Our neighbors have just built a bedroom above their garage (and we’re a bit jealous!), but is it safe to do this?
Building a bedroom above your garage is safe and very common, and is known in the trade as a finished room over (a) garage (or FROG for short). Insulation between the garage and the FROG means car fumes are sealed in the garage below, and noise from the garage door will be minimized.
In this article, we’ll consider all aspects of building a bedroom above your garage – and answer your most pressing questions about safety, planning, noise, and car fumes…
Is it Bad To Have a Bedroom Above The Garage?
In most places, having a bedroom above the garage is pretty common – not bad at all. Building codes in cities and suburbs serve to keep us all safe. If your home or garage apartment is built to code, then it is safe.
However, if you are considering finishing a space above your garage or buying a home with a bedroom above the garage, there are some things you may not have considered, so read on.
Bedrooms above garages aren’t bad – just different.
Will Car Exhaust Fumes Come Up Into The Bedroom?
Generally, no. Experts say that drywall alone doesn’t seal anything. Ever. But insulation will. Make sure the garage ceiling is finished and the space between the garage ceiling and the bedroom floor is filled with high-quality insulation.
Plenty of high-quality insulation will serve you in other ways, too. Rooms above garages are notoriously either very hot or very cold rooms. Insulation will keep your bedroom cozy in the winter and cool in the summer. It also dampens noise.
Remember that not all insulation is created equal. We die-hard DIY types like the batts of pink fiberglass. You just haul them home and roll them out, right? The trouble is in some cases spray foam insulation is a better bet.
Spray foam insulation seals better than pink fiberglass batts, particularly on a ceiling, where batts tend to sag (thank you gravity). Spray foam insulation adheres to the ceiling and provides a seal against moisture and gases. It’s a better product for soundproofing, too.
Cars produce stinky exhaust but also deadly, colorless, and odorless carbon monoxide. If you have good insulation between your bedroom and the garage, none of those should be a problem. Be extra safe with both a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm in the bedroom area.
To minimize exhaust fumes in your garage, The National Fire Protection Agency says don’t run your car in the garage, even if the door is up. If you must warm up your car, pull it outside first. Bedroom windows should be closed if your car is idling on the driveway.
Also, pull your car into the garage front first – don’t back in. That allows those fumes to dissipate outside the open door, and not get trapped in the back of the garage.
Experts recommend you turn the car off before you close the garage doors. In fact, it’s a good habit to leave the doors open for several minutes after you turn off your car. Sure, we’re all in a hurry to get inside our homes and relax, but allowing time for harmful gases to be blown away is a good idea.
If you are still concerned about exhaust fumes, consider installing either a fan to blow them out the door or an exhaust fan (like in a bathroom) to suck them up and vent them out of the garage.
Here’s an interesting website on the safety of bedrooms above garages.
Do Planning Laws Allow You To Build a Bedroom Above Your Garage?
Got FROGS? A F.R.O.G. is a finished room over (a) garage, and it’s one of the best ways to add space and value to a home.
Frogs are not new, so building codes have written plenty of safety rules for you. Before you begin planning your FROG, check your local building codes, zoning ordinances, and with your HOA.
Double-check for home height restrictions. Also, if your garage is detached, it will be changing status to “dwelling unit”, so there could be restrictions on property lines that it didn’t have before. If the bedroom is above a detached garage, you will also have to consider exterior or interior stairs.
There are special fire safety restrictions for building rooms above a garage. Let’s face it, garages are ranked #1 as places where a fire can start inside our homes. We store a bunch of flammable stuff in our garages, including our cars.
Fire safety rules say that for an attached garage, the walls between the home and the garage should be made from a 5/8″ thick, fire safe drywall known as Type X.
If you are adding a room above a garage, then the ceiling of the garage should also be finished with Type X drywall. All holes in the drywall, like for light or electrical boxes, should be sealed tightly. The insulation you use should be as fireproof as possible.
Is it Structurally Safe To Build a Bedroom Over a Garage?
Before building over a garage, a structural engineer will have to look at your design and your garage. They will decide whether the garage has a strong enough cement foundation and whether the walls were built strong enough to bear the weight of a room.
Be prepared for the engineer to check the thickness of the foundation with several holes, unless you know for certain how thick it is.
Two-car garages can be pretty huge. If you are planning to make one room above the garage, it will be pretty huge, too. Be sure that the floor of the new room is stiff and strong. Building experts say that you may need a steel beam or sister joists, to help stiffen the original floor joists.
Will The Sound of The Garage Door Opening Be Noisy in Our Bedroom?
Yes. Very likely, you will hear the sound of the garage door opener’s motor, installed some inches under your feet. Insulation will help a lot, but not totally.
If you are a DIY type, there’s plenty of advice out there on how to cut down on the noise of a garage door opener, like on this website. Tightening loose bolts, replacing old steel rollers with nylon-covered ones, and lubricating squeaky springs routinely will help.
In the worst-case scenario, you may have to replace your old opener with a new model. New models have quieter motors and some have replaced the old steel belt with a rubber one that cuts down on the noise.
But before you replace that old noisy opener, consider that there could be an upside. For some, it’s comforting to know when other family members are home safe.
Are Garage Ceilings Insulated? (Making Our Bedroom Hot in Summer & Cold in Winter)
Many garage ceilings are not insulated. Check out yours. Can you see beams in the ceiling or is there drywall? If you have drywall on the ceiling of your garage, then chances are you also have insulation.
Let’s say you have insulation. Is your garage heated or cooled? Most garages aren’t, (which is why you need to be careful locating your firearms safe in the garage). All that hot or cold air in the space below your bedroom will affect your bedroom temperature. Insulating your bedroom from all that space is challenging but it can be done.
If you already have a FROG, then chances are your garage ceiling is insulated. If you are having hot/cold problems in the FROG room, then consider some insulation retrofitting. Often, batted insulation starts its life well but sags with time.
If batts of insulation aren’t in contact with the surface they are supposed to be insulating (like the floor of your bedroom), then the R factor goes down considerably. Consider taking down the drywall on your garage ceiling and adding to or replacing the old pink fiberglass batts.
Check out spray-on foam insulation. Spray-on insulation won’t sag with time. It will also act as a seal between the bedroom and the garage from fumes. And, it’s a better sound proofer.
If you are thinking about adding a room above your garage, here’s an interesting video about how to prevent the very hot/very cold problem with upgraded insulation and ventilation.
So it turns out our neighbors have made a great investment by building their FROG! (Perhaps that’s why we’re ‘green’ with envy?!).
Not only will their new bedroom over the garage give them a lovely new living space – but by adding one they’ve raised the value of their property too.
What’s not to like? Perhaps it’s time to build a FROG of our own? Ribbit!