When you need more living space in your home, converting your garage into a room can be attractive.
Although costs will vary based on your location and specific plans, a garage remodel will generally cost about half of what you’d expect to spend when building a home addition from scratch.
However, there are many things to consider before beginning a project like this.
Converting a garage into a living space is a big job that includes raising the floor, insulating the walls, adding heating, cooling and ventilation, and updating doors and windows.
Before you begin a garage makeover, take the time to consider all aspects of the project. Garage storage wall hooks should form part of any garage makeover as they provide a clean and really easy way to lift anything from your garage floor and have it accessible via your garage wall.
What Is A Garage Conversion?
A garage conversion is a process of turning a home’s garage into more living space.
A garage can improve the resale value of your home, but it involves time, energy, and planning.
In general, converting your home’s garage is cheaper and easier than building an entirely new addition.
Garages are often converted into home offices, playrooms, art studios, gyms, or family rooms.
Factors like home storage, parking availability, and permits often come into consideration before beginning this process.
A permit may be needed to convert a garage to a livable space, which requires the homeowner to work with an architect to apply for a license from the local authorities.
So, Where Do I Start?
The first step in the process is to decide on the purpose of the new room.
Will it be a bedroom, study or perhaps a media room? Is there enough available space to achieve the desired purpose?
Do I Need A Permit To Convert My Garage?
Converting a garage into living space may require a permit to ensure that your new living space complies with local building codes.
For instance, you may be required to have windows in your new living space, which many garages do not have.
Your neighbourhood may also have restrictions around covered or off-street parking, in which case you may need to keep your garage as a carport.
A garage is a Class 10a building and is considered a non-habitable structure set out in the Building Code of Australia (“BCA”).
Converting a garage to a habitable room is a reclassification to Class 1a. Therefore, it will require a Development Application and Approval from your local Council before the commencement of any work.
What Are The Main Factors I Need To Take Into Consideration?
Ceiling height is a crucial factor in meeting the BCA requirements of a habitable room.
The minimum ceiling height for a garage is just 2.1m, whilst your new habitable room needs to have a ceiling height of at least 2.4m.
In situations where the ceiling height is less than 2.4m, raising the roof is often the only option as the concrete slab of a garage floor can be both costly and challenging to remove.
Garage walls are typically single brick and will need to be sealed using a waterproof membrane or waterproof paint to reduce the likelihood of rising damp.
The addition of a stud wall can act as housing for the electrics and insulation. This can then be finished with plasterboard and your paint colour of choice.
If the concrete slab has not been built by residential slab BCA standards, the entire area beneath the concrete slab must be treated with a termite management system.
Variations apply to the National BCA termite risk management provisions throughout Australia, so you will need to check the requirements of your State.
There must be evidence of a waterproof membrane beneath the slab. If not, you will need to waterproof the slab using one of the many commercial products available for this purpose.
These can be rolled or brushed on and prevent moisture from entering the room from the ground up.
Details of compliance with the energy efficiency provisions of the BCA must be submitted as part of your Development Application or Application for Consent.
In NSW, this is The Building Sustainability Index (BASIX), and in other Australian states, it is the Nationwide House Energy Rating System (NatHERS).
These schemes aim to determine a building’s thermal comfort and the need to heat or cool the building to keep the occupants comfortable.
Replacement of the existing garage door with a large window will ensure the room benefits from plenty of natural light and meets the requirements of the BCA.
The room must have a window opening with an area, which is 10% of the floor area of the new space.
A licenced plumber or electrician must carry out all plumbing and electrical work.
They can provide you with the necessary Certificates of Compliance. If the room is to be used as a bedroom, a smoke alarm must be installed in that room.
Quite often, the fall of a driveway is on a slant with rainwater running into a drain at the end of the driveway and in front of the garage door.
This should be addressed during your design process to ensure rainwater is diverted away from the habitable space.
As the garage can no longer house your car, some states require that an additional on-site parking spot be available to replace the now-defunct garage parking.
Pros And Cons Of Garage Conversions
Converting a garage requires more consideration than refinishing a basement because significant downsides balance out the positives.
With the basement remodel, you can hardly go wrong with elevating an unusable dark space into one that is light-filled and usable.
A garage is different, though. With the garage, you trade out a usable space for one or several things for a room for just one thing—living space.
At best, this becomes a one-for-one trade. At worst, you devalue your house.
Additionally, garage conversions are more work than they may appear. Homeowners may plunge into a garage conversion based on the belief that little more is required than adding a few lights and flooring.
On the contrary, garage conversions are costly, extensive, time-extended projects that are not entirely on building a new addition but close to it.
Potential Advantages To Converting A Garage
Here is an overview of some of the possible advantages of a converted garage.
It can be done economically.
You can convert a garage to a living space for around half the cost of adding a whole new addition to your home. You may even be able to handle many of the renovations on your own with little help from contractors.
It can add resale value.
Home appraisals often use square feet as a factor in determining the property value, so the extra space can potentially increase the resale value of your home.
You’re working off of an existing structure.
One of the most significant benefits of converting your garage is working with an existing structure. Depending on the condition of your garage, things like foundation, drywall, and insulation may already be established.
Potential Disadvantages To Converting A Garage?
Here is an overview of some of the potential disadvantages of converting a garage.
It may increase your property taxes.
In municipalities that use a home’s livable square footage to determine its property taxes, a home addition will increase the amount you pay in property taxes.
Loss of parking and storage space.
Losing a spot for your car may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can reduce the value of your house if you live in a densely populated area.
Street parking can even require permits and may be less secure than indoor parking.
If you plan to remodel a two-car garage, consider only renovating half of the space to maintain one parking spot.
Removing the garage may make the home harder to sell.
There is a possibility that a home with no garage will be more challenging to sell, even if the extended living space can add value to the house.
This is an essential element to consider for people who plan to sell their homes shortly.
Zoning and Legal Issues
Changing space meant for vehicles into habitable, safe, and conditioned living rooms invokes legal and zoning issues.
Each garage must go through a significant legal transformation when it becomes a habitable and new conditioned space.
One determiner used by some municipalities is whether or not adequate provisions are being made to replace the parking stalls eliminated from the garage.
The transformation from a garage to a conditioned space requires the garage to meet technical and legal standards that were not needed when the area only housed vehicles or acted as a storage area.
On top of that, most municipalities’ building codes require a range of permits for the activities associated with this conversion:
- Erecting or moving walls
- Running water supply or drainage
- Running sewer line
- Adding windows
- Installing a complete electrical system
Due to the rise of short-term house rentals, many municipalities have begun to look more critically at garage conversions—even if the area will not be rented out on the short-term market.
Garage Conversion Basics
If you look at your garage as an unfinished house shell, you’ll begin to understand the possibilities for garage conversions.
A house shell already has a concrete slab, walls and a roof, as does your garage. To make them habitable, you now need to add:
- Internal cladding
- A ceiling
- Heating and cooling
To make your converted garage more comfortable, you’ll also probably need more windows, and you’ll want to replace your garage door with an entry door and fill in space around the door with panelling or glass.
You might also want to paint the exterior of the garage and disguise the driveway. The addition of some pavers and a few pot plants might be all you need to accomplish this.
Do You Need Planning Permission?
Since you’re converting a non-habitable space into a habitable space, you will need to get a building permit for your garage conversion.
An architect or building designer can tell you if your garage is suitable for conversion and the requirements. These may include:
- Ceiling height of at least 2.4 metres, which may involve structural changes
- The concrete slab must be waterproof, termite resistant and perfectly level when using certain garage floor coverings.
- Walls must be waterproofed and insulated.
- Windows must cover an area at least 10% the size of the floor area.
- Divisions within 900mm of property boundaries must be fire-rated, limiting the location of windows and doors.
Many local councils across Australia require that a home has covered parking, so a garage conversion might not be possible unless you have a second garage or add a carport first.
Popular Garage Conversion Ideas Australia
Before you set about converting your garage, you need a clear idea of what you want to do with space, as certain types of rooms have specific requirements.
Bedrooms, rumpus rooms and offices all likely require more electricity than your garage currently uses. You’ll need to hire a licensed electrician to organise this.
A kitchen extension or bathroom will require electricity as well as plumbing, so you’ll also need to consult a plumber.
If you plan to convert a garage to a granny flat, this can have even more requirements as it will comply with local council regulations for granny flats.
The main difference between a spare bedroom and a granny flat is that a granny flat needs to be a fully self-contained dwelling, so you will also need to install plumbing for a bathroom and cooking area. In addition, in NSW, the home will need to be certified for energy efficiency.
If your garage isn’t large enough for what you want to achieve, you may have to extend the garage first. Garage Storage Solutions features an innovative wall storage system with heavy-duty sliding wall components such as hooks, garage shelving and stylish, durable steel cabinets designed to hold your gear securely and neatly in place.
How Much Does A Garage Conversion Cost?
By some estimates, a garage conversion can set you back $10,000 to $40,000, depending on its inclusions, but that is still much less than a home addition would cost.
Depending on the current status of your garage, you may need to provide drainage and make sure the cement floor can’t get wet. If your garage does not offer 2.4 metres of interior height, you may have to modify the roof to get council approval.
Roof modifications and the inclusion of electrical and plumbing fixtures, if needed, will add significantly to the cost. However, it will still be below the price of a home extension or similar new structure.
How To Make A Garage Conversion A Comfortable Space
Insulate The Walls
Most garage walls and ceilings are not insulated. Therefore, drywall, if already installed, must be removed, and insulation should be installed.
Use conventional fibreglass roll insulation, Rockwool, or spray foam insulation for the walls. Use fibreglass batts for the ceiling.
Raise The Floor Height
Garages tend to be built lower than the house. While not necessary, you’re home benefits if you match flooring heights by adding sleepers to elevate the floor covering above the concrete garage floor.
Install Floor Covering
Even if you do add sleepers to raise the floor, you still will need a bed covering. Laminate flooring, engineered wood, tile, and luxury vinyl plank flooring are popular choices for garage conversions.
Install New Drywall Or Finish Existing Drywall
Garages are usually installed with non-finish-quality walls. If the walls are insulated, you can keep the existing drywall but bring the finish up to higher standards.
Replace Or Insulate The Garage Door
Should you leave the garage door in place or replace it with a wall? If you keep it, you should insulate the door. This is one central question you will need to address before converting the garage into a living space.
Hide Unsightly Areas
Non-load-bearing walls should be added around areas you do not wish to see, such as the water heater, furnace, laundry area, or storage.
- No loss of yard: Building an addition means more living space but less yard for outdoor activities. Expanding into the garage preserves yard space.
- The structure already built: Much of the system (walls, ceiling, roof, and flooring) is already in place.
- Doing it yourself: Though difficult, a quality garage conversion can be done on a do-it-yourself basis. Building a detached addition is rarely done without professional help.
- Loss of storage: Many people use their garage for storage. Even if you think getting rid of this extra space is a good idea, future buyers of your home may disagree.
- Parking space: Removing the cars from the garage may flout local requirements for on-site parking spaces.
- No value gain: A garage conversion rarely will increase the property value. Many buyers place a premium on a protected parking space, which is lost with a garage conversion.
Can I Do My Garage Conversion?
A garage conversion is a full-scale renovation.
If you have time and the necessary skills, you can apply for an owner-builder licence and do some of the work yourself, but you’ll still need to hire licensed tradies for many jobs.
To ensure your garage renovation goes smoothly, the project should be carried out by a licensed building renovation specialist with experience in garage conversions.
If you’re thinking of converting your garage into a granny flat, choose a specialist granny flat builder to ensure your conversion adheres to all council regulations regarding granny flats.
Garage Conversion Alternatives
If parking or zoning restrictions mean a garage conversion isn’t a feasible way to give yourself some additional living space, consider a different renovation to add a room to your home.
A Basement Remodel.
You’re still working with an existing structure, so you’ll still save money. However, converting your basement will mean potentially giving up even more storage space than converting your garage.
An Attic Conversion.
If zoning or building codes prevent you from converting your garage, check out your attic. There, you’ll have the ability to add ceiling height if needed while still saving money by working in an existing space.
Ready To Start Your Garage Remodel?
Before making a final call, consult with contractors and other professionals to determine whether a garage conversion is the best way to accomplish your space-enhancing goals efficiently, safely and with the value of your home intact. Are you getting frustrated by your clutter and garage organisation? Here at Garage Storage Solutions, we offer extensive professional organising and declutter service.