Converting a garage into a living space

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.

NZ house that may benefit from a house extension
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 or sleep-out 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?

Under the requirements of the Building Act (2004), a change of use of all or part of a building requires notice in writing to council to determine if you need a building consent. Whilst converting a garage into an additional room or sleep-out is not considered a change of use and in theory will not require consent, it must still meet the standards of the NZ Building Code with regards to a habitable room. As a result, you may need consent to carry out the compliance work to meet the building code performance standards. A garage is a Class 7.0 domestic outbuilding and is considered a non-habitable structure. Converting it into a habitable room is a reclassification to Class 2.0.
If you intend to convert your garage into a second dwelling, being a self contained unit with it’s own kitchen and bathroom, then you will need both building consent for the building works and resource consent which relates to the use of the land. More importantly, if you live in and around Auckland, you must first determine your residential zone and the rules on how land in that zone can be used and how many dwellings can be on any one site.
The Unitary Plan sets out a future plan for development, expanding boundaries and intensification of housing in and around Auckland and has been established to manage how the City and it’s surrounding areas grow in future years.
If you refer to the Auckland Council web site and access the GIS viewer, you can search on a residential address and see the details of your zone. If you are still unsure of what you can do within your zone, take your proposal to a town planner for professional advice and options to suit your situation. If your proposal doesn’t meet the requirements of your zone, then you cannot proceed with the building work. It is absolutely essential to determine your zone and what you can and can’t do before you invest time and money into the proposed building project.

What are the main factors I need to take into consideration to meet the Building Code requirements?

Durability - That the materials used will remain functional for the specified intended life of the building.

Fire Safety - That fire safety measures are addressed to ensure safe escape from fire including the installation of a smoke alarm.

Sanitation - Adequate and safe provision of sanitary fixtures and services, such as gas, electricity and water.

Energy Efficiency - humidity, ventilation, hot water and artificial lighting.

Moisture Control – effects of surface and penetrating water.

Ceiling height - is a key factor in meeting the requirements of a habitable room. The minimum ceiling height from finished floor to finished ceiling is 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.

A garage floor – is usually a reinforced concrete slab. To make the room habitable, 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.

Electrical work - needs to be carried out by a registered electrician. They can provide you with the necessary Certificate of Compliance for any fixed wiring work.

Replacement of the existing garage door - with a large window will ensure the room benefits from plenty of natural light and creates visual awareness of the outside for the occupants. Clause G7 of the Building Act sets out natural light or lux requirements. This can be measured with a lux meter.
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 the design process to ensure rainwater is diverted away from the habitable space.
As the garage can no longer house your car, you may be required to create an additional on-site parking spot to replace the now defunct garage parking.
If you would like to discuss a garage conversion or any other renovation ideas, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.

You might be interested in reading about our How much does a garage conversion cost?

See our New Zealand garage conversion projects here.

Garage Conversion in Queenstown

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If you would like to discuss home renovation options for your next renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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