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How to convert your garage into a liveable space

October 15, 2020

Who doesn't want more room in their home? With housing prices across the country increasing, many people are looking for ways to create extra space within their current home.

Lately, we have received many enquiries from people about changing the use of a non-habitable room in their home into another habitable room.

The most popular request we get is to convert a garage to a home office, bedroom or rumpus room. Converting a garage is usually cheaper than a full-scale renovation allowing you to add more living space to your home without extending the floorplan. Not only is it more cost effective, but it can add more value to your home... if you do it right.

There are some things you need to think about before you get started.

What is a habitable room?

First, it's important to know what defines a habitable room according to the National Construction Code - Building Code of Australia (NCC-BCA).

"Habitable room means a room used for normal domestic activities, and— (a) includes a bedroom, living room, lounge room, music room, television room, kitchen, dining room, sewing room, study, playroom, family room, home theatre and sunroom; but (b) excludes a bathroom, laundry, water closet, pantry, walk-in wardrobe, corridor, hallway, lobby, photographic darkroom, clothes-drying room, and other spaces of a specialised nature occupied neither frequently nor for extended periods."

Do I need a DA to convert my garage?

The short answer is yes you will need a building permit.

A garage is considered a non-habitable structure which is a Class 10a building. Popping a bed in the garage to make it a bedroom does not change the classification to habitable. The requirements for building a garage are not as strict as the requirements for the rest of the house.

To convert the garage into a living space, you will need approval from the local Council with a DA or Complying Development Certificate. Converting a garage into a room without following the regulations is not only illegal, but also can pose health and safety risks to the occupant of the room.

7 things that will affect how much it costs to convert your garage

  1. Ceiling height - Ensure you have a minimum of 2.4 metres from the floor to ceiling height. Garage regulations have a minimum of 2.1 metre ceiling height. This may mean you need to lift the roof to comply.
  2. Windows - Habitable rooms must have access to sufficient natural lighting and ventilation to the outside. The minimum size of the opening must be 10% of the floor area of the room to follow regulations.
  3. Flooring - To comply with the regulations and building code for the space to be habitable, the area must have a termite management system and a waterproof membrane beneath the concrete slab. Another consideration with a garage is: what has been spilt on the floor. Petrol and oil spills soak into slabs over years and these chemicals could potentially cause a health risk in your new space.
  4. Walls - Most garage walls are constructed using single brick. To avoid rising damp in this space, you will need to apply a waterproof membrane or create a cavity with a secondary wall.
  5. Energy rating - You will want to think about how to make this room comfortable with heating and cooling. Garages don't normally have the same insulation as the rest of your home. Adequate walls and ceiling insulation will be needed to meet minimum thermal ratings for BASIX.
  6. Drainage - Often the fall of the 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.
  7. Exterior - Many converted garages look and feel like garages that just have some furniture moved into them. You might want to think about how the new space integrates into the overall look of the house externally perhaps by replacing the garage door with windows or a solid wall.

These are just a few starter points to think about. If you are thinking of a home renovation project, contact us to discuss the options for how to convert your garage as well as the cost to convert your garage to a liveable space. We can work with you from concept, through design to construction giving you exactly what suits you and your home.