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Finished vs Unfinished Garage Value – Is It Worth Finishing Your Garage?

A collage of finished and unfinished garages.

Last summer, we decided to finish our previously unfinished garage. We started with an unfinished, rather dirty, hard to clean area. But it was good for working out, washing the dogs, doing small build projects- even with the limited tools we have on hand- and best of all, it was not a space we ever had to worry about.

By the end of the project, we had ended up engaging with more professional contractors than we expected- which means unexpected costs. Now, we have to treat the space with more care. It’s no longer the catch-all area it used to be.

If I want to work on a project that creates a lot of smoke, or that might damage the walls, I generally have to take it outside now. Also, washing the dogs in there is no longer an option.

On the upside, it now has potential as a block-party-compatible game room. We might set up a sports TV room in there. We might also just use it to bring in the SUV when the heavy winter snow comes down- or a little bit of both.

So, there are advantages, clearly. However, we can’t say conclusively that we wouldn’t have liked to use the money we spent on a Caribbean vacation.

Here, we’re going to go over the pros and cons of a finished garage versus an unfinished garage. We’ll cover the costs, the time it took, what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, and some recommendations.

We go into a bit of detail on all of the potential options you may be considering. If you’re pressed for time, you’ll find a full cost breakdown for each type of finished garage at the end of the article. You’re welcome.

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Finished vs Unfinished Garage: Pros & Cons

A look at an empty garage with roll-up garage doors, white walls and white ceiling.

In case you’re a complete newb, it’s a good idea to explain exactly what finished and unfinished garages are.

What Is a Finished Garage?

A finished garage is one that has drywall covering the beams and gaps. It may or may not have insulation and electrical work. Sometimes we refer to a finished garage as a converted garage.

This generally means that space has been optimized for a specific purpose. Our game room sports TV room, and car park ideas are good examples of converted garage options.

If we wanted to turn it into a full sensory assault arcade, then the electric work would be configured differently than if we set up an entertainment system on one side of the room. That is unless you’re okay running extension cords around and covering them with a rug.

What Is an Unfinished Garage?

An unfinished garage is simply a garage that has no drywall covering the beams and whatever might be in between them.

An unfinished garage might have some electrical work. In fact, if you’ve ever had to do any work on electrical components of a house then you know that not having any drywall up would make things a heck of a lot easier.

While it is unusual, I’m told, an unfinished garage can have insulation. But the means to secure such insulation would probably look pretty unprofessional.

The Cost of Finishing an Unfinished Garage

A look at an unfinished two-car garage with roll-up garage doors.

In order to finish your garage, you’ve first got to decide just how finished you want it to be. That is to say, do you want just plain drywall to cover the beams and spaces, or do you want electrical work, electrical outlets, insulation, do you hope to set up a particular arrangement, do you want to drywall the ceiling, and do you want to paint?

If you only want to cover the beams, you’ve got a pretty simple job ahead of you. This is also the least expensive option. In most locations, drywall costs about $12 for a 4 by 8-foot panel.

For our garage, we needed roughly eight of these panels, which cost just over $90. That’s pretty cheap. Of course, you also need tape, drywall screws, and maybe some putty, which will drive the cost to around $120 at most. That’s still pretty affordable for most people, and from what we can tell, that’s about average at this level.

Of course, you probably want to include the ceiling, which should add at least an additional four panels on average, which will add an additional $50 to include tape, screws, and putty. So a full basic finish job done DIY might cost around $200, minimum.

If you have space above the ceiling beams, leaving them open might be a good option before you decide what to do with the space.

Now, if you can manage to install the drywall yourself, then you’ve hit the top mark for your project costs. Installing drywall may be one of the easiest things you can do in terms of home improvement. But there is some skill involved.

In almost every case, you will need at least two people, both of whom are strong enough and capable enough to move the drywall, position it, and secure it in place without causing it to crumble.

If you don’t have a team of at least two people with some rudimentary construction knowledge, and the back muscle to lift sheets of drywall safely – then you’ll have to hire a contractor.

If you hire a contractor to do a job of this size, you can expect to pay between $200 and $300. If you are not up to the job, this is well worth the cost.

Someone who is totally new to this kind of work is almost sure to damage at least half of the drywall to the point that it needs to be replaced. Hiring a contractor ensures that it gets done right the first time – and if it isn’t, you have some recourse.

Here’s the breakdown, based on a small to a medium-sized garage;

  • DIY Drywall Only Finishing: $150 to $300
  • Contractor Drywall Only Finishing: $300 to $500

What About Electrical Work, Appliances, Paint, & Flooring?

A bright spacious garage with white walls, white ceiling and gray flooring.

Few people would be interested in a garage that doesn’t have any electrical assets in it. At the very least, you need just one light attached to the ceiling. Since it’s unlikely that you’re going to do the electrical work yourself if you’re reading an article like this- we may as well assume you’re going to hire a contractor.

Competent electricians are well trained and experienced. Their expertise and their labor are valuable. Small jobs will cost you anywhere between $150 and $500. Since the smallest job is the installation of a single electrical outlet, we can say that assembling a simple car parking spot will run you at least, $300.

If you’re looking to set up a game room, or some other sort of hang out spot, you’re going to need lighting, and at least enough outlets to support three items equal to a large appliance. That drives the minimum cost up to $700 to $800.

There is the possibility that you may choose to install your electrical work without the drywall. This might not look amazing, but it is going to be quite a bit cheaper, and if the electrics ever need work (and they will, this is the real world, remember), then the wires and boxes will be easy to get to. That will cut down on future electrician services, should you require them.

So now, let’s break down some estimates for these different jobs. We’ll list them according to some of the different types of configurations that we considered.

Keep in mind that we’re including supples on top of labor in our estimates. We’re also assuming that you’re not going to do your electrical work yourself.

  • Simple Car Park – No Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlet: $150 to $300
  • Basic Entertainment Room – No Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlets: $200 to $500
  • Multi-Asset Game Room – No Drywall w/ 2 to 4 Outlets: $350 to $650

Now, not a lot of folks are going to want all of what we’ve listed above, are they? We thought it would be useful to the absolute penny pinchers out there. We know you’re out there. 

Most people are going to want to have their finished garages actually finished, especially if you’re going to be spending time relaxing or playing in there.

So that brings us back to the level of a basic game room or multi-asset game room, plus drywall, which should look something like this;

  • Basic Entertainment Room – With Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlets: $350 to $800
  • Multi-Asset Game Room – With Drywall w/ 2 to 4 Outlets: $700 to $1150

How Much for the Whole Shebang? (Full Garage Finishing)

A close look at a spacious empty garage with finished floor, walls and ceiling.

If you care about your garage enough to consider finishing it out, there are a few assumptions we can make. You may have bought your home as a fixer-upper. You may have built it as part of an urbanization project and stopped finish work at the garage to save time and money.

Whatever the case is, now you’ve decided that you want a garage that doesn’t make you feel like some kind of spartan hermit every time you walk through it. You want a garage that justifies the additional cost per square footage to the overall price of your home. You want a space that’s useful and aesthetically pleasing.

This means you are going to install insulation, electrical components, drywall, some floor tile, and possibly even an upgrade for your garage door.

If you have an unfinished garage with one of those flip-up doors that you have to raise by hand, you’re almost certain to want something better. So, let’s start there.

A quality garage door, without the automatic opening system, will cost between $490 to $2,000. A garage door opener costs between $220 and $600. If you want it to open at the push of a button, you’re also going to have to add one additional electrical outlet, which adds $150 to the total equation.

Here’s a breakdown on doors;

  • Basic Manual Door: $500 to $2000
  • Automatic Door: $900 to $2,750

If you’re feeling a bit hot under the wallet at this point, remember, you don’t have to do all of this at once. You can assemble your custom finished garage in installments. Adding just one piece each summer can make the cost of setting up your new garage digs feel like a gentle breeze blowing softly through your bank account.

Finally, we should consider the flooring. The average cost to fully floor-finish a room is $1,000 to $4,000. Since we can expect to use inexpensive tile or a simple coat of sealant – your garage flooring costs can be rounded down to 0 to 0.

Now for you speed readers out there, the full cost-list breakdown;

  • DIY Drywall Only Finishing: $150 to $300
  • Contractor Drywall Only Finishing: $300 to $500
  • Simple Car Park – No Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlet: $150 to $300
  • Basic Entertainment Room – No Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlets: $200 to $500
  • Multi-Asset Game Room – No Drywall w/ 2 to 4 Outlets: $350 to $650
  • Basic Entertainment Room – With Drywall w/ 1 to 2 Outlets: $350 to $800
  • Multi-Asset Game Room – With Drywall w/ 2 to 4 Outlets: $700 to $1150
  • Basic Manual Door: $500 to $2000
  • Automatic Door: $900 to $2,750
  • The Full SheBang: $1,350 to $2,300
  • Add $300 to $800 for flooring
  • Add $350 to $850 for paint

Final Thoughts

That should give you some things to consider while you’re hammering out what your budget can handle. If you’re feeling a bit light on garage money, remember, you can still have a lot of fun with a minimally finished space.

Also, if your working on a tight budget but can’t live without a fully finished, multi electrical asset garage with flooring and paint, remember that you can take it in phases. If a bit of home improvement work is your idea of a good time, then your garage project can be a fun summer project spread out over the next few years!