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Tips for Turning an Empty Space Into a Workplace

Tuesday, November 12, 2019   /   by Brian Ness

Tips for Turning an Empty Space Into a Workplace


If you don’t use your garage for vehicle storage, it is probably space that rarely gets any attention. However, if you need a home office, it pays to consider turning your garage into a workspace you can be proud of. But it is not as easy as popping a chair and desk next to the water heater. Transforming this space into a professional showplace takes planning.

Before You Begin

Before you start putting up walls and rerouting the HVAC, check with the county codes department to ensure you can remodel this existing space. In most cases, you’ll be granted a building permit, but there are other things to consider as well. Your HOA, for example, may restrict what you can do, or it might require that renovations be approved before beginning.

Along the same vein, if you don’t have a garage but plan to build one, you will need a building permit. Your structure has to meet zoning requirements, and you’ll have to submit a plan to the Rochester Planning Department. When you do choose to erect a new building, do some research on materials first. The most common are steel and wood, with the former being quick to assemble and extremely durable. Wood buildings typically do not last as long, but it might be required if you live in an area where you have to match outbuildings with the primary structure.

Permits Acquired!

If you’ve made it through codes and are cleared for renovation, congratulations! This is the fun part. Once your walls are up and the area is heated and cooled, you get to design a home office that meets your needs. HomeAdvisors notes that it’s best to think of your office as an investment and suggests buying furniture — including a desk and chair — that enhance your ability to work. Chances are, you’ll spend at least some time in your office every day, and you should prioritize comfort for both you and guests or colleagues you might expect to visit.

More than just furniture, your garage office should also boast practical features that allow you to work as efficiently as possible. One challenge here is internet access. Often, the garage won’t have a signal, and hardwiring the area might get expensive, especially if your garage walls are cinder block. One way to get around this is to use a mobile hotspot (but only if you have unlimited data on your phone plan). Jetpack and Global Modem are two examples of affordable hotspots offered by Verizon. Your options might be different depending on your carrier.

If you telecommute, you will also need access to other office equipment including a whiteboard, paper shredder, printer, copier, and computer. When buying new computers and equipment, don’t look at price alone. You must also consider power, speed, and portability. A dedicated phone line is crucial if you intend to take calls; similarly, ensure that your computer equipment has a great webcam, microphone, and speakers for when you have to participate in meetings.

A final note: Confirm with your local planning and zoning office whether you can run a business at home. When your office is for personal use, there are few restrictions. But, if you will have people coming in and out of your property to conduct business, you may need a special permit.

A home office is a valuable investment whether you are running a business or just carving out a spot for your teenager to do homework. But do it right, and avoid the temptation to cut corners.