wall, make a hole big enough for the hose or pipe to fit through. To do so, use a drill/driver fitted with a hole-saw bit. Once you’ve run the pipe through the hole, caulk around it to fill any gaps, large or small.

STEP 5
Finally, plug in the pump and give it a test run. Fill the basin with water nearly to the top. The float should rise, the pump should turn on, and the water should pump out. Inspect the connections for leaks, and if all is in working order, place the lid over the basin. The very last thing to do is cover the hole surrounding the pump. This typically involves cement: Mix up a small batch to the consistency of peanut butter then spread it around to conceal all but the sump pump lid.

Finished! The next time a big storm comes your way, you can rest assured that you won’t have to run downstairs in a frenzy to rev up the wet/dry vac!


Pro Tips: Basement Waterproofing

There are a variety of possible causes of a wet basement. Although structural problems are often to blame, poor drainage or plumbing leaks can also trigger moisture or flooding. Here, a basement waterproofing pro reviews the likely culprits and how they can best be dealt with.

Photo: All-Dry of the Carolinas

A clean, dry basement—there, doesn’t that sound nice? Yet the fact is, many of us live with basements that are damp, which makes them unpleasant to visit and inhospitable for our belongings. To find out what makes a basement damp and what can be done about it, we reached out to John Mitchell, owner of All-Dry of the Carolinas, a basement moisture problem-solver based in South Carolina. According to Mitchell, there are three common causes of flooded or damp basements: backfill saturation, surface water, and plumbing leaks.

BACKFILL SATURATION
Backfill saturation causes water to enter the basement due to what is known as the “Clay Bowl Effect,” says Mitchell, which is a result of the way in which your foundation was installed. First, a big hole was made in the earth and then the foundation was poured, leaving a gap between the foundation walls and the existing earth. That gap was filled with the soil that had been removed and “fluffed up.” Because this soil is looser and more aerated than the soil around it, which may have been compressing for hundreds of years, it tends to absorb more water than the compacted soil does, much like a sponge in comparison with a brick.

More water against your house leads to hydrostatic pressure. This basically means that water, which is heavy, presses up against your foundation and can then find its way in through cracks, windows, openings around pipes, or even through the concrete itself, which is porous.

Mitchell says that it’s possible to waterproof a foundation in the building stages, but that doesn’t always happen. “When a basement is constructed,” he says, “either a damp-proof or waterproof coating is applied to below-grade walls, then a footing drain with gravel is placed beside the foundation and drained to daylight before the gap is backfilled.”

DryTrak basement foundation drain

Photo: basementsystemsquebec.com

So what can go wrong? According to Mitchell, contractors will sometimes opt for damp-proofing rather than waterproofing to save money. But there’s an issue with that approach. “Damp-proofing, which can be sprayed on or applied with a paint roller or brush, will not bridge the cracks that result from the normal settling of your house.”

Waterproofing, on the other had, is much more effective because the coating is typically 40 millimeters thick and is either sprayed on or installed as a membrane.

So what can be done if you find out that your basement is leaking due to a structural problem? One solution Mitchell’s company recommends is the installation of a perimeter drainage system around the edges of the basement floor inside the house. Some of these systems involve jackhammering the concrete floor of the basement around the edges to install the drain, but other systems, such as DryTrak, can be installed above the floor. Both systems allow water to enter but then quickly collect it and funnel it away to a sump pump that delivers it to an adequate drainage site outside the home.

SURFACE WATER
Other issues that could lead to a moist basement include incorrect grading and drainage around the home. Mitchell explains: “The perimeter footing drain may be installed too high and may not drain to daylight. Not having used enough gravel may be part of the issue since gravel is expensive. Another possibility is that the gutter’s downspouts may not extend beyond the backfill or gutters may be clogged and overflowing onto the backfill. Or the grade may leave surface water pooling next to the house, and as this water enters the backfill it can carry loose soil particles to the footing drain, at some point clogging the drain and giving you backfill saturation. Surface water can also cause basement flooding by running or pooling next to the house and running over the foundation wall. This is why good grading and extending gutter downspouts away from the house is important. Have your gutters cleaned after the leaves stop falling,” he advises.

If your water leakage problem isn’t foundation-wide, a basement waterproofing expert can determine if it’s entering through cracks in the floor or windows and repair those cracks to keep it from coming back.

PLUMBING WOES
Sometimes water in the basement isn’t the fault of the foundation. The moisture may simply be due to a leaky water heater or pipe. “Leaking water heaters, plumbing leaks, and burst washing machine hoses are the leading sources of homeowner insurance claims,” says Mitchell.

So how to combat these plumbing problems?

Mitchell advises: “You could put the water heater in a containment system with a water watch alarm to issue a warning should it begin to leak. You could put a quality hose set on your washing machine rather than the five dollar set of hoses that the washer came with. You could also have a sump system in the low spot of the basement with an airtight floor drain incorporated into the lid of the sump. This would keep your basement from filling up with water should a leak occur in your domestic water system.”

This is certainly a wise move. Mitchell notes that “a burst washing machine hose with 50 pounds of pressure will flow 500 gallons per hour,” which could quickly turn your basement into a swimming pool. And while an in-home pool might sound nice, that’s probably not the best way to go about getting one.


How To: Clean a Shower Head

To keep the water flowing forcefully from your shower head, you should clean it from time to time. Follow these quick, easy instructions for getting your shower head back in tip-top shape.

How to Clean a Shower Head - Dirty Fixture

Photo: joe.ie

Is your shower head failing to perform as well as it once did? If so, then chances are good that it’s time to clean the shower head, eliminating scaly buildup within the fixture in order to restore the strength of its flow. It’s easy to do, and you’ll be happy that you spent the small amount of time required to complete the task.

How to Clean a Shower Head - After

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Pay attention first to the flexible rubber nozzles through which most newer types of shower heads send water into the stall. Over time, those nozzles become clogged up with mineral deposits that compromise the fixture and worsen its performance. Scrub the nozzles with a toothbrush to dislodge any deposits you can reach, but be careful not to scrub the soft rubber too vigorously. Also, avoid using strong chemical cleaning agents, because they too can damage the nozzles.

STEP 2 
Detach the shower head and, after consulting the manufacturer’s instructions for information specific to the model you own, extract the filter screen. (This can usually be found near the point where the shower head attaches to the water supply pipe.) Run the filter under the faucet while gently scrubbing it with a toothbrush. Once it’s clean, reassemble and reinstall the shower head and test it.

You may notice a big difference—or you may not. Removing mineral buildup certainly ought to improve flow through the fixture, but if you have always had a problem with water pressure in your home, you shouldn’t expect that cleaning the shower head will magically overcome weak pressure.

The Vinegar Method 
Step 1—scrubbing the shower head nozzles with a toothbrush—may not manage to remove all mineral deposits. That’s OK: You can clean off the remainder with household vinegar, whose mild acidity actually dissolves the deposits. To do this, fill a plastic bag with vinegar, then fit the bag over the shower head so that the nozzles are completely submerged. Secure the bag with a zip tie or binder clip, leaving it in place for several hours or overnight. Remember to run the shower for a minute before jumping in to bathe—you don’t want to end up smelling like salad dressing, do you?


Bob Vila Radio: Garage Door Replacement

Today, a wide variety of door styles offer as much form as function in a garage. Consider a new garage door for added style and energy-efficiency in your home.

Garage doors may not seem like great decorating opportunities—most people treat them as functional afterthoughts that just need to open and close on command. But today’s options in garage doors include a wide variety of styles that add a handsome touch to your home. In fact, a recent home improvement survey showed that a garage door upgrade was one of the top five projects in terms of return on investment when it comes time to sell your home.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GARAGE DOOR REPLACEMENT or read the text below:

garage-door-replacement

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You can find all kinds of garage doors that look like barn doors or carriage house doors, even doors in Mission style or more sleek contemporary styles. These new doors can look like wood even if they’re made of steel or fiberglass. Best of all, they may appear to be traditional side-hinged doors but are actually overhead doors that can be controlled with a remote or a pushbutton.

If your garage is attached to your home, here’s more good news: Today’s models are much more energy-efficient than older ones and save you money on your heating and cooling bills, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Planning Guide: Garage Conversion

The solution to your need for more space may already be attached to your house! Converting an existing garage is less expensive than building an addition—and it's a lot less complicated too!

Garage Conversion - Lounge

Photo: kerriekelly.com

Remaking your garage into an extra bedroom, den, or kids’ playroom can improve not only the resale value of your home but also your quality of life. In comparison to building an addition, a garage conversion is much more affordable and entails fewer bureaucratic hurdles, but that’s not to say it’s a simple project. As you begin planning yours, take into account these essential considerations.

FLOORING
In a garage with a flat and dry concrete slab, homeowners have no shortage of flooring options. Tile, whether ceramic or vinyl, holds appeal for its ease of installation. It can be laid directly over the slab, so long as the slab is properly prepared. This typically entails filling cracks with patching compound, cleaning spills with a degreasing solution, and applying sealer to block moisture from rising up through the porous concrete.

Less affordable and more demanding to the do-it-yourselfer are carpeting or hardwood. Both materials require a plywood subfloor, which means the project must begin with patching, cleaning, and sealing the slab. After that, lay down a layer of polyethylene sheeting to further safeguard against moisture. Then attach 3/4-inch plywood to the slab with concrete screws at 16-inch intervals. The carpeting or hardwood is then installed over the plywood, resulting in a raised floor height that will need to be managed at the garage entryways.

Garage Conversion - Den

Photo: alexamend.com

DOORS & WINDOWS
Many who complete a garage conversion ultimately choose to leave the garage door intact, imbuing the space with a note of industrial flair. Other homeowners replace the garage door with a solid or windowed wall, or with a compromise solution, such as French doors. As you contemplate the design of your garage conversion, ask yourself whether the space has a sufficient number of windows. If you’re planning to add any, consider not only natural light and views to the outdoors, but also privacy.

WALLS & INSULATION
You’re ahead of the game if your garage walls are insulated and paneled in drywall. If they aren’t, however, how you address the issue often depends on how your garage is constructed. If the exterior walls are cinderblock, then outfit the perimeter of the space in stud framing. Fit insulation between the studs and then fasten the drywall to the framing. (For walls with drywall but no insulation, spray-foam insulation can be used with little disruption to the status quo.) Before closing up the walls, remember to run electrical wire for overhead lighting. Also at this stage, you must frame out any closets you wish to include as part of your garage conversion.

ELECTRIC
Once the walls are in, hire a licensed electrician to install outlets and light switches, as well as any fixtures you wish to mount on, or hang from, the ceiling. (Note that it may be necessary to add a circuit to your breaker panel.) Of the many reasons to hire a professional to handle the electrical work in your garage conversion, perhaps most important is the pro’s in-depth knowledge of the relevant building codes in your area.

Garage Conversion - Gym

Photo: menterarchitects.com

HEATING & COOLING
If you have a forced-air system, the simplest (read: most cost-effective) method of heating and cooling your garage conversion is to extend the ductwork from the main part of your house. Alternatively, look into radiant floor heating, which operates through the floor by means of heated water or electrical coils. Yet another option is to install a mini-split heater and/or air conditioner. Known as a ductless system, this technology consists of a wall-mounted unit that draws from a condenser situated immediately outside the building. As a final set of options, consider the traditional amenities for small-space seasonal comfort, namely baseboard heaters and window air conditioners.

PLUMBING
Installing a kitchen, bathroom, wet bar, or utility sink can be the most complicated part of a garage conversion. Chances are good that in order to have running water, supply and drain lines will need to be set into the concrete slab. For that reason, it’s wise to handle plumbing issues first, before addressing other features of the project. If you wish to build a bathroom but are leery of disrupting the slab, think about an up-flush system, which relies on a macerator (to grind waste) and a pump (to take that waste to your septic tank or sewer). In this setup, supply and return lines are boxed out along the floor, but they almost disappear from view once you have painted and furnished the renovated garage space.