12 Spending Mistakes To Avoid When Updating Your Garage

cluttered garage for sale

You look into your garage, perhaps stuffed full of unused items or stinking of motor oil, and you decide: “Today’s the day! I’m going to remodel this space into something useful or more organized.”

While you probably won’t regret such a transformation, there are many decisions to be made, some of which can cost you a lot of unnecessary money.

To save you from spending more than you need to or from making changes that are hard or costly to undo, here are 12 spending mistakes to avoid when updating your garage.

Trying to Remodel by Yourself

The average cost of remodeling a garage is around $14,200 (and that number can go way up depending on what you hope to do), according to Angi. If you think you can save a lot of that money by doing it yourself, you might want to think twice, according to Isaiah Henry, CEO of Seabreeze, a property management company.

“Almost 40% of homeowners regretted their decision to not hire a professional, according to Zillow,” he said. “While it may save you initially, if you make any mistakes, it’s going to cost you in the long run.”

You’d hate to fork out not only for the materials to do it yourself, but the $14,000 or so to hire a contractor to fix your mistakes later.

Not Getting a Warranty

Henry also recommends you always back up remodels with a warranty.

“This is another reason to hire a professional,” he said. “Most reputable remodeling companies come with warranties that allow you to change or fix something a few months or even years down the road. The national average ranges between $7,000 and $15,000 for a garage remodel. Ensure you’re not paying that twice by doing it yourself, having your house sit without any buyers or fixing something that should be covered by a warranty.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Trying to Convert Your Garage to a Living Space

You may have a vision of converting your currently dank and unused garage into an extra living space, but Mark Osborne, director of Prestige Roof Lanterns, cautions against it.

“Garages aren’t the most comfortable dwelling spaces,” he said. “In the winter, garages are frigid, and in the summer they are scorching. They have more apertures as well, making them more susceptible to pest invasion. Even finished basements do not give the essential protection to use the space as a typical living space. If you decide to finish the garage, you’ll save money if you use the area for storage rather than living.”

Not Getting Proper Permits

One of the biggest financial mistakes people make when renovating their garages or with any significant home improvements is not pulling proper building permits for the work, said Bill Gassett, founder of Maximum Real Estate Exposure.

While permits may seem costly, ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars, you can cost yourself a heck of a lot more by not obtaining them, Gassett warned.

“You will likely have to go through the whole permitting process,” he said, “and could potentially have to open up walls if electrical or plumbing systems were altered or added to. By not pulling permits, you could cost yourself thousands of dollars.”

Spending on Custom Cabinets

One big spending mistake in a garage project is putting in custom storage or cabinetry, said Kevin Bazazzadeh, owner of the real estate investment company Brilliant Day Homes. Cabinets for a two-car garage can run between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the materials.

Make Your Money Work for You

“Custom cabinets in the garage can look fantastic,” he said. “However, the cost of the custom work compared to something pre-made can more than double the cost of the project, depending on the materials of construction.”

Instead, he said, you can find a lot of good storage solutions online and pre-fabricated cabinets that work just as well for $2,000 or less.

Not Waterproofing

One potentially costly mistake you don’t want to make is forgetting to waterproof your garage, according to Robert J Fischer, broker and owner of The Robert J Fischer Team.

“Water damage is common and that is why waterproofing is very essential for garages,” he said. “A remodeling is incomplete without it. You will need an average per square foot of $3 to $10.”

According to Fixr.com, the average cost to repair water damage can run $1,000 to $5,000, but it can be as high as $20,000, depending on how bad it is.

Proper Framing

An exact framing plan to handle drywall, shelves, light fixtures and HVAC appliances is important, Fischer said.

“People sometimes ignore it during remodeling,” he said. “Garage framing costs $1 to $5 per square foot and $4 to $8 per square foot in labor.”

However, the cost to take apart a garage and re-do it properly is even more. The average cost to repair wall framing is between $1,000 and $6,000 per wall, roof framing is $20 to $80 per square foot and each door is $300 to $1,500, according to Home Advisor.

Not Installing Proper Ventilation

Fischer says people often either forget about or don’t think ventilation is a big deal in a garage.

Make Your Money Work for You

“But proper ventilation allows you to breathe, reduce vehicle fumes and prevent humidity,” he explained. “The average price for installing a ventilation system is $400.” 

The cost to remodel your garage because you didn’t properly ventilate is in the tens of thousands.

Floor Coating

Your garage floor is more important than you may think, even if you don’t use your garage as a regular living space.

“Floor paint protects underlying concrete and is good for parking and storage,” Fischer explained.

While you can use roll-out mats and interlocking tiles, your better bet is an epoxy floor coating.

“An epoxy garage floor cost is $2.50 to $9 per square foot,” Fischer said. “If you make a mistake selecting the right one, then it will cost you extra effort and time.”

Gassett agrees not to skimp here, even if you choose floor paint over epoxy.

“It makes sense to spend the extra money by going with a highly rated garage floor paint,” he said. “By spending a few hundred extra dollars, you can save yourself time, money and aggravation.”

Using Cheap Materials

A general rule of thumb should be to spend money on the right materials, not the cheapest ones, Fischer said.

“Using cheap materials may cause you great loss in the future,” he added. “Cheap paint, wire, lights, cement or any other temporary things are risky. If you want to change later, it will demand extra (money), double effort and time.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Expanding Without a Foundation

Expanding a garage without considering the foundation is a costly mistake, said Erik Wright, owner of NewHorizon Home Buyers.

“A detached garage is essentially a free-standing structure with its own foundation,” Wright said. “If an owner expands it without expanding the foundation, the cost can range from $15,000 to $28,000 to either fix the garage or completely restart the garage.”

Not Seeking Professional Help 

Installing or repairing a garage door by yourself may seem easy, but “it is never as simple as it looks, especially if you have zero experience,” according to Tommy Mello, CEO of A1 Garage Door Service.

No amount of YouTube tutorials about garage door installation and repairs will prepare you to properly and safely do the job, he warned.

“Many regard seeking professional help as expensive, but not doing so can cause more damage and money,” Mello said. “One wrong move and you can be subjected to crushing and laceration injuries or, worse, death. Attempting to DIY can also damage your belongings inside your garage, such as your car. Moreover, you need to have specific tools that are not common in an average toolbox.” 

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