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Garage Conversion - permit

16 replies [Last post]
Joined: Oct 20 2003

I'm thinking about converting an attached garage to an office in a Terra Linda Eichler. Has anyone experienced permit issues with this? Checking with the city...but haven't heard back yet.

Joined: Mar 12 2005

do you really, really need to convert your garage? Really think hard about it before you do it.

It will put more cars out on the street in front of your house (and your neighbors homes) which looks ugly and it will hurt the resale value of your home when it comes time to sell.

Try to make better use of your existing space vs. convert a space dedicated to your automobile.

Joined: Oct 10 2003

I'd be curious how many eichler owners use their garage space for cars and how many dont. My 1-car garage is a glorfied storage closet -in use and in size. Now way I can fit my humvee in there (kidding, no humvee).

If one is already using the garage as a non-car space, converting it to an office shouldnt be that much of a philosophical stretch. Better a converted garage than a 2nd story :)

Joined: Oct 20 2003

I'd love to see information backing the statement that a garage conversion hurts the resale as that would play a large factor in my final decision


Joined: Mar 30 2003

I don't have statistical data on this, but I can tell you that we passed on buying an Eichler with a converted garage. We bought an Eichler in mostly original condition on the same street. It took us several years to get to the point of actually using our garage for our cars (we park 2 cars in the garage now), but even as a "glorified storage" space, it was much more useful to us than any sort of conversion to living space.

I'm not sure, but the person who bought that house may have converted back to a garage. There was a lot of construction going on soon after they moved in.

I'm curious to know where Eichler owners without garages store things like tools, camping gear, bicycles... Seriously. I can't imagine life without my garage. Inside storage is pretty scarce.


Castro Valley

Joined: Dec 14 2003

Google "garage conversion" and "re-sale value". You won't find much that's positive.

Joined: Aug 25 2005

Gone are the days where you could convert your garage in a weekend. I did some research on this when I wanted to add a living space to my 2 car tandem garage in my previous home.
Here's a link that basically describes the requirements. It's a link from San Diego but most cities in CA adopt the California Building Code.

zoning, off street parking, title 24, seismic retrofit and furnace relocation are a few considerations for converting a garage.
Hope this helps.

Castro Valley

Joined: Sep 1 2005

My next door neighbor converted their one car garage to a family room. All excellent work, high end built-ins including a large wine cooler. They sold 2 years ago. I met one couple the realtor was showing the home to. They were very interested in the house but said that unfortunately the garage conversion was a big issue. The house ultimately sold at asking price with only one offer, none from this couple. The selling price clearly did not reflect the significant money they spent on the conversion and kitchen and bath remodel, the price tag for which the realtor was happily disclosing.

That said, I second the motion for conversion before 2nd story.

Which brings to mind another fact. There are two houses on my street, next door to each other in fact. The two story, 5 bedroom/extra master suite has an asking price of 11,000 more than the original single story next door, both in similar condition and identical location. Neither home is selling, the two story having been on the market for months. Nevertheless, it does not indicate a very good return on that investment either. The value is in homes closest to their intended (and expert)designs.

A sincere best wishes to you, clutch. Sounds like you want to make the wisest decisions


Joined: Mar 24 2003

When we bought our Sunnyvale Eichler in 1993 the garage had already been converted by previous owners. We were naive enough at the time to believe the owners who told us that the conversion had been done with permits, but we didn't try particularly hard to verify it and subsequently found out that there were no permits. The converted garage caused a minor problem in getting a mortgage but we managed to convince the bank that the space could be converted back to a garage with little effort and that seemed to satisfy them.

Like so much else about an Eichler, the converted garage has its tradeoffs. On the one hand it's great having the big room as living space. I use it as my office and home for countless bookcases. We also to keep a couple of big exercise machines in there, none of which would fit anywhere else in the house. The downside is that there is no place for bikes and such, so they live outside, like the cars, in the relatively hospitable California climate. The little strip of vestigial garage that was left after the conversion is a home for the washer, dryer, and my tools.

There isn't even close to enough storage space in the house for all our stuff so I've had to rent a storage space for years and just consider it a "remote branch office" of our Eichler.

What I've always wanted is an Eichler with a basement. Since the style of the house seems to resist going up, going down would be a natural alternative. You could put all sorts of utility and storage space down in the basement and leave the upper living spaces in their architecturally pristine form. Lots of non-Eichler high end construction is now including basements to get around sqr. footage limitations. I've never heard of a basement retrofit, but who knows? Maybe it's not as impossible as it seems.

Joined: Apr 26 2003

If at all possible, I would try to avoid converting the garage.

Though we no longer own an Eichler, we did have an A-frame atrium model with a single car garage and single carport. With the help of some outdoor Rubbermaid storage sheds on the side of the house, we managed to keep a 1964 Lincoln Continental (not a small car by any means) in the garage.

We have friends with a gallery model, which originally had a two car carport. Previous owners enclosed the carport and made it living space. The room, with access via the storage/laundry room, is not in the most convenient location to use as living space, and they basically use it for storage. I am sure they wish that they could park their cars in it.

Perhaps utilizing some creative storage solutions you could make better use of the space within your house, and keep your garage a garage.

And, if you do elect to make the garage space into living space, please be careful with how you treat the front elevation to make sure it integrates well with what is existing. But, people will still be able to tell that the space is just converted garage space because the driveway will be leading directly into a blank wall.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

We have several neighbors who converted their garage into more living space. However they left the garage door intact so to the outside world it still looks like a garage. Aesthetically I think that was a wise choice. That said I know I would never be interested in buying a home without a garage. We have a courtyard model and so we have a very big 2 car garage and I just can't imagine where I would put all of our "garage stuff" without the garage. There is a house at the end of our cul-de-sac that is for sale that has a garage conversion with the garage door gone and it's not selling, of course in all fairness not much is selling right now. I have heard several negative comments from those looking at it in regards to the garage conversion.


Joined: Oct 20 2003

...well...reading the posts about decreasing the home value do have me second guessing converting my thank you for the feedback...

I am in a situation where I have a 3rd child on the way, must have more space, love my eichler, already have some nice outdoor storage isn't the issue...I need one more room....and looking to the 2 car garage appears to be my most cost effective solution because there are already walls and a roof....

I'd appreciate any advice on alternatives....I've considered building an outdoor office, but my costs go up (especially if I go larger than 10x12 which I'd like to go about 20x20 because then I'm into a permit and prop tax reassesment)...I've researched the metroshed, modernshed, pre-fab stuff....but ultimately if I did build an additional structure I'd want eichler siding to integrate into my house....

someone could probably make a good profit designing a pre-fab outdoor office/shed specifically for eichlers....I'm offering up my backyward if someone wants to 'practice' :)

....really ...any advice.....contractor keep costs down would be great....anyone do an outdoor office and willing to share costs?

I've got to believe there are quite a few eichler owners who would like to expand their homes while maintaing the 'look' of their eichlers without degrading the re-sale value....


p.s. I never park on the street anyway....I always park in the converting my garage wouldn't affect that...I wish everyone parked in their driveway or garage...the neighborhood looks much nicer and the streets are wider.... :)

Joined: Dec 14 2003

Oh, well if you would be happy with a detached shed, here's your solution:

Joined: Apr 2 2003

Hope I didn't miss something in the previous postings...

- Can you give your model number and architects (e.g. SM-101 by Ashen and Allen)? That way, you might get more specific suggestions from people who also have that model. And, for those of us who don't, it gives us a visual so our suggestions are more relevant.

For instance, I have a Jones and Emmons atrium model 1534. If someone with my model needed more space, I'd suggest extending the master bedroom through the sliding doors into the backyard. The additional space could be used as a home space... or walk in closet.

- when you say you want it for an office space, I'm assuming a home/private office rather than one into which you invite clients--right?

- I'm curious about the number of bedrooms you currently have. If you have 4 bedrooms and 3 children, all bedrooms are used at one child per bedroom. But unless your children are older, 2 same-sex children can definitely share a room. I'd be happy to share how ours is set up if that helps. Our 5 and 7 year old daughters share a room, we have a guest room, and a home office. The multipurpose room is set up as their play area (computer desk, piano, easels, and toy storage).


eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Jan 4 2004

I have to make a suggestion; and it represents no conflict of interest, because we don't serviceTerra Linda for more projects more than a couple of days. We have seen a large interest in the area of building a detached structure, usually in the back or side yard, and setting this up as an office. There is a loophole in almost every building dept that allows a "shed" to be constructed without permits. As a consequence, we have constructed about 6 such structures for various home owners for about half (or less) than the cost of an addition. Everyone was completely satisfied with the results, and even though the designs have varied, there are a few common denomonators. You can finish the exterior with Eichler siding and trim, and create eaves, etc. to imitate Eichler design.
Generally, the limitations for the structure relate to the dimensions
(usually they require the "shed" to be 10x12 or less); and other requirements can be such as limtatons to 1 window and door, can be no more than 7'6 in height.
not the biggest space, but certainly adequate for a home office. I suggest contacting the building dept for the local limitations on shed construction. something really basic can be built for $50-60 a square foot, and of course the sky]s the limit depending on how you choose to finish it.
Email me if you want a few ideas.


Joined: Mar 16 2005

If you need raw floor space, there's no substitute.

The first defense is lifestyle - - all our things are valuable even though we forgot we have them, and they have to be kept somewhere. With 2 kids and a 3rd on the way, you can't possible live like the Eichler brochures -- 1 TV and miminum furnishings.

Garage -- unless this is permitted & legal (trigerring RE taxes, inspections, etc.), you can't add the sq footage to tax records and when selling, you can't add the area to the official footprint and may cause appraisal problems when the asking pricing is out of wack compared to official sf. This is besides that the rennovation may provide negative equity and all the esthectic reasons previously offered.

Outside Structure -- I'm not in not the trade, but I can't imagine any custom structure project to be less than $200/sf. I just did a 245sf project and lost consciouseness writing checks (hired a GC), and it came out to be about $250/sf (w/ framing, roofing, insulated glass, slab foundation, 1/2 bath, plus another $10K in repairing sprinklers, new hardscape and landscape because of the rennovation.

The prefab sheds look very good (also see Metroshed); modern & stylish, but if you want Eichler siding, then you'll need to go custom. If you're creating new space, you can't overcome the fact that everything is customized and trades people are still building in the same general way as the Pilgrims did in Massachuseets and their skills are no longer undervalued.

Joined: Oct 20 2003

I don't know what model I have. It's a 3 bed, 2 bth. It does not have an atrium and already has additions from previous owner.

I'm convinced after talking to several real estate agents that converting my garage is not good for I'm now looking at adding on to my house...just have to figure out the least expensive way to do it. Thanks for all the input...and any good, affordable contractor recs appreciated?


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