Dear PoPville – Converting Garage to an Office

Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

“Dear PoPville,

I own a home in DC and am lucky enough to have a two-car garage along with it that backs on to an alley. This garage also has a “loft” storage area with internal access that has 4-5ft. ceilings. Recently, I’ve been considering the feasibility of converting this space into something I could actually use for more than just Christmas decorations, such as an office or perhaps even an apartment. This would entail building up the height of the garage another 3-4ft and finishing the space.

Has anyone ever done something like this before? How hard was it? How much did it cost? What types of permits/approvals would I need to get?

Potentially relevant information: In the Capitol Hill Historic District, the garage is wired for electricity but not for plumbing, it’s between 500-600 sq ft, and I’d like the entrance to be on the alley.”

7 Comment

  • I read through my e-mail and realized it was a bit unclear, so let me add something to start off: I wish to convert the “loft area” into a living space, not the whole garage (as in, parking below, office above). That’s why I’d need to raise the height of the building.

  • I believe there is a 15-foot limit on an accessory building for garage height. You may need a zoning variance if you go above that.

    I think it was last year’s CHRS house and garden tour had a house with a fantastic carriage house to office conversion.

    • I’m starting to go through the process of building a garage, and I’ve heard of the 15′ accessory building limitation also, from a DC preservationist architect. Apparently, accessory buildings can be rented out as studio’s, but not living spaces. You could probably use it however you want for personal use, as long as it meets zoning requirements. You could always talk to the zoning department in SW. That is free. I plan on doing that next week before I get an architect to draw up some garage plans for me.

  • And here I thought I was lucky having a garage-less house in the Capitol Hill Historic District! You are smart to want to utilize that space as much as possible (though if it were me I’d convert the entire space and park the cars on the street).

  • I wanted to do this too, but it’s a bitch. your alley has to be at least 30 feet wide to make it an apartment, not sure about an office. All I could figure out is that you can make an “artists studio” (which I thought meant you could put in everything except for a tub/shower).

    Don’t take my word for it, but it looked like serious pain.

  • it sucks when people add a photo to both the popville and the dcist flickr pool AND you both use them.

  • check with the Zoning Administrator first… if you don’t you will be sorry

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