Converting a garage into a living space in Australia

If you want to add more living space to your home without extending the floorplan, then you've thought about converting your garage into a living area. In this article, we will go through some of the key questions to ask before getting your hands dirty.

garage conversion in Australia
Article: Carol Watson

Have you ever considered converting your Garage into a liveable room to give you the extra space you need?
For most of us, buying a home is a dream come true and once the boxes are unpacked, we happily settle into furnishing and embellishing our very own little haven of comfort and homeliness. As time goes on, we typically grow in size. Our needs, wants and desires change and very often our little slice of paradise can’t keep up with our changing world. In this age of, discard and throw away what we no longer want, the obvious solution to a house you’ve outgrown, is to sell, move on and take the happy memories with you. But why not take a step back and look at what you have and invest some time and energy into rezoning, repurposing and reinventing your existing rooms and spaces and make them work for you?  Do you really need a garage that once housed the car, but is now full of stuff that you might one-day use?
Converting your garage into a liveable room will, not only add value to your home but will also go a long way towards meeting the demands of modern day living. We live in an age where a study, media room, games room, rumpus room or teenage retreat are now standard inclusions in the floor plans of most new builds.

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 building consent for the conversion work?

A garage is a Class 10a building and is considered a non-habitable structure as set out in the Building Code of Australia (“BCA”). Converting a garage to a habitable room is a reclassification to Class 1a and will therefore require a Development Application and Approval from your local Council before commencement of any work.

What are the main factors I need to take into consideration?

Ceiling height is a key 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 difficult 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 in accordance with residential slab BCA standards, then 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 will prevent moisture 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 buildings 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 meet the requirements of the BCA. The room must have a window opening that has an area, which is 10% of the floor area of the new room.
All plumbing and electrical work must be carried out by a licenced plumber or electrician. 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, it is a requirement of some States, that an additional on-site parking spot must be available to replace the now defunct garage parking.

You might be interested in reading about our How much does a house extension cost?

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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