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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 £15 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
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
Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved
when converting existing structures & what areas can be exploited for
developing land, buildings or a site for residential use. Obtain planning
permission with our guide.
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