Building a Detached Garage Guest House: A Helpful Guide

The garage guest house unfolds a multitude of opportunities for a homeowner. When the kids come home from college and bring their friends, it’s the solution to still getting a good night’s sleep without all of the noise, or when relatives come to stay, it’s a home-next-door-to-home.

For those of us lacking interior design, the idea seems like a dream, but the execution can be overwhelming.  Here is your comprehensive guide to all you’ll need to consider when building your garage guest house, your mini-home next-door.

Ensure the Detached Garage is Up to Code

Building a detached garage from scratch will require the help of professionals, engineers, and you’ll need to get the go-ahead from your jurisdiction’s zoning board.  Seeking out the approval of your local municipality will allow you to avoid fines or even reconstruction down the road.

detached garage guest house

Following all of the codes and requirements for your garage apartment will also permit you to legally rent it out if you so choose, or when you go to sell, list it as its own, separate living space.  Once you have the permit in hand, it’s time to draft the blueprints.

Mimic the Main Home’s Exterior

The easier part of designing a garage guest house is the exterior, believe it or not.  You don’t want the guest house to look tacked on, as if it was an afterthought, so avoid designing as such.

You want the detached garage to jive with the main house’s style, so be sure to match things like trim, which will also break up the expense of having to side its entirety, façade details, windows, shutters, and gables.  The styles should be harmonious as if they were constructed together from the beginning.

When constructing and drafting the plans for your detached garage guest house, don’t hold back on windows.  One of the mistakes you can make early on is not adding in enough natural light into your guest house, and the last thing you’ll want for your guests is a dark, dingy feeling.

Windows, like trim, break up the cost of having to side it (although they’re a cost on their own), but even if you’re wary in adding more windows on the side, consider skylights.

Insulate Your Guest House Thoroughly

For detached garage additions, insulation is a necessary step, especially for garages that dually serve as guesthouses.  The constant opening and closing of a garage door, regardless of its proximity to the living space, greatly affect the temperature of the entire garage.  Effective insulation is essential in temperature regulation and will ensure a comfortable living environment within your newly built detached garage.

Adding in a self-regulating Smart Home thermostat can help maintain comfortable temperatures in your detached garage guest house.  When the guest house is unoccupied, the smart thermostat can keep it at a consistent, eco-friendly temperature.  With the added insulation, your guest house won’t expend the energy it doesn’t need, and you’ll end up paying less on your monthly energy bills.

Plan Your Guest House’s Plumbing, Wiring, Lighting, & Utilities

Attached garages have the benefit of easier electrical wiring and plumbing, but for your detached garage, you’ll need to run these components underground.  When planning the plumbing, the utilities, and electricity, consider the overall layout of your detached garage guest house.

Know where you’re going to place the bathroom, be generous with the outlets (in our technology-driven age, you can never have too many outlets), and don’t skimp out on lighting, whether that means overhead, recessed lighting, or track lighting.

If you’re even thinking about adding in a wet bar, kitchenette, or full-on kitchen, then make sure that you save yourself the effort down the road and place access to water, plenty of outlets for appliances, and outfit the space with lighting, even you aren’t planning on doing this right away.

It is during these early stages of implementing the wires and pipes where if something is done incorrectly, not enough, or half-thought-out, you’ll certainly come to regret it.

Your Guest House Staircase

If your detached garage guest house has placed the living space above the area where the cars park, the garage itself opens up and where any garage related tools are stored, then you’ll need to pick out what type of staircase you want to have access to it.

guest house above the garage

This will in part depend on the building codes you must meet, but also your personal preference.  For a second-story guest house, you can opt to have an external staircase, which has its perks of making the living space feel entirely separate from the garage.

You can also have a traditional staircase inside of the garage, or to utilize the most of your space, entertain a spiral staircase, as it’s the smaller of the options and offers flexibility in access points.

Decorate Accordingly

The interior designing of your garage guest house may be exposed to the going-ons of the garage itself, and this is something to keep in mind when choosing carpet, drapes, furniture, and other design elements.

If equipment, chemicals, cars, and debris-creating projects are going to be taking place in the garage part of the detached garage, then consider selecting durable furnishings, even if the guest house is above the area where the equipment, cars, and seasonal tools are being stored and used.

Remember, this isn’t the main house, so there’s a higher chance of dirt and debris being trekked in through the garage.  For your staircase especially, you’ll want to consider a heavy-tread, tough carpet that will keep dirt out of the guest house if it’s one that is loft-style.

Garage Construction & Remodel

Remodeling your garage to make room for a guest house takes a lot of time and hard work. You’ll want to expand your garage to fit all the cars and make extra space for that living space. Nonetheless, you won’t get it done on your own so it’s better to go with professionals who can.

At Danley’s, we have finished over 100,000 custom size garage since 1959. Everything from extra space for vehicles to a guest house, we accommodate you on all your garage projects and renovations. Speak to a specialist and get a free quote online today.



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Since 1959, Danley’s has been Chicagoland’s top choice for garage construction. Since then, we’ve built over 100,000 garages, making us Chicago’s largest and most trusted garage builder.

We offer an unbeatable combination of products, service and value for homeowners across Chicagoland.

Get a free quote now or call us at 877-DANLEYS today!

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