If you’re a home-based entrepreneur, there may come a time when your dining room is no longer adequate as a home office, and you need more room. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be ready to splash out on your own business premises yet.
If you need more space—whether it’s to accommodate a growing team or host clients for professional meetings—but you don’t want to take the risk of hiring an office in the city, the answer could be right under your nose: your garage.
Believe it or not, your draughty, dimly lit garage could potentially be transformed within a week or two into perfect HQ for your business. If you’re in need of an interim office solution, these tips could help you give your garage a make-over so good your clients will forget that they aren’t in the central business district.
Tick key sustainability boxes
When you’re at the planning stage of your garage conversion, it makes sense to see designing your new office as an opportunity to improve the sustainability credentials of your business. At the design stage, you have the unique opportunity to consider the environment at every level, from construction materials to energy-efficient lighting solutions. (Believe it or not, even your choice of signage will have environmental implications!)
When it comes to construction, install a large, well-placed window to facilitate ventilation and movement of air instead of installing air conditioners. Wooden windows are more sustainable than aluminium, so bear this in mind when you’re making your selection. Windows should also be double-glazed and well-sealed for energy efficiency.
Purchasing office furniture is another opportunity to reduce waste, as you may be able to acquire some quality pieces second hand. When you’re planning your office layout, make sure that you have good systems in place for the re-use and recycling of paper and any other waste items that the day-to-day running of your business generates.
The concrete floor of your garage may be solid enough, but for the space to no longer seem like a garage, the floor must be more than sturdy. You are likely to require additional layers before the floor is sufficiently level, damp-proof and insulated to fit the bill. While you might think that adding layer upon layer of new floor could raise the level of your garage floor too much, remember that many garage floors sit at a lower level than the flooring in the rest of the house. This means that the extra layers of flooring might be just enough to get the garage floor level with the rest of your home, allowing a smooth transition and step-free entrance for you.
When it comes to your choice of flooring, it makes sense to go with a neutral and durable surface. While it may be tempting to go with something totally office-appropriate, it’s worth reminding yourself that this is only an interim solution: at a certain point (hopefully in the not-too-distant future) your business will have grown out of its garage home, and you’ll be moving into an actual office. At that point, you will be happy that the flooring suits your home needs, as the space might have a new life as a play area or extra bedroom.
If you complete your garage conversion to a high standard and make the effort to create a comfortable space, it can function effectively as professional premises for your business. However, unless you invest in proper insulation, visitors and clients will never get past the fact that this is not an office but a converted garage. When your clients file into your office for meetings, the last thing you want is for them to complain of cold or heat, and not be able to do anything about it.
If your home and garage interlink, your garage could already be adequately insulated, and it may even benefit from central heating. However, if your garage is stand-alone or built using only single-skin construction, you will have to invest in extra insulation. A great option is Spray Foam Insulation, which is highly efficient and reasonably priced. Another option is erecting stud wall, which can be done fairly easy, as long as you ensure that the wood you decide to use is deep enough to house your choice of insulation material. Remember to leave a decent gap to facilitate air movement and make the insulation for efficient.
Build up your door
One of the telltale signs of an office that is actually just a garage is the large gaping door at the front of the building. To ensure that your converted garage passes for professional office space, you need to address the door situation. While you might think that it will be adequate to keep the door shut and use the entrance at the back of your garage that adjoins the house, having to lead visitors through your home to reach your office is never a good idea. You do need a separate entrance if you want your office to retain an air of professionalism.
Filling in your garage door is a big job, as it requires building up the wall and fitting a new door. Things can get a little complicated, so it’s worth hiring a professional builder, even if you are an experienced DIY enthusiast. You’ll need to ensure that your foundations can cope with the additional load and that the job is done to meet building regulations.
It’s important to consider power usage when planning an office. Even if you do your best to keep power usage to a minimum for the sake of the environment (and your running costs, of course) it’s worth bearing in mind that business operations can require more power than the normal running of your home, so you’ll need a good electrical supply. For example, running even a small laser-printer is likely to require up to 400 watts. A bigger laser-printers will require significantly more. Add a couple of PCs and a scanner to the mix, and your power requirements will start to mount.
At the planning stage, it’s important to take your requirements into account and hire a qualified electrician to help you ensure that your electrical system will be able to support the running of your business. Nothing stops work like a power failure!
Whether you’re in the process of getting a small business off the ground or you’re running a fully-fledged operation from home, a well-planned and executed garage conversion could be the ideal solution when you need a little extra space.