More often than not, garages are woefully underused spaces that are ripe for conversion into usable living space (a project that can add as much as 10% to the value of your home, according to property experts).

Converting a garage also prevents you from having to sacrifice outside space for an extension, and it can often allow you to keep building work relatively separate until the moment you knock-through into the existing living space.

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If you are planning to convert your space, there are numerous considerations to be made, from a more practical standpoint of whether the space is suitable for conversion and how you actually go about converting it, through to how you go about designing a space that will work for your lifestyle.

Here we focus on the design aspects of converting your garage.

Garage Types

Garages tend to fall into three categories — attached, integral and detached. Each comes with its own issues:

  • Attached or Integrated: This type of garage is connected to the main structure of the house, sometimes to one side, but also often projecting out from the front of the house with a room above, commonly a bedroom. Attached garages can usually be accessed from inside the house, making the conversion even easier.
  • Detached: Just because a garage is detached does not mean it is not suitable for conversion into living space. However, you are more likely to have to apply for planning permission to change its intended use if it is a separate building
open plan living space in garage conversion

After securing planning permission, an old, detached garage was converted into this open plan, single-storey home (exterior seen in main image)

How Much Space Can I Add by Converting the Garage?

A standard-sized single garage can give you around 14m² of extra space, so is ideal if you are looking for somewhere to house a home office, playroom or guest bedroom — or even a downstairs shower room and utility. It might also offer the potential to extend an existing space, such as your kitchen or hallway, depending on the layout of your home.

A double garage can add around 28m² and gives you the option of using part of the space for storage or still as a garage and the rest as living space. The same goes for ‘tandem’ garages.

How Do I Make the Conversion Look Seamless?

Ideally you want to make your garage conversion look like part of the rest of your house, as opposed to a converted garage. This should be something you can work on with your chosen designer.

Other useful ways to make a conversion look seamless:

  • Making sure that the materials used for the cladding and roof (where there is one) match or tie in with those on the main house 
  • Matching the window and door style
  • Alternatively, you might wish to adopt a contemporary take on the design and highlight the garage as a new element of the house, choosing a modern cladding or render. A new cladding will overcome any issues surrounding how the old opening for the garage door is concealed — a badly bricked up opening is a definite no no.

Can I Just Convert Part of my Garage?

You could opt for a partial garage conversion. This is where the front of the garage remains unchanged both internally and externally, while the rear section of the garage is incorporated into the house. This allows you to retain some storage space, while gaining a little extra living space — perfect for those after a utility room, a little extra kitchen space or a playroom.

How Do I Bring in Plenty of Natural Light?

There is actually lots of scope for introducing natural light into a garage conversion. The wall that was once used for the garage door is the most obvious place for a new window or windows, but think further than that too. Could you include a roof lantern within a flat roof or introduce rooflights into a new pitched roof?

If the garage is located at the rear of the house or has a private outlook, consider installing sliding, French or bifold doors into one wall.

Internally, create large openings between the existing living spaces and the conversion in order to allow light to flow between the spaces. This can be particularly effective if there is only one window.

Can I Make my Garage Conversion Two Storey?

Two storey garage conversion

Extending above garages leaves the footprint of the house the same, while adding valuable extra space (Image: Icon Partnership)

When converting an integral, single-storey garage into living space, it is worth considering the space above it — could adding a storey above be an option?

This is well worth thinking about as a way of gaining extra first floor space without increasing the overall footprint of the house.

Clearly, creating a second storey means more work and expense, but the end value of the house should make it worthwhile. The existing foundations will almost certainly need to be checked and upgraded, and there will be further Building Regulations to consider.

How Should I Use my Garage Space?

Most garages, being originally designed to house a car, tend to be long and narrow — a shape that does not immediately lend itself to a good living space. For this reason it is common for people to break the space into two smaller rooms using stud walls, with the smaller of the two rooms often acting as a WC or shower room, or for storage.

Home office: Garage conversions lend themselves to a number of uses, including home offices. This can make perfect sense, as garages are usually located away from the main living areas and allow for a self-contained entrance for work-related visitors.

Home gym in a garage conversion

Popular uses for garage conversions include home offices and gyms (Image: Eclipse Property Solutions)

Kitchen-diner: Where garages adjoin the kitchen, knocking out the wall between the two in order to create one larger kitchen-diner is a popular option — and also overcomes the long, narrow issues.

Utility room: Another good use of garages that sit alongside a kitchen is as a utility room, as they also offer the potential for a back door.

Playroom or teen hangout Using the space as a playroom and keeping it partially open to an adjacent kitchen makes it possible to supervise younger children while carrying out day-to-day jobs, and garage conversions are also the ideal spot for a second living room for older children to relax in — keeping the inevitable noise away from your own relaxing spaces.

Recreation: Other options include gyms, home cinemas and spare bedrooms, and in the case of detached garages you also have the option of converting them into a separate annexe. Be aware that this may be subject to planning consent.

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