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All you need to know about warehouse renovation

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renovating a warehouse

Renovated warehouses are popular home choices in Australia. Many Australians favour warehouses for their large exposed spaces. High ceilings, concrete floors, and exposed brick walls serve as a blank canvas for a multitude of modern design possibilities. As with building shipping container homes, however, warehouse renovation serves its own set of challenges. Warehouses with their towering ceilings are typically not conducive to effective cooling and heating, and their industrial feel can be a challenge to soften into a warm and welcoming home.

There is a lot of work involved in renovating warehouses. Here are some ideas on where to start your warehouse renovation project.

Take Care of Legalities

Zoning and housing laws govern how you can use a property, so the first thing you need to do is check if local laws allow the conversion of a warehouse to a residential property. Check online if your local council allows such conversions. You can also talk to a local council clerk or representative if you have follow-up questions in mind.

There are also codes governing building codes meaning residential and commercial buildings have different structural requirements. There are also local regulations about water and electrical lines as well as entry and exit points. Be sure to check the requirements for residential properties to ensure that you can renovate the warehouse into a residential property.  

warehouse renovation planning

Prepare for Expenses

Many make the mistake of assuming that renovating a warehouse is more affordable than starting from scratch. This is not always the case. The work required for remodelling a warehouse can be so extensive that homeowners end up having to spend more on labour costs.

To have an idea of the extent of work required…

Consult an Expert

Professional building designers have a realistic understanding of the work required for renovating warehouses. Seek their advice on what needs to be done to prepare the warehouse for habitation. Ask as well for help with layout design, whether it is best to utilise an open-plan layout or divide the space. Keep in mind that an open-plan layout can provide more functional space, but dividing the space can be beneficial for managing heating and cooling.

Employing a professional with experience in renovating warehouses can help make the most out of the structure’s potential.

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Manage the Prep Work

Preparing the warehouse for habitation is critical to the renovation. It is important to manage this preparation during the early stages of the project. Work may include installing proper thermal and acoustic insulation, properly placing a window system, sealing gaps for waterproofing and thermal efficiency, getting working plumbing in place, and inspecting the warehouse for structural issues.

Take Care of Health and Safety Issues

Your family’s health and safety matter, and you need to ensure that the warehouse you’re renovating is fit for residential use. Conduct research about the history of the warehouse to give you a better idea of what kind of items the previous owners stored. You can check with local health and safety inspectors to learn more about the steps you need to conduct to ensure that the warehouse won’t pose any danger to your family.

Prioritise Your Preferences

At the end of the day, the product of the renovation needs to suit your taste and your lifestyle. Talk to a building designer about what you want to see, if your preferences are possible, and be able to create the right  design that is centred on your needs.

warehouse with living area
image: Maira Acayaba

Areas that require renovations

  • Roof – the warehouse roof is one of the most crucial parts and requires your attention during renovations. Warehouse roofs are industrial, and you might want to renovate them into something more fitting for residential use. You have the option to keep the roof as it is if you want an industrial appeal to your home but be sure to check the roof for leaks and damages that you need to repair during renovations
  • Ceiling – the ceiling of the warehouse is another area you need to focus on during renovations. You can keep the exposed beams of the warehouse if you’re going for an industrial design, but you should have a contractor install a ceiling if you want to turn the warehouse into something more homely.

Most warehouses have minimal insulation that may not be enough for your family. A ceiling can help provide an additional insulation layer, especially if you plan to turn your warehouse into a loft-type house.

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  • Plumbing – the plumbing needs of a warehouse and a house are different, so it makes sense to include plumbing into your list of renovations. If you want to save money, have your architect put all rooms that require plumbing, like bathrooms and the kitchen, on one end of the warehouse. This will help you avoid the problem of installing new plumbing in different parts of the warehouse.

It is also best to get help about ensuring that you have residential rates, not just for your water bill but for your electric consumption. Warehouses pay commercial water rates, so you need to change it to apply for residential water rates to save money.

  • Exteriors – warehouses often have drab and unassuming exteriors, so renovations can make your warehouse look more of a residential unit. If you have a warehouse that’s been out of use for a long time, then repainting the exteriors is a cost-effective way of giving it new life. You can also have an architect design exterior touches to soften its industrial look, like wood panels, natural stone or brick accents.

Warehouses also have large parking areas, and you can convert them into yards or gardens, but this can be challenging if the entire parking area is concrete. A simple solution is to use potted plants for your garden so there won’t be a need to remove all the concrete to make way for your garden. If you want to expose some parts for a more natural-looking garden or yard, you can hire a professional landscape designer to help you during renovations.

  • Floors – due to the number of goods, products, and foot traffic warehouses endure, their floors often require renovations because of cracks or chips. A building design expert can help you ensure that your floors are suitable for your family. Ask for an opinion on the type of flooring materials suitable for your family’s needs and the overall house design you have in mind. Be sure to disclose to your contractor your budget for renovations so they can recommend flooring material options that are durable and will fit into your budget.
  • HVAC – warehouses have industrial heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that are costly to maintain and operate, so you might want to replace them with something suitable for home use. If the warehouse you’re converting is large, you can request a design with independent HVAC systems per room. This is more cost-effective than a centralised HVAC system because heating or cooling an entire warehouse will consume a lot of electricity.

Improving the insulation of the warehouse can also help you improve the heating and cooling system of your home. You can replace windows with double-glazed panels to improve the insulation and noise-dampening capabilities of your home. You can also install motorised skylights to let cool air and natural light in.

image: Stacey Keck

Warehouse renovation ideas

Loft-type

Warehouses are excellent choices for loft-type homes because of their high ceilings. You can build all the common areas on the warehouse’s ground floor while reserving the loft for bedrooms. It will be best to consult with an architect or a building designer to develop a design that’s functional yet easy to execute. A designer can also help you plan the efficient placement of plumbing fixtures to help you maximise your budget.

Airbnb

If you have a large warehouse, you can convert a portion of it into an Airbnb rental while reserving the rest for your family’s use. Old warehouses have a certain charm that can attract vacationers and help you earn a bit of extra on the side.

Be sure to consult your local council to ensure you’re allowed to convert your warehouse into a mixed-use building. They can also give you an idea of regulations you need to follow and the permits you need to obtain if you want to rent out a portion of your home.

Conclusion

Warehouses are excellent investments if you want a unique home for your family. Aside from its looks, it can also be cost-effective because you already have a foundation in place and all it needs are minor renovations to make them fit for your family to live in.

Our building designers all over Australia can help with renovating existing structures into comfortable homes. Talk to us about your next building project. Find warehouse designers all over Australia.

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