Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garage Conversion

In many homes the garage takes up some of the most valuable real estate on the property. Often the garage is the first thing you see when you drive up and it is connected right into the heart of the house just off the kitchen. That may make sense in some cases, but just as often the garage (if you could see through the walls) has the best views on the property and blocks the view from the rest of the house.

When we are asked to add a family room or another large space to any home the first place I look is the existing garage. In most cases, a garage conversion will cost less than building a new structure since the walls, roof, and foundation are already in place. That is not to say that there are no challenges. If we need to include plumbing in the new space (as in a master bedroom suite) we must find a way to connect the waste line to the existing septic outlet. Luckily, by code there must be a change in level between the garage and the house. That usually gives us room to add ‘sleepers’ (2x6’s or larger boards) to the concrete floor as a nailing surface for the finished floor. That gives us room for pipes, heat ducts, wires etc.

If you still need a garage, luckily one of the least expensive structures to build is a garage. It is rare that we cannot find a better location for a new garage to take the place of the one that has become a living room, family room or bedroom suite. Sometimes the best solution is to have a freestanding carriage house design with a connector to the main house.

The next time you drive up to a garage, think about how great it would look transformed into a new family room, master suite or living room.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Basement Gym

Basements can be dark, windowless caverns that are only visited when the boiler is acting up or a box needs storing. They can also be a treasure trove of underutilized inexpensive space for creative homeowners.

While we have utilized those areas in many ways for our clients, few conversions are as well suited for the basement as a home gym. Some of the best reasons to use that subsurface space are obvious including the fact that it is basically free raw space.

Others include:

1. It is close-just a short walk down from the first floor.

2. Easy to sound proof-at least two walls can be 10 inch thick concrete (foundations).

3. Basements are inexpensive to heat and cool-even in the steamiest summer they remain comfortable.

A home gym does not necessarily need a lot of space, but it needs to be laid out efficiently to accommodate the users and their equipment. Lighting is important since most basement windows are small or within a recessed area (unless the basement is a ‘walk out’). By mirroring the workout space, like a commercial gym, not only can the users work on perfect form, a greater sense of volume can be achieved.

The optimum basement gym can include a bathroom with shower, changing room and sauna or steam room, but often we simply provide a large well-lit, comfortable space. If a bathroom is included in the design, the location of the septic outlet will determine if a pump is required.

After a good workout, it might be time to think of the many other uses for a basement including a home theater, wine cellar, or recreation room.