How do I convert my garage to a studio on a tight budget?

Property Clinic: Do I need to manage several tradesmen or will one builder suffice?

‘We have a detached garage beside our house that I sometimes use an art studio for larger works.’ Photograph: iStock

‘We have a detached garage beside our house that I sometimes use an art studio for larger works.’ Photograph: iStock

 

We have a detached garage beside our house that I sometimes use an art studio for larger works. I would like to make it more comfortable to use as a studio and would welcome guidelines on how much such a project would cost. I am on a very tight budget and would be relying on a credit union loan. It has electricity, one set of wooden double doors that are quite draughty, a single-glazed window, and a smaller wooden entrance door. It has a concrete floor and is uninsulated so I can’t work there in the winter.

It won’t require the same finish as a room or home office and as it is beside the house, I don’t need to install a sink. In terms of heating, I was considering electric or gas heaters but would also be open to connecting to the main house system if I could afford it. Would a builder handle everything required or would I need to manage several different tradesmen? Any advice would be much appreciated.

The key to success in any project is to have a clear goal at the outset. Here you want to have a studio that can be used year round, without spending excessively. This will mean that you should direct investment towards improvement works that will add to the comfort and practicality of using the space.

Expenditure should therefore primarily be on making the room warm and usable even on cold winter days. Reduction of drafts to reduce heat loss and provision of insulation to retain heat are important. Good natural day lighting is important in a studio but you will also need to look at task lighting for those dark days or for completion of more intricate work.

An initial assessment should look at the items you mention like draughty doors, single-glazed windows and the like. Replacement of these items alone will have a significant effect on improving the quality of the work space. For new double-glazed doors and screen to replace the front doors and a small window you should budget for about €5,000.

The provision of drylining will help retain heat and also reduce draughts. For a small garage or studio you should allow €5,000 to include new skirting boards and window board. Taped joints should be adequate rather that a skim finish. You should insulate the attic. This will cost about €500.

Moisture

For heating I would suggest an oil-filled electrical heater. You need a heating system that has a quick response when a creative mood descends. These cost about €200. I would not recommend a bottled gas type heater as these generate a lot of moisture. This could damage artwork.

Good task lighting will cost about €100 and I would recommend a small dehumidifier to protect completed work against damp; €200 should get you a moderately sized unit. Every job is different but based on what you have described, you are looking at an outlay of about €11,000.

To get the work done I would suggest you use a general builder. Your local chartered building surveyor should be able to recommend a good reliable contractor. A contractor will manage the project and will even source the heater, lights and dehumidifier, leaving you more time to focus on your art. – Noel Larkin

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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