Progress: Breezeway to Mudroom Conversion (Part 3)

8 min read Turning your breezeway into a mudroom is a great way to connect your garage and house. This kind of breezeway to mudroom transition is perfect for many mid-century ranch houses with detached or semi-detached garages. Here’s what I’m doing!

Two weeks ago, when I posted about installing my DIY windows,  I promised I’d talk about what’s going on behind that pretty cedar wall.  Here’s the progress update  on my journey to transform a useless breezeway into a practical mudroom with some bonus garage storage! 

I’ll go over not only WHAT I’ve been doing but also WHY it is important and HOW you can start thinking about the same solutions for your home.

Framing The Issue (pun intended)

One problem many midcentury house have is lack of connection to their garages.

If your ranch was built in the 1950s, you may have a detached garage or, like me, you may have a garage that SEEMS attached to the house, while there is no way to get from the house to the garage without going outside.

By the 1960’s builder had figured out that people really liked to go straight from the car to the kitchen, especially here in the Midwest.  

Many homeowners with 1950’s ranches are going to have this dettached garage problem.  You may have a garage set off from the house in the back yard.  Other homes in my area have a garage that shares a wall with the house but doesn’t have a connecting door.  My house was separated from its garage by a 6-foot wide breezeway.

Here’s an example of a house VERY similar to mine but with two bedrooms and a slightly different house/breezeway/garage arrangement. See how well this one flows?

With an 8′ wide area only 16 feet long this breezeway works like a little outdoor room, not a dark wind tunnel. Also it CONNECTS THE HOUSE AND GARAGE with aligned doors. Well played, National Plan Service!

1952 National Plan Service - the Bergis - a two bedroom ranch with attach garage: plan and rendering

While some breezeway connections are good, like this adorable one above … Mine didn’t work. I knew I needed to fix this problem.

Getting lucky with my house!

When I decided to connect my house and garage, I knew I was already in luck.  The house and garage were already linked by a shared concrete foundation and roof.  

I didn’t even need to get zoning department approval to make my changes.  

Some neighbors with similar layouts have simply enclosed their breezeways into screened porches and then cut a door from the garage into that space.  

Thats a great, lightweight and DIY-able solution.  For the cost of a new door, a few 2x4s for wall framing and some sturdy screen you can have a three season room that:

  1. connects the house and garage
  2. is more fun to hang out in 
  3. can semi-securely hold your outdoor gear (boots, coats etc)

HOWEVER if you live in the midwest you know that keeping your snow boots outside the door makes for some very cold feet in the morning.  That’s not the BEST solution. I found a breezeway to mudroom change to be essential to my plans!

Here’s the original layout of the house

floor plan of the house before the breezeway to mudroom conversion

While fixing my De-Attached Garage Problem, I could achieve three goals:

  • connect the house and garage
  • create a mudroom space to corral clutter
  • win space for a laundry area on the main level

If your garage or back yard connects straight to your kitchen you know why I did this!  

Both my front entry and kitchen doors open straight into practical working rooms with very little extra storage areas.  With the best of intentions I am always cluttering up the entry way with coats, boots, hats, bags and dog paraphernalia.   

Like many people, I need a mudroom to take the pressure off the existing kitchen.

Here’s the planned future layout:

What a breezeway to mudroom conversion requires:

This post won’t cover the fun stuff you see on Pinterest: how to decorate your laundry area or the perfect mudroom boot storage solutions!  Those come later. 

Today I’m going to talk about the structural bones of the project.  

I had to do three things to make this mudroom into a real part of the house:

Get to Level

I wanted this new mudroom to connect to the kitchen through an open door way.  This meant I needed to insulate the heck out of the space AND make sure it was level with the kitchen floor.  

The concrete floor of the breezeway was 8” lower than the kitchen (at the door) and then sloped away front and back.  I needed to create a new raised floor at the level of the kitchen.  

(When I redo the kitchen I’ll use the same flooring material over both spaces.)

Wrap up Warm

I also needed to wrap the space in warm walls and ceiling.  I don’t plan to get an HVAC contractor to come out and add any extra duct work to the house to heat this space.  It may get a small electric base board heater but mostly its going to share the air with the furnace system that already heats and cools the rest of the house.  It is important that this small addition take as little extra energy as possible!

The new mudroom’s three walls will actually be much better insulated against cold and heat than the rest of the house  – because energy codes have become much more stringent.  This little space will hold its heat (or cool) without being an energy liability to the rest of the house!  

Build a Firewall

Did you know that people used to be afraid that parking a car in their garage might set their house on fire!

This fear goes back as far as the early days of cars.  My parents used to live in a house built in the 1920’s.  It actually had a garage attached to its basement but we didn’t park a car in it because it seemed to be sized for the original Model T. 

You could tell that the early twentieth century builder assumed people would be afraid of car-related hazards.  The garage itself is a concrete bunker and it connects to the basement through a bank-vault style steel door that took a counterweight to open!  

Guess what? 

People are still afraid that their cars might combust or that the fumes from the chemicals and fuel we keep in our garages might be a danger to the house.  And that’s smart.  Cars and chemicals do pose a potential threat.

Fortunately we can mitigate that with a firewall – not one to prevent computer viruses – the old fashioned kind.  The old school fire wall is just a wall designed to slow down a fire.  Thicker drywall and specially rated doors to connect the two spaces keep houses safe!

Breezeway to Mudroom Progress so far:

  • I have removed the siding from the garage and existing house wall.  
  • I then added new floor joists that spanned from the house structure to the garage wall.  This worked a lot like building a deck.  I bolted a ledge to the rim joist of the house and then ran new 2×6 joists across to the garage wall 6’ away.  
  • Then I insulated the heck out of the floor cavity with a combination of rigid and batt insulation.  I built a slant-shaped sandwich of layers of rigid insulation along the concrete floor.  It varies in depth from 1” to 3” depending on how far the concrete was from the leveled joists above.  I taped a continuous bottom layer for a good air seal.  Then I filled the cavities with R-19 batts.  
  • Then my pop put another sandwich of batt insulation and rigid foam sheets into the attic area.  (In the future I will actually furr down the ceiling to add in another layer of batt insulation.  This needs to be R-49.)
  • I glued and screwed down the sub floor and it was time to build in the end walls.  

Lets look at it step by step!

I cut and (carefully) removed siding

After I’d closed off both ends of the breezeway, I removed the siding on most of the wall between the breezeway and garage. I pulled out three vertical studs to form the step up access between the old garage area and the new extra garage space annex .

Then I started off my house-side demo.

I had to begin with a bit of electrical work, removing and wiring off the so-called outdoor safe outlet that had been in the breezeway. The thing was pretty jenky so I was very glad to see it go. Also, pulling out its box gave me a chance to peek into the wall and learn that I had batt insulation in my walls. News to me!

After that I got out the circular saw and ran a line up the siding just deep enough to cut the boards at the transition point between future mudroom and future back yard sheltered access. I clipped a nail!

I had a moment of panic when I discovered this fiberboard and wondered if it might be laced with toxic asbestos fibers but a bit of internet research allayed most of my fears so I set in with a crow bar to pull it all off.

Look! Old fashioned batt insulation!

I framed the floor

I attached the ledger for the new framed floor directly to the rim joist of the house and then sistered it to the existing studs of the garage. Roxie kept a sharp eye on the process from inside the kitchen!

Insulated it, and laid the subfloor

Since the floor was so variable I used a combination of rigid insulation sheets against the concrete and batt insulation between the joists. It should be well above code and already feels warm to the foot compared to the frigid concrete one step down!

Then framed and sheathed the new end walls

There’s a little more done now than this shot implies. I have the rigid insulation on the walls and the attic is insulated but by that point it was pretty late in the year.  I have doors ready to install and the insulation attached to the walls but … it is pretty cold to keep working outside

Where I am now 

 I don’t yet have the fabulous mud room that I’ll be enjoying later this spring but I already have an attached garage with a practical enclosed vestibule to come and go through for the winter.  

On this super-snowy day, I am already SO GRATEFUL to be able to park in the garage and run Roxie straight into the house on the way to and from the dog park!  

Tell me what you think!

What’s your garage situation?  Attached or detached.  Do you have a breezeway? Are you considering a breezeway to mudroom remodeling project? 

Let me know in the comments!