Garage conversion: ultimate guide to costing and planning

November 8, 2019

Garage conversions are an increasingly popular way to improve your home. With space at a premium, and house extensions expensive, it is eminently sensible to make the most of the space you already have. And while turning an existing integral (one that forms part of the ground floor footprint) garage into a new room needs both careful consideration and significant building work, the results could transform your home on a relatively modest budget.

Garage conversion ideas

Typically, converting an integral garage opens up space around 3m wide by 4-5m deep. Even better, most modern home layouts place the garage on the opposite side to the main living spaces but next to a utility, so using the garage as living space can transform the layout of the ground floor, making it feel even bigger than the space you’ve gained. Space is commonly used for three main functions:

Downstairs bedroom

As a nation of homeowners, we’re moving less and living longer – so our homes have to change with us. For people getting into their later years, a downstairs bedroom can be the difference between staying in the home or having to move out, and so many people decide to convert their garage into a bedroom. It’s worth noting that, of course, you don’t have to convert the whole space into a bedroom – you can easily apportion 3-4m2 for an en suite to enable you to live entirely off the ground floor.

Home office

More and more people are working at home either through their own company or for employers embracing the flexible working revolution. A dedicated home office space is essential (especially for those with younger children), and it’s not always possible to use a spare bedroom for this purpose. A ground floor home office, overlooking the front of the house, can be a clever base for a home office set up – you can even install a dedicated entrance if you’re running a business from home and have clients visit. As the garage space is largely separate from the living areas in the rest of the house, it’s a good solution for a private, quiet, comfortable work-from-home facility.

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Additional living or dining spaces

As more and more of our homes have combined kitchen and dining spaces, or living spaces that open onto the kitchen, a converted garage offers a great opportunity to create a dedicated, enclosed living space. This could be used as a child’s playroom or study, or a dining room, or even a cosy snug – the opportunities are vast.

How do you convert a garage?

Converting a garage will involve a range of different jobs to bring it up to livable standards. Your work will be subject to building regulations, and you will need to attain a completion certificate for the work – this can be issued by your local authority or a private approved inspector. Contact them before work commences.

garage conversion

An ideal garage for conversion

The critical structural jobs are all factors of the reduced specification of the garage as opposed to the rest of the house. Walls in an integral garage are likely to be double-skin blockwork with a cavity, but it’s unlikely this cavity will have been insulated. If the garage is attached (e.g. a single storey structure on the side of the house) it’s likely that the external walls will only be single skin blockwork. Essentially, in either case, the walls will need to be made structurally sound and be insulated to the same standards as the rest of the house. This will depend on the circumstances but may well involve improvements to the existing foundations.

The floor of the garage will be below that of the rest of the house which, given that it will need insulating is a bonus. You’ll need to add sufficient insulation and a damp proof membrane (DPM) before you lay the final finished floor.

The garage door will need to be removed, and the front wall filled in (with the same improvements to structure and energy efficiency). Most people opt for a bay window (often to attempt to match the one on the other side of the front door) but it may well be worth thinking about something a bit more ‘designed’ to get round potential privacy issues. A tall, narrow ‘slit’ window will bring in sufficient light but mean that you don’t have to worry about feeling a bit exposed to the street.

The garage would have minimal electrical provision (usually enough for a fluorescent strip light and some sockets) and no heating or water. This will clearly need to be addressed depending on the future use of the room. There are, of course, additional elements of the job, from plastering through to decorating and joinery. The internal door from the garage into the house (utility or kitchen) will have been a 30-minute rated fire door – as the garage is becoming regular living space, this can be turned back into a standard door.

What are the pros and cons of a garage conversion?

Pros:

  • Cheaper than an extension to create additional living space.
  • Helps to balance the layout of the ground floor.

Cons:

  • Rooms can often feel a bit narrow.
  • getting the design of the new front wall right can be tricky.

Do I need planning permission for my garage conversion?

Planning permission is not typically required to convert your garage into a habitable room as the project is classed as permitted development. If in any doubt, check with your local authority.

Who should I contact for a garage conversion?

A competent main contractor is the best person to get your garage conversion project off on the right track. There are a lot of different trades to co-ordinate in fairly short order, and in most cases, homeowners struggle to have the trade contacts to deliver a smooth programme of works. The work is likely to take in the region of 2 – 4 weeks.

Garage conversion cost guide

It will cost in the region of £4, 000 – £7,000 to convert an integrated garage into a habitable room. This cost accounts for the (new and remedial) structural work, as well as the new electrics and plumbing, runs as required. The conversion of a garage into a kitchen or partly into a bathroom will add to the costs (allow £2,000 for the bathroom; the cost of a new kitchen varies massively, but most people spend around £10,000).

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