By Martin Meaks, Planning Permission Tips UK
Most conversion works to an existing structure is often more expensive than having it knocked down & rebuilt. The main reason for this is the VAT element that is exempt for new dwellings. There have been numerous examples where extensive extension & conversion work has proved more expensive than rebuilding the scheme a-fresh from the ground up.
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 & 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 years.
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 used.
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 & 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 garage.
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, & ceilings, & 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 £12 to £20K. Cheaper conversions can be achieved but they will always feel like a ‘converted garage’ & 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 desirable.
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 about it.
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 & 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.