adu garage conversion

ADU Garage Conversion- FAQ

An ADU garage conversion seems ideal in Los Angeles. The structure is already there, so it should be cheap and easy, right?

Unfortunately, it takes a lot to create a decent garage ADU. Your conversion needs to be structurally sound and follow all of the Guidelines for Garage Conversion ADUs.

Before you decide to convert your existing detached garage to an ADU let’s consider some Frequently Asked Questions about garage ADU conversions.

What does it cost to convert a garage to an ADU?

A lot more than you might think. A typical 2 car garage conversion in Los Angeles starts at about $98,000 – far more than the $50,000 (or less) that you were thinking.

The reasons are simple, once you think about it. Building standards for a garage are not the same as the standards used for a house. Foundation, roof, insulation, and building structure could need upgrades to meet modern building code.

How long does it take?

In general, garage ADU conversions are faster than a typical detached site-built ADU. A custom site-built ADU typically takes well over a year to complete while a garage ADU is closer to seven months.

However, there are a few common conditions that can add to that timeline.

If your garage was built before 1938 you may need to do extra structural work to the foundation, walls, and roof. Any work that was done without permits- like an added bath or laundry connections- will need to be retrofit to the current code.

It is not unusual to find an older garage that sits within a utility easement that runs along the back property line. You’ll need to apply for an encroachment permit in addition to all of your normal permits. These sorts of permits are granted all the time, but it just adds another layer of time to your ADU garage conversion.

Can add on to my existing garage?

Of course, you can… but not without consequences. Back in the old days garages were built right on the property line, but today cities consider that a fire and congestion problem.

That is why it is a win (for the city) every time an old garage is demolished and rebuilt with better setbacks.

As long as you keep your garage footprint exactly as it is the city can’t do anything. You can convert your garage to an ADU and it can remain in its current location.

Expand the footprint in any manner and you’ve now made the city very happy! You will probably need to rebuild the entire structure with 4 ft setbacks on the sides and rear.

Can I add an ADU on top of my existing garage?

This seems like the obvious answer to “have it all”- garage, backyard AND an ADU. Unfortunately, many cities in the Greater Los Angeles area are against ADUs on top of garages.

It is not impossible, it is just really difficult.

Even if you live in an area that is lenient toward a second-story ADU above your garage, it is rarely simple or inexpensive. Your typical garage needs additional structural and foundation upgrades to support a second story.

A second story is also a lot more expensive to build- almost twice the cost of building a single-story ADU.

Worse, adding a second story triggers the ADU garage conversion set back rule- you will now need to ensure the entire structure is at least 4 feet from the sides and rear. The second story might even need to be more.

Does a garage conversion add value?

The short answer is “maybe”.

I’ve sold thousands of homes in my real estate career, and a house without a garage is always harder to sell. Always. If you have to choose just one- garage or ADU, more buyers will choose the garage.

Still, in most cases, an ADU garage conversion contributes value, just not as much as a separate detached ADU.

There is an exception. If you live in a highly congested area where street parking is difficult, your ADU garage conversion could hurt your home’s value and desirability.

ADU DIGGS Solutions

Candidly- our best solution for an ADU garage conversion is to refer you to some of our trusted contractor friends. We don’t do them. (reach out if you want a referral- we only refer good people!)

But we also know a garage conversion is the starting point for most people. Many will find out that it is better, for all sorts of reasons, to keep the garage and add a separate ADU.

We create gorgeous architectural Backyard Homes (ADU) for an affordable price. Our designs blend with our older homes and we emphasize indoor/outdoor living and eco-friendly design. We deliver white glove, all-in construction and finish, either as a prefab or site-built experience. Stand alone architectural plans are available for the intrepid DIYer.

You probably have questions. Let’s chat. Click this link to schedule a free consultation.