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How should I go about converting my garage into a living space?

Property Clinic: How should I start the project and what should I consider before I begin?

I’m looking to convert my cavity-block garage into a living space and I’m trying to decide what the next steps are. Can you give me some advice as to how I should start the project and any considerations I should think about before I begin?

Working from home has made us all look at where and how we live. The desire for a quiet working space in the home and the need to get the work laptop off the kitchen table has led to an increase in demand for attic and garage conversions. The split between work time and private time is more easily managed when a particular space is allocated as a home office. The conversion of a garage is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way of creating additional habitable space in your home. However, there are many things to consider before embarking on such a project.

The conversion of an attached garage is typically an exempt development, meaning planning permission is not required, but make sure the additional floor space to be achieved is counted together with any previous extensions or conversions. The entire must not exceed 40sq m (431sq ft).

The replacement of the external garage door and alterations to the front facade will need to be in keeping with the existing external wall finishes.


The garage floor is unlikely to contain insulation, or a damp-proof membrane and the opportunity should be taken to remove the existing floor to allow the introduction of these elements. There is typically a step down into the garage internally and the level of the new floor can be raised to eliminate this.

The external walls will need to be dry lined and internal walls plastered. The rest of your house is also likely to have cavity blocks so this external wall construction should not present any significant issue. Joinery such as skirtings, window boards and the like will be required. The electrical and heating installations will need to be extended into the new area. Permanent ventilation will also be needed in the form of a wall vent. Ideally, this should be humidity controlled.

If space allows, a small toilet could also make a great addition to the house. If there is an attic over the garage this may not be insulated, and this will need to be addressed.

Integral garages can allow draughts. The conversion should eliminate these, and you should notice an improvement in internal comfort immediately.

Even the smallest project can throw up unforeseen obstacles. It is important to have the guidance of a professional. Your local chartered building surveyor would be happy to inspect your home and advise about the best route forward and also if any permits are required.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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