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Remodeling your garage

ImprovingCosts: Average cost of converting a garage into living space: $6,343, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners who remodeled detached garages (the only category tracked) spent an average of $6,254 in 2001, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Popularity as remodel target: In the past two years, only 3 percent of homeowners attempted to convert a garage, according to the NAHB, ranking it tied for 10th out of 23 projects tracked.

New trends: Most people use their garages for storage, so the hot trends are things that maximize space, such as storage and shelving. Also hot: good lighting, especially if the garage is a hobby area.

Features to consider: "Nobody has enough storage space in a garage, and you tend to fill it beyond what you've got," says Rich Trethewey, plumbing and heating expert on "This Old House."

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: Line the walls with a material you can use to hang tools and equipment -- whether it's plywood, slat-board or a specially designed organizing system. Trethewey and his team lined one garage with a slat-board system. Result: the homeowner can hang tools almost anywhere in the garage, and has the flexibility to rearrange everything at will.


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New products: Homeowners who want a well-organized garage have a few new options. One modular system allows a homeowner to put in whatever's needed, from wall- and floor-covering, to beer refrigerators and wardrobe-type cabinets. "Most of these are on wheels so you can totally organize a garage top to bottom," says Larry Spangler, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

And high-tech has reached the garage. One example: touch pads that give the kids access to the house after school without a key.

Special problems: If you're trying to turn the garage into an extra room, "you have to make it so that when it's done, it doesn't look like a garage turned into a living space," says Paul Winans, certified remodeler, a vice president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. That usually means dealing with changes in floor level and filling in the garage door gap, as well as altering the entryways to the home and the yard.

For homeowners who use the garage for storage space, consider the clutter. And if you don't use something in a year, throw it out.

Biggest mistake: For do-it-yourselfers installing a new garage door, "if you're not careful and buy the wrong [size] garage door, it won't have enough space to roll up," says Shawn Gannon, assistant store manager at The Home Depot in Pasadena, Md.

Professional or DIY: "Clint Eastwood had that great line, that he said in that gravelly voice, 'A man's got to know his limitations,'" says Trethewey. While electric, heating, cooling and plumbing are best left to the pros, even in those areas "there are little repairs people can do."

-- Posted: July 1, 2003


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