However, where VAT is still applicable even for
new build within an existing residential curtilage, the conversion route
is often still less expensive. This can also have the added benefit
of retaining the sites character and charm where as a complete new build
can often stand out like a sore thumb.
Garage conversions are a case in point.
Converting a domestic garage (normally integral or attached to the
main dwelling) is a growing trend that I cannot see declining in the coming
Peoples desire for additional living space is
by far more important than the the requirement to store a motor car or general
household storage which is more often the case.
WIth the general superior build quality of most
modern day cars the need for undercover parking in order that they start
in the morning has now diminished. This combined with the relative
cheapness of cars makes that valuable garage area look very under
Off road car parking is till very important
but a physical building to store it in overnight in is not.
So what are the issues relating to converting
an existing garage into habitable room space? Well firstly, most garage
conversions do not require the benefit of a separate Planning Approval unless
there is a condition on the original Planning Approval restricting the garages
use. Always check with your Local Planning Authority first but in most cases
specific Planning Approval should not be required (subject to conditions
and Planning criteria).
If the garage is to become a useful additional
to the main dwelling then it should ideally be converted in a way that makes
it hard for the 'lay person' to tell that the space was originally a
This means that the new room (previous garage)
should be preferably accessed off the main hall way, have follow through
floor levels (rather than step downs), have similar floor to ceiling levels,
have all the meter services relocated to outside meter boxes, be centrally
heated, thermally upgraded for the floor walls, and ceilings, and have a
quality in-fill construction for the old garage door opening. Most
of these items are covered within the Building Regulations for which the
conversion must comply also to.
As a guide, a good single garage conversion
incorporating these element will be in the order of £15 to £20K.
Cheaper conversions can be achieved but they will always feel like
a 'converted garage' and may not add the full value to a property.
If the converted garage can only be accessed
off another room such as the living room or kitchen, they can still perform
a useful functioning extra room but they may not have the flexibility of
use compared to access form a common circulation area.
So what are the typical uses for garage conversions?
The most common use is for a study area whether it be for the business
dealings of the parent working from home or the children having a dedicated
place to study homework outside of their bedroom which is not very
Another common use is for a ground floor
bedroom for an elderly relative or even a son or daughter unable to purchase
a property but now requiring some extra space for a baby for example.
Separate dining rooms are now a thing of
the past really but if the garage adjoins the usual 3M x 2M developer designed
pokey kitchen then by knocking through into the garage area often creates
a great full sized family kitchen/eating area that is so much in demand these
these days (the Jamie Oliver effect).
When should a conversion be avoided? - generally
if the garage is detached or some distance away from the main dwelling. Also,
if the loss of a car parking space within the garage means that the property
is unable to park at least 2 cars unless your have adequate on road parking
available right outside the property.
Future trends for new build? - Even the
Planning policy design guidance is now erring away from dedicated garages
for densely populated developments preferring to have the space released
for extra habitable rooms. A dedicated off road car paring space or
two in the open is now preferred over garages - Planners also realise that
most garages are not used for the storage of cars so they are now doing something
To emphasis the point further, we have never yet
been asked to convert a habitable room into a garage space but we are asked
several times a year to complete the opposite. I am sure in London
and such places such 'reversionary garage' schemes have been completed
but this is certainly not typical when compared to the larger picture of
what the current development trends are.
Return to main Planning
Our 'Maximum Build
Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved when
converting existing structures and what areas can be exploited for
developing land, buildings or a site for residential use.