Published Wednesday 6 February, 2013
With the global economy spiralling ever downwards many people are feeling the financial pinch, finding it progressively more difficult to cover general expenses - let alone the bigger ones. The problem is, people still need space - but moving home is expensive. The property market is stagnant, with people desperate to reap a good return on their investment.
So if you feel that you're outgrowing your home but you can't afford to buy a bigger one, what's the answer? The most sensible and realistic option to solve your space issues without having to dig too deep into your pocket is going down the home improvement route. Calling in a professional builder to convert your loft, cellar or garage can offer many potential benefits in terms of effort, time and price.
When considering a garage conversion, you may ask yourself whether you’ll miss the space for its intended purpose – but do you really use it? In reality, more and more people are using their garage as a dumping ground for peripheral junk rather than for parking their car. It used to be that the garage was deemed a safer place to store your car than on a drive or roadside, but with cars getting bigger and garages getting smaller, they are becoming more impractical and creating a higher level of risk for damage. Because of this, insurance companies are now charging increased premiums for garage-parked cars, rendering them no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Also, cars are much better built these days and don’t tend to suffer as they used to from exposure to the weather - another reason why people tend to use their garages as additional storage space.
Garage conversions are the most cost effective way of adding living space to your home. With prices for a conversion starting at just £4,500 including VAT, a garage conversion gives you more space per pound than any other type of improvement. Additionally, a garage conversion is quick to carry out, taking just 1 to 2 weeks in most cases, causing only brief disruption to your day-to-day life. Also, because the main structure is unaffected, there is minimal mess and disturbance while the work is being done.
Another fantastic benefit a garage conversion can offer is that, generally speaking, no planning permission is required. While building control approval is still needed, in most instances this can be obtained via a building notice which eliminates the need for bringing in an architect and the subsequent fees that this represents. It’s worth noting however, that if you're converting your garage in order to house a new kitchen, bathroom or the space is to be divided up, then a detailed drawing will probably make the conversion much easier for you and your builder. A ‘Part P’ electrician certificate will be required for your conversion but a Gas Safe certificate is only needed if there are any alterations being made to the Boiler or gas pipes.
The type of garage you have will dictate to some extent what you can use it for. A single garage is generally 14 or 15 m², and is the perfect size to accommodate a single room, such as a playroom, home office or study, kitchen or utility room, or a single bedroom. Sometimes an integral garage can be knocked through into the main house to make an existing room larger too.
A double garage is usually around 25 - 30 m² and gives you the option of converting the entire space or separating it into two separate sections and retaining one side as a garage space. Alternatively, you can convert the entire space and then divide this new area in two separate rooms for specific purposes, such as living space with storage attached, or a bedroom or kitchen with a bathroom or utility room attached. A tandem garage is much the same as a double garage, but lends itself more to being divided.
Detached garages present and altogether different picture; although these can often be converted, you will need to contact your local authority to check whether you need planning permission or to notify them of a change of use. The problem that can be inherent with detached garage conversions is sometimes the structure and foundations are not suitable-while this can be assessed by a professional builder, it's worth bearing in mind that rectification works can sometimes render the project uneconomical.
If you've decided that a garage conversion is the way forward, there are some other things that you'll need to think about before you go ahead. Firstly, it's essential that you check your property deeds; some properties (particularly new builds) have restrictions, clauses and covenants placed on future development work. Also, if your property is Leasehold rather than Freehold, you may well require permission from your landlord, so check this out before you proceed.
The next stage is working out exactly what you want to achieve from your conversion and the amount of money you have available to carry out the work. Do you require an extra bedroom for an expanding family, or do you want to use the space for a bigger kitchen, additional bathroom or utility space? If any of the latter three, you’ll need to think about drainage and plumbing.
When you're working out your budget, don’t forget to account for any heating and electrical requirements, as well as doors and windows - think about the size and styles that you prefer and don't forget internal doors either. Deciding on a layout and design can be difficult on your own, so it's worth calculating whether or not your budget can stretch to an architect’s help, as proper plans can really help with getting the project completed to your exact requirements.
Insulation is another consideration that you'll need to take pretty seriously - there's no point having a new living space if it's too cold to live in! Some walls may already be insulated, but solid walls will require thermally upgrading, as will the floor. Don't forget the void between the ceiling and the roof either - has this already got installation in place or do you need to budget for that too?
Finally and perhaps most importantly is finding the right builder to carry out the work on your garage conversion. Ask around for recommendations and make sure that you check the builder’s previous work and credentials before you sign any contracts or hand any money over. Our builders here at Dobson have been undertaking professional garage conversions in Leeds, Wakefield and across west Yorkshire for many years – so please feel free to contact us if you'd like to discuss a conversion.
All in all, a garage conversion can be an incredibly economical way to gain more space in your home while adding value to it at the same time. If you have any questions or would like any advice regarding your own garage conversion project, give us a ring on 0113 283 9710 or 01924 871044 for a friendly, no-obligation chat.
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Matt and his team completed a single storey kitchen extension which has given us a great family space and larger utility area. They were very professional throughout the project, considerate to us and our neighbours, ensuring minimal disruption. We would not hesitate to use them again or recommend to our friends. Thank you to all at Dobsons!