An introduction to garage conversions

The garage. Many of us have one but are you really using it to its full potential? Few people use their garages to store their cars anymore, so what do you use yours for?

A store room? A place to put things you no longer use, or is it just a dark, damp and neglected space?

Garage conversions are a cost effective solution to help you transform an otherwise unused space into a warm, welcoming and inviting extension of your home.

If carried out by experienced contractors, garage conversions not only expand the floor space of your home, but they can also increase its value and much more.

Planning and Building Regulations

Although garage conversions are relatively straightforward building projects, planning and building regulations still need to be taken into consideration.

As garages are an existing structure, either linked to or fully attached to your existing home most of the work carried out will involve interior alterations. Work such as this is usually classed as a permitted development. Under permitted development rules, it means that you don’t need formal planning permission to change its use from a garage to a living space. If your plans are complex or something out of the ordinary is always worth checking with your local planning department if you are not sure.

Some modern houses have been built with restrictive covenants attached. If this applies, rules could be in place that say the space has to be kept for parking. Where these covenants exist, you will need to make an application for them to be discharged and you may need formal planning permission to change its use.

In terms of building regulations, garage conversions will almost always be subject to them. For simple conversion projects you can start within 48 hours of notifying the relevant authority. However, if the project is more complex you may decide to have full plans drawn up. You’ll then know that any work carried out will be in line with the plans and meet building regulations.

As well as the structural integrity of the conversion, other areas that will be approved by building regulations include ventilation, insulation, damp proofing and energy performance as well as fire safety, pluming and electrics.

Project Management

Before the conversion project can start the shell of the garage will need some work to make it weathertight, waterproof and sound resistant. Garages are often prone to leaks, so this is your first priority. Once you have the main structure of your garage prepared it’s time to start putting together the basic elements of your conversion to ensure that it meets building regulations. This will involve:

  • Suitable ventilation for a living space
  • Insulation
  • Prevention against damp and moisture
  • Ensuring that the shell of the garage is structurally sound
  • Fireproofing and sound proofing

If you are working with a good builder, they will be able to advise on each of these areas and scope out exactly what’s needed to project manage the entire conversion from start to finish.

The cost of converting your garage is one of the cheapest building projects because there isn’t any extensive structural work, the existing structure is already there. There will be some alterations to make depending on what you want to use the garage space for including:

windows-and-doors

Windows and Doors

Perhaps the biggest structural alteration that you will need to make is removing the garage door and putting something there in its place. Do you want to include a single composite, hardwood or UPVC door, will you need a window, or would you prefer a combination of the two? Whatever you decide, you may need some brickwork around the window and/or door. The way that you incorporate windows and doors into the new garage space will make it look more like an extension of the main house rather than a garage.
garage-roof

The Roof

Most garages have a flat roof which can be prone to leaks and water damage. Is the existing roof in good repair or will it need replacing as part of the conversion? Fibreglass or rubber roofs have a longer life span than traditional felt roofing so factor this into your budget if your garage roof is in need of an overhaul.
flooring

Flooring

Garages are often dusty places with concrete floors. How will you cover the existing floor? Will you need to lay a new concrete floor before you can install the flooring of your choice? If you are going to create an adjoining door in the garage wall to the rest of your house, consider the floor level. Garage floors are often lower than the floor in your normal house so you may have to raise it, creating a shallow suspended timber floor to bring it up to the same height. Once you have decided on the right floor height you can then choose your flooring, whether it’s tiles, laminate, carpet or designer flooring such as Karndean or Moduleo.
stud-walls

Walls

Your garage conversion will start to take shape once the walls are prepared, making the garage look more like a room. This may involve boarding out the garage, installing the right grade of insulation and then plastering to make the structure suitable for a living space.
lighting

Utilities

One of the main things to think about with your garage conversion is the utilities. Heat, light, gas and water may be needed. If you are changing your garage to a kitchen and need a gas supply for a cooker you will have to factor in the extra gas work to your budget. You will also need electrical sockets and plumbing if you are installing a WC or washing facilities.

So now that you have a good idea about the building regulations and key elements of the build let’s take a look at some of the top ideas for a garage conversion.

#1 Living Room

If your house is starting to outgrow your family, moving can be a costly option making it something that you just can’t even consider. Converting your garage into the main living room or second living area can be a great idea. Maybe you want a separate lounge with a completely different look and feel to your main living room? Perfect for families the garage is a perfect place to accommodate your growing family.
living-room

#2 Kids Room or Playroom

Make the garage a new playroom for the kids or a leisure space for older children and teenagers. The room can be separate from the main house but close enough for you to keep an eye on your children whatever their age.
kids-playroom

#3 Office

More people than ever before are working from home, but in the family home there are so many distractions it can be difficult to concentrate. Perhaps you currently have a home office in a small bedroom upstairs or it’s tucked away in the corner of a dining room which isn’t great for your expanding business. Converting your garage into a practical home office not only makes you more efficient but it allows you to shut the door on work at the end of the day.
home-office

#4 Studio or Gym

Are you a personal trainer or a dance tutor who would like to run classes from your home? Or maybe you’re just a fitness enthusiast who needs some extra space for your gym equipment? The garage has so much potential. Transform it into your own state of the art home gym, create a functional dance studio or use it as a training space for clients. Garage conversions are also ideal for artists and other creative professionals who can use the space for artwork and storage.
gym

#5 Self Contained Living Accommodation

What better way to give guests a comfortable room when they come to visit than their very own guest room complete with shower room? As well as transforming your garage into a guestroom you could even go one step further and create a small, self contained living space perhaps for an elderly relative, so they have their own independence, but they are close by if they need any help. Guests will feel right at home with a well thought out garage conversion.
self-contained-living

#6 Dining Room or Kitchen

Opening up the garage and linking it with the main house can be a great use of the space if you want to create an open plan kitchen or dining area. Large, open plan homes are growing in popularity so make the most of the entire floor area of your home by incorporating your garage into the main house. You can move your existing kitchen entirely, freeing up that room for another use or you can use your existing kitchen and double its size by using the garage space.
kitchen

Converting your garage is a great way to maximise the potential of your home, make use of otherwise redundant space and create a functional room that can be used by the whole family.