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Garage Conversions: Good Idea or Terrible Mistake?

The garage is often the most underused space in our homes. Originally garages were intended for storing cars, but over the years garages attached to modern homes have shrunk to such an extent that a large percentage are too small for even compact cars. As a result, garages tend to become the dumping ground for a vast range of miscellaneous items: bicycles, gym equipment, gardening equipment, DIY junk, and anything else that doesn’t have a home, including spiders.

But there is another way. Garages can be converted into useful living spaces that enhance the rest of the property instead of becoming a graveyard for unwanted board games and half used tins of paint. Imagine how much more useful your garage would be if it was transformed into a study, kids’ play room, or even teenager’s annexe. So what do you need to consider before starting a garage conversion?

Change of Use Application

Simple garage conversions will only need a wall and window/door in place of the existing garage door. However, since a garage is not designed as a living space, in order to turn it into one, you will need to apply for Buildings Regulations approval since you are changing its use. You may also need to build extra foundations or add lintels to support the new structures.

Is Planning Permission Necessary?

Unless the existing structure is altered, planning permission won’t be necessary. However, if your home is a listed building or the garage is a stand-alone structure, planning permission may be needed from your local planning department, even if you are only making a few very minor alterations. As such, it is always sensible to check with the local planning officer before doing anything – and make sure you ask for written confirmation.

Building Regulations require that a room created from a garage must have adequate ventilation and an escape route in the event of a fire. Infill walls will also be subject to Building Regulations to ensure adequate foundations are in place. Once the conversion has been completed, the building inspector will come and inspect the work before he issues a certificate of completion. For this reason, it is a good idea to employ a reputable contractor rather than attempt to do the work yourself (unless you are suitably qualified of course). Without a certificate of completion, you will run into serious problems if you try and sell the property at a later date, as your buyer’s solicitor is likely to start asking difficult questions about the change of use of the garage. 

Create a Lovely Living Space

Before starting a garage conversion, think about what you want to do with the space. Where will access from the main house be? What about lighting, damp proofing and ventilation? At the very least the new space will require a window large enough to escape through. The new space will also need extra insulation, and if you want to sub-divide the space into two rooms, you will need to construct a new block or stud wall. Additional wiring and plumbing will also be required – can your central heating boiler cope with the extra load of a new vertical radiator (or two)?

Loss of Use

One important thing to consider when planning a garage conversion is that the creation of a new living space will entail the loss of a large storage space. Do you have somewhere else to keep your bicycles, DIY equipment and a whole host of other junk?

You should bear all of these things in mind before making a final decision. Although a garage conversion is always going to be cheaper than moving to a bigger property, don’t forget to factor in all of the less obvious costs such as a new central heating boiler, new flooring, plus a new shed for all of your items.