This article about garage conversions was written by Erin Delahunty and first appeared in www.realestate.com.au. To read the original piece, click here.
The simple answer is no, because under Australia’s national construction code, a garage isn’t built as a “habitable” area, but rather to house vehicles.
This doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t be converted into a bedroom.
Why can’t I rent out the garage as a bedroom?
Mark Deacon, director of Superdraft, a national design practice which employs architects and building designers, says that because a garage is designed and built to house vehicles, it isn’t suitable for living in.
He says several things make a garage “uninhabitable”, including the following:
- Waterproofing might be inadequate
- Concrete flooring may not be adequately waterproofed
- Termite treatment may be required
- Ceiling heights may not be adequate
- It may not meet energy efficiency requirements
Can a garage be converted into a bedroom?
Deacon says there is a lot of interest in garage-to-bedroom conversions in his design practice and it can almost always be done, depending on budget.
Generally speaking, to make the transition, owners have to look at the following:
- Adequate waterproofing
- Adequate termite treatment
- Meeting energy efficiency rules
- All the requirements under the national construction code relating to the roof, walls and so on
The change also requires permission from the local council.
“Classified as a Class 10a building under the Building Code of Australia (BCA), your garage is classed as a non-habitable structure,” says Deacon.
“A garage conversion involves the reclassification of a 10a building to a 1a building, meaning you need to apply and acquire a development approval from your local council. Without it, you can’t start any building works.”
It’s best to hire a designer who will know the ins and outs of such a big job.
Converting a garage into a bedroom – factors to consider
If you’ve got your heart set on converting your garage into another bedroom, then there are a few things you need to consider before even speaking to a builder.
To make a room habitable, the minimum BCA requirements must be met and ceiling height is a key consideration, Deacon says.
The minimum ceiling height for a garage is 2.1 metres, while livable areas need a ceiling height that’s at least 2.4 metres high, so that means most garage conversions require raising the roof.
Lifting the roof is generally much more affordable than removing and replacing an existing concrete slab.
The floor is another key thing to consider because under the building requirements, the area beneath a concrete slab must be treated with a termite management system and there must be a waterproof membrane beneath the concrete slab.
These two areas need to be addressed.
Most garage walls are made from single bricks, that aren’t completely sealed.
“If your garage is like this, you’ll need to seal yours using a waterproof paint or membrane. Sealing reduces the likelihood of rising moisture levels,” says Deacon.
A stud wall for electrical wiring and insulation will also need to be added, before finishing it with plasterboard and paint.
“Make sure your building designer or draftsman completely details how your plan is compliant with the energy-efficiency provisions of the building code before you submit your development application to the local council for approval,” Deacon says.
Provisions vary in every state. In NSW, there is the Building Sustainability Index report, while other states follow the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme.
It’s a given when converting a garage that the doors are removed and replaced with a wall and windows, Deacon says.
This upgrade must meet the requirements set by the BCA. The window must also be 10 per cent the size of the floor area of the new room.
Water pipes and electrical wires
When adding water pipes and electrical wires, only work with a licensed plumber or electrician, as they provide the necessary Certificates of Compliance, Deacon says.
And don’t forget to install a smoke alarm if it will be used as a bedroom.
“In most cases, rainwater runs in front of the garage door. You must divert rainwater away from here and you must indicate the steps how in your plans,” Deacon says.