Garage Sweet Home?
April 29, 2007 2:20 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are thinking about buying an old mechanic's shop and converting it into a home, but we need a little visual inspiration. Where can I find images (books, magazines, websites) of garages turned living spaces? And, does anyone have advice about commercial to residential remodeling?
posted by B-squared to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Watch out for hazardous waste. Auto shops are often full of oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, and whatever other fluids one might find in a vehicle. None of them are good for you, especially if you're continuously exposed.
posted by wierdo at 2:26 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having done something similar myself (warehouse into condos) I second weirdo's suggestion--not only for health reasons but should you ever want to sell it, it needs a clean environmental record--you may find a willing buyer but unwilling lenders ( this may also apply to you ). Also, make sure the zoning permits residential use. While projects like these are exciting and challenging they sometimes present commercial obstacles that can stress you financially--our warehouse conversion ended up costing 70% more than we anticipated and that was with estimates done by professionals. Bottom line, before you purchase the property get a phase I environmental, check with lenders regarding their expectation, get solid estimates and hopefully go for it and have fun.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2007

Ensuring that the property is zoned for residential or can get a variance for such a use will be important.

Also, if you can somehow incorporate the working hydraulic lifts into your new home's decor, that would be mega-awesome.
posted by mmascolino at 3:11 PM on April 29, 2007

I wouldn't risk it, too many hazardous materials were treated like simple waste in most shops.
posted by caddis at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2007

HGTV runs a program called "Rezoned" which features former commercial structures (barns, auto dealerships, fire stations, gristmills, schoolhouses and many others) which have been renovated into private homes. It's pretty interesting. You could probably get a lot more information from the HGTV website . There might be a way to get in touch with someone who's undertaken a similar project. I think a lot of old buildings are worth saving so I wish you good luck with this!
posted by Kangaroo at 4:15 PM on April 29, 2007

I have absolutely no helpful suggestions to make aside from talking to a city environmental inspector about making sure all those lovely tumor causing chemicals are out of there before you make it a home. Though, if rugged old mechanics can work there 10 hours a day for 40 years you might be even better off than he after a good cleaning.

But I would like to add, how cool would a bed be atop the car lift?
posted by munchingzombie at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2007

I would also like to throw my hat in on the of side of too many chemicals and other hazardous substances being present in the shop to make it into a living space.

Just to mention one of the many hazards, old brakes used to be lined with asbestos.
posted by 517 at 6:33 PM on April 29, 2007

Another concern regarding wastes - your living spaces could be just fine but the prior owners could have poured a bunch of solvents or other crud into the ground which could end up in the water table. No reasonable person would say you're responsible for the malfeasances of prior owners but lawsuits are not exclusively filed by reasonable people.
posted by phearlez at 7:22 PM on April 29, 2007

Rmhsinc pretty much covered it. You'll want to hire an environmental consultant to do a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). Just about any consultant is going to recommend a Phase II (and if they don't, you should probably find a new one), which would initially include soil sampling, and probably asbestos and lead-based paint sampling of the building, depending on the age of the structure. Groundwater sampling may be required depending on the results of the soil sampling and the depth to groundwater in your area.
posted by curie at 8:03 PM on April 29, 2007

I'd agree with all the other posters about he potential hazards but it is possible to clean those up. There's a new restaurant here in Pittsburgh that's built in renovated old gas station, so if they could get one cleaned up enough to get a permit to allow folks to eat, it should be possible to clean one up to live in.

The trick though is to figure out how much that clean up is going to cost and if it is worth it to you and you're partner.
posted by octothorpe at 11:39 AM on April 30, 2007

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