Garage Conversion Building Regulations

Written by lauren farrelly
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Garage Conversion Building Regulations
You can convert a garage into living quarters, but you must meet certain building codes. (brick garage image by Joann Cooper from Fotolia.com)

A conversion of a garage into living space is tricky depending on local building codes and regulations. This new living space is considered a change to the physical structure of the home, adding square footage to the overall home itself. Before starting any construction work, the property owners should file all permits and paperwork to avoid any delays or problems during construction.

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Foundations and Flooring

Depending on how the existing structure of the garage was originally created, a homeowner may need to make adjustments to the foundation itself to carry the load of new walls and the side wall that fills in the garage door hole. Pouring a new foundation isn't much of an option as it requires the homeowner to demolish nearly the entire garage and completely rebuild. However, a homeowner can install two pre-stressed concrete lintels from the footings of each pillar to provide the additional support needed. Another viable option is to install a steel cavity lintel with a minimum bearing of 6 inches on each side of the brickwork.

In addition, the floors of a garage are often lower than that of the physical house structure. A homeowner can decide to raise the flooring up so it is even with the rest of the house or leave the steps and keep the garage on a lower level. Typically when conversions are completed, the floor is raised and a damp-proof membrane is installed to protect against flooding or water seeping through the flooring. Between the foundation, damp-proof membrane and new flooring is a level of timber to give additional support to the new flooring.

Walls and Roofing

The exterior walls of the garage are often thinner than the rest of the house. Oftentimes, garages don't have insulation in the walls either. If the walls are thin, or strictly built out of brick or thin concrete, you must inspect them for overall stability. You must install additional insulation and sheet rock to make the walls and roof habitable. The roof of a garage is often open as well, with no insulation. Check this structure for stability, and seal it off with insulation and sheet rock to protect the new room from outside temperatures and elements. You might also need to replace any windows and doors that are currently in the garage to meet code requirements.

For specific requirements, check local building codes and regulations. These requirements often vary from state to state based on various weather conditions throughout the country.

Ventilation and Fire Codes

The new room must have proper ventilation to meet building codes. Typically, you must run new duct work to incorporate heat/forced air into the room, allowing the air supply within the room to circulate. Additional vents may be necessary if there is a kitchen or bathroom installed in the garage as well.

All municipalities require a secondary fire escape exit from the new structure. This exit must meet all local fire code regulations, which typically require a secondary exit of a door or window at least 3x3 feet.

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