A recent survey found that nearly half of Britons do not use their garage to store their car. Rather, it is estimated the majority of garages store stuff with a total worth of £8 billion pounds. The average family stores items worth nearly £2,000 in their garage. All this is dead space which you can convert into valuable, usable space.
This garage conversion guide answers some of the most common questions many homeowners have when it comes to garage conversions. You will also learn about some mistakes to avoid and how to make the conversion an easy and hassle-free process.
Garage conversions and the planning process
Oxford is a historical place and you will find many of the properties in the area fall under some type of listing. This is a very delicate subject when it comes to building and construction work.
Most garage conversions fall within permitted development rights, meaning you will not need to apply for planning permission to convert your garage. While this may be true for most homeowners, there are special cases to keep in mind before you embark on a conversion project.
For example, if you live within a conservation area, certain restrictions may prevent a garage conversion without going through the planning process. Also, if the garage is a listed building then you will need full planning permission before proceeding.
Examples of conservation areas within Oxford City include the following:
- North Oxford Victorian Suburb
- Old Headington
- Old Marston
- Osney Town
- St Clement’s and Iffley Road
- Temple Cowley
- Walton Manor
So, if you live within one of the areas above, you will likely need planning permission for a garage conversion so it’s always a good idea to speak to the council planning team.
What are Planning Conditions?
Some building projects come with planning conditions which restricts the use of certain aspects of a building. A garage with planning conditions may stipulate that the garage has to remain as parking. In this instance, you will need to apply for permission to remove these conditions.
Should I Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate?
A Lawful Development Certificate is a legal document which states that past, present or future use of a building is lawful. This is an important document if you plan on selling your home or remortgaging after your garage conversion. Although it is not essential if your conversion falls under permitted development rights, it can make the difference between a sale going ahead or falling through.
Garage Conversion costs? Is it Expensive?
The cost of a garage conversion project will vary depending on the type of project. The standard conversion of an integrated garage will set you back in the region of £8,000, at a breakdown of £400-£640/m².
You should view this as an investment as this is often just a fraction of the lift in value you will give to your house on completion.
Here are some of the things which may add to the cost of the overall building project:
- Reinforcing building foundations, walls and floors
- Raising the ceiling height to allow a headroom of between 2.2m and 2.4m
- Architect and design fees
- Planning costs or the Lawful Development Certificate
- The services of a structural engineer
Is a garage conversion a worthy investment after all? If you consider the new living space you will be able to create and the uplift in house value, it’s an investment worth making.
D.I.Y or Professional Garage Conversion Design
Popular house renovation and housebuilding TV programs over the years have made self-builds something of an in-thing. However, far from the lights of camera crews and overnight fame often lies hard graft and sometimes anguish.
Taking the D.I.Y approach to garage conversions can spell disaster if you do not enlist the help of recommended builders. When it comes to the design of your conversion, you have a couple of choices depending on how complex the project is:
- Local experienced builder – most seasoned builders have done garage conversions in one form or another over the years.
- Do it yourself – if you feel you have the skills and desire to take on a garage conversion project then this is always an option. However, it is often the case that you need a build quality only a professional can offer.
- Architect – this option will add to the overall project cost but an architectural designer will bring ideas and expertise you wouldn’t think of on your own. Design fees will vary but you can expect to pay anything from £1,000 to £3,000 plus.
- Garage conversion specialists – these companies specialise in garage conversions and will often offer a full package from design to build. They can often offer support with planning and building control issues too.
Having a designer to help with a complex garage conversion is a wise move. Firstly, you’ll often get a design that is compliant with the planning process and building regs. Secondly, a great design coupled with an experienced build team will ensure the end product is of great quality too.
Why Do I Need Building Regulations Approval for my Garage Conversion?
Building Regulations Approval is required for most building projects which have a structural impact on the existing structure. If you’re converting a garage to create a habitable space such as a new bedroom or kitchen extension, then your project will fall under Building Regulations.
There are two ways to ensure your new garage conversion satisfies the requirements of Building Regulations:
- Building Notice
- Full Plans Application
Your builder (yourself if it’s a d.i.y project) will notify your local council of the conversion. You builder can then proceed with the build but it becomes their responsibility to ensure building control requirements are met.
Full Plans Application
A full plans application is perfect for larger conversions and involves submitting an application with all plans and drawings to the local council. The advantage of this approach is that you will know before construction starts if the design meets Building Regulations.
The local authority (Oxfordshire County Council) will assign a building inspector who will inspect and sign off each inspection stage of the building process. The inspector will issue a Certificate of Completion when all the work is done. This is an essential document should you wish to sell or remortgage your house and should be kept safely with any other planning documents.
Garage Conversions Foundations and Insulation
Assessing the foundations of a garage before going ahead with a garage conversion is a critical step that can mean the success or failure of the build.
The conversion will often involve removing the old garage door, adding an infill wall and inserting a window. These features will require adequate foundations.
Digging an inspection pit or boring a core hole will allow you to check if the foundations are at least 200mm deep. If this is the case then you can go ahead and build an infill wall on this foundation.
In the event that the existing garage foundations fall short, you can solve the problem using one of two methods:
- Dig a 1m footing wall and fill it with concrete then build a wall on top
- Add a 140mm x 100mm concrete lintel below ground level on both sides to support the infill wall
Getting the foundations right is the first step in creating the additional space you desire for your family. Next, make sure the walls, floors and roof have adequate insulation.
Areas to Consider for Insulation
Adding insulation to a garage conversion will make it an energy-efficient, warm and comfortable living space. External wall insulation, although it may seem like an ideal way to maximise internal space, is not a recommended solution.
Using insulated plasterboard, however, is simple and effective. The plasterboard is fixed to timber battens with a damp proof course between the external wall and the battens. This may also be the time to consider fire protection and so insulation can be placed between the battens then fixing fireproof plasterboard to the battens.
Generally, most garages have uninsulated floors because of their main purpose of storage. For a converted living space however, the cold hard floor of a garage is hardly a welcoming space.
Here are a few options to consider if you want to create a warm and welcoming room:
- Since most garage floors are lower than the floor level for the main house, you can add insulation as you build the floor up to match the level of the main house. However, if the floors are level you may have to dig out the floor before making it good with a damp proof course, insulation and new floor.
- Create a concrete floor by laying insulation boards on the existing garage floor then adding a thin layer of screed to form the final floor surface.
Plumbing and Electrical Wiring Considerations for Garage Conversions
Getting hot and cold water to your extension, as well as providing heating during the cold months is something to think about during the planning stage. Are you going to install a new boiler to self-contain the heating system? Perhaps consider electric underfloor heating?
You will need to think of the following:
- Survey the existing wiring and plumbing to assess your needs for the future conversion
- Identify any pipes or wires which run along or within the walls, you will knock through to open up space
- Consider if the wiring in the garage is adequate for additional load or will you require a new mains supply
- Find the main drains for water and soil if your plan is to turn the garage into an annexe with its own toilet
As you can already see, a garage conversion can easily become a major undertaking needing careful planning to prevent ever-increasing costs. Partnering with a local and experienced builder in Oxford like Lynch Brother Homes gives you peace of mind and a quality conversion to look forward to.
Insulating the Roof
The most common roof types for garages are pitched roofs and flat roofs. Garages are often cold and draughty spaces and so roof insulation goes a long way to a warmer garage conversion.
Fibreglass quilt is a popular choice among builders for applying insulation to a pitched roof. The insulation panels are applied above and underneath the joists.
Flat roofs are a more common occurrence on garages and it is essential to check the integrity of the roof structure before going ahead. Water should not be pooling on the existing roof and there should be no leaks.
As skilled builders in Oxford, we are able to recommend the best insulating materials for the job, depending on the design and intended purpose of the garage conversion.
Reasons to Pick a Professional Builder for a Garage Conversion?
You may have dreams of a warm and cosy garage conversion and while that’s achievable with the right planning and construction process, there are some downsides to it all.
- Firstly, converting a garage and integrating it into the main house will involve a level of disruption to daily life. Unless it’s a self-contained unit (e.g. turning a garage into a bedroom), the work will often render another room unusable during the building work.
- Secondly, as the homeowner, the legal implications of the conversion falls on your shoulders. Complying with building regulations and any planning processes remains your responsibility.
Now let’s get to the fun bit. At Lynch Brother Homes we’ve been building new homes and converting garages for years. We can take on the responsibility of ensuring your conversion complies with all the legal requirements, giving you peace of mind while we take on all aspect of the construction to your new space.
The home of your dreams is within reach and it’s just a simple phone call away. We hope this garage conversion guide has given you some ideas of how you can add value to your home with a garage conversion in Oxford.