Home > Garden Rooms & Outbuildings > Converting Existing Outbuildings into Living Space

Converting Existing Outbuildings into Living Space

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 22 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Outbuildings Conversion Building Living

Converting existing outbuildings into living space is something that many people believe applies only to people with older houses surrounded by stables and barns, but it could equally apply to garages and even urban properties that had outside toilets and coal sheds when they were first built. Anything that can be converted into living space can be used to give a family useful extra space, provide an office for working at home or perhaps a gym or games room.

Fundamental Issues With The Conversion Of Outbuildings

The major problem with this sort of conversion is that outbuildings were rarely designed for living in and so weren't designed to stay particularly warm and dry. To be honest, when you take into account the fact that VAT is not reclaimable against renovation and restoration project but is for new builds, it could be that you would be far better off, economically at least, knocking the older buildings down and starting from scratch.

However, as it's likely to be older properties that have outbuildings, there may well be restrictions against replacement rather than conversion, either in the local plan or if the property is in a conservation area. As each project differs and every area in the United Kingdom differs, the only sure way to sort out what is possible is to go to your local planning office and ask about planning permission and building regulations that apply to your project.

Get The Outbuilding Shell Sorted First

Assuming you get the go-ahead then it's full steam ahead with the conversion of your outbuilding into living space. You may well need to put in a proper floor and at this point it makes sense to put in a dampproof course (DPC) if there isn’t one already. There are lots of new DPC products on the market that are injectable so there isn’t the disruption that a traditional DPC might have required. Drainage will need attending to at this point as well, including connection to the sewer system if the building is to have toilets.

Walls may need to be made good, depending on the condition of the outbuilding, and there may well be other building work, such as a new roof, and the installation of any new windows and doors. But once the structure is sound and the floor is made good then it's time to turn your attention to insulating the outbuilding. As it is very unlikely that any outbuilding will have a double skin wall with a cavity, it will be necessary to insulate the walls by cladding them internally.

Insulating The Walls of Outbuildings

This will make the building easier to heat and it will retain the heat for longer, something that's desirable in a place that is to be used as living space all year round. One method is to put battens around the wall then fix plasterboard to them, laying insulation material against the wall first. Unfortunately this does encroach on your living space but it really is necessary unless the building is only going to be used as living space in the summer months. If that's the case, it needs to be well ventilated when it's not in use.

Depending on the extent of the electrical and plumbing work that will be done, and the style of the building, it might be worth running the pipes and electrical cables through the outbuilding before attaching the cladding and insulation. Once everything is in place the finishing off and installation of the electrical nd plumbing fixtures and fittings can take place, then the final decoration and fitting out can take place.

Consider Professional Building Help

This all sounds easy when it's laid out in a summary like this but there are likely to be many detail problems that will need to be tackled along the way so if you are thinking of taking on the job yourself make sure that you know what you are doing. It might well be worth getting the professionals involved.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hi, I have a home with an attached outhouse, which used to be used as a storage block. I am wanting to knock through our living room wall into the store room and make it an extension. Would I need planning permission,? There would be no extra square footage just have to higher the roof.
Faith - 22-Nov-17 @ 11:43 PM
We have had a builder alter our kitchen by knocking through into an attached outhouse (previous loo). The building hasn’t been extended but was repaired and brought up to standard so as met regs. The builders are extremely reputable and informed us quite early on after a detailed inspection of the building that no building regs approval was needed. We are now preparing to sell the house and I’m panicking...were they right? As a lot of the information online seems to suggest otherwise. Any advice please.
Andyrew - 8-Nov-17 @ 10:30 PM
bam - Your Question:
I have a detached old office/ garage at the rear end of my property. Which could be accessed from the backh. It has cold & hot running water and a toileta. It has aN isulated flat roof and filled cavity wall. Can I use this as a separate living apartment with own kitchen etc.

Our Response:
You would need to apply for planning permission and building regulations approval before using this as separate living accommodation.
ExtensionBuild - 12-Sep-17 @ 12:17 PM
I have a detachedold office/ garage at the rear end of my property.Which could be accessed from the backh. It has cold & hot running water and a toileta. It has aN isulated flat roof and filled cavity wall. Can I use this as a separate living apartment with own kitchen etc.
bam - 11-Sep-17 @ 8:03 AM
beanpad - Your Question:
We have a log cabin in our garden - it has an insulated roof, hot and cold running water in the bathroom (shower, sink and toilet), gas central heating and electricity points - it's currently used as a playroom and for storage. We would like, if it's possible - to let a friend stay in it for a few months until they find a permanent home. Would we need to apply for a change of use as they would be sleeping in it? We had considered installing a small kitchen - would this be allowed? I would appreciate your advice. Many thanks.

Our Response:
If it was being used for residential purposes, then change of use permission would probably be required.
ExtensionBuild - 8-Sep-17 @ 11:16 AM
Rodders - Your Question:
Hi, we have a detached double garage at the rear of our property. You can access it from our back garden but not from the road following a recent extension.It already has power and running water and is used as an unofficial a home office but we don't have building regs for it. However we would like to either demolish it and rebuild it properly or put a log cabin of the same size on the site. The aim would be to use it as an office / spare habitable room for visiting family and rent it out as a short term let (much like a lodger) for friends who work locally.Clearly we need building regs but do we need planning permission and change of use to have a lodger in there from time to time?

Our Response:
Yes, if the building is to be used for residential purposes, planning permission will be required.
ExtensionBuild - 7-Sep-17 @ 12:13 PM
We have a log cabin in our garden - it has an insulated roof, hot and cold running water in the bathroom (shower, sink and toilet), gas central heating and electricity points - it's currently used as a playroom and for storage.We would like, if it's possible - to let a friend stay in it for a few months until they find a permanent home.Would we need to apply for a change of use as they would be sleeping in it?We had considered installing a small kitchen - would this be allowed? I would appreciate your advice.Many thanks.
beanpad - 7-Sep-17 @ 11:11 AM
Hi, we have a detached double garage at the rear of our property.You can access it from our back garden but not from the road following a recent extension. It already has power and running water and is used as an unofficial a home office but we don't have building regs for it.However we would like to either demolish it and rebuild it properly or put a log cabin of the same size on the site. The aim would be to use it as an office / spare habitable room for visiting family and rent it out as a short term let (much like a lodger) for friends who work locally. Clearly we need building regs but do we need planning permission and change of use to have a lodger in there from time to time?
Rodders - 5-Sep-17 @ 5:24 PM
Hi there! I am buying a house with a dilapidated detached single garage in the back garden. It measures 5m x 3m. What permissions are needed to convert and then include this as a habitable bedroom as part of a student HMO? It would represent the sixth bedroom in the property and all the other bedrooms are at least 6.5 square metres and are compliant as HMO bedrooms. I understand there is a minimum kitchen and communal living space size requirement too for the main house but do not know what is needed. Would it make more sense to rent this space out separately? I'm looking to both add value and add rental income.
Secondsforever - 17-Aug-17 @ 11:09 PM
Sha - Your Question:
My neighbour has converted his free standing garage into a bedsit with no running water and no toilet but has electric in there he doesent rent it atm does he need to have building regulations to look over it ir planning permission we are in uk

Our Response:
If the building is for a habitable space, then building regulations are sometimes required. Planning permission is not always needed for garage conversions though.
ExtensionBuild - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:55 PM
My neighbour has converted his free standing garage into a bedsit with no running water and no toilet but has electric in there he doesent rent it atm does he need to have building regulations to look over it ir planning permission we are in uk
Sha - 14-Aug-17 @ 10:34 PM
We have purchased an extended end terracehouse with our son all done legally with deed of trust in place. With the main building deeds there is a detached coach house included with planning permission to demolish it and build a 3bedroomed townhouse.( we have also considered renovating the coach house into a 1 bed bungalow). Will we need permission from the building society our son has a mortgage with( ours was a large cash injection into the property) or can we just go ahead with the relevant planning permission in place? Thanks
Elle - 9-Jul-17 @ 4:10 PM
LJ - Your Question:
Hi there We are looking to purchase a property with an outhouse at the rear of the garden. When viewing the property it looked to be a real state. It has electricity and a sink (assumed running water). We want to get advice on whether it is possible to make it into an office space. Q1: who is the best person to ask?Q2: will we need planning permission? Many thanks

Our Response:
You can usually convert an existing outbuilding into an office without planning permission. You will need building regs approval and you should talk to your local planning officer just to be sure before proceeding.
ExtensionBuild - 27-Jun-17 @ 12:40 PM
Hi there We are looking to purchase a property with an outhouse at the rear of the garden. When viewing the property it looked to be a real state. It has electricity and a sink (assumed running water). We want to get advice on whether it is possible to make it into an office space. Q1: who is the best person to ask? Q2: will we need planning permission? Many thanks
LJ - 25-Jun-17 @ 11:47 AM
Hi, I have a mid terraced house with an old outside toilet at the rear of the property. This is not attached to any house but is double width attached to my neighbours outbuilding. Also the outbuilding is attached to a high rear boundary wall at the rear of the property. Can I tear down this outbuilding and replace with a small summer house to house a hot tub or do I need planning permission to do this. Also with the outbuilding being connected to my neighbours am I able to knock down my half ?
lwats5 - 2-Jun-17 @ 10:19 AM
I have a coal shed and utility which I want to make one room and extend out slightly to what planning permits. I want a pair of French doors at the bottom of the room to go out onto the garden/decking.The only problem I cant find a builder to do this in the Derbyshire area. We have had 2 come to the house and the job seemed too small for them. Anyone know of any reliable builders who can help in the area of Amber Valley and are willing to expand on our utility for extra storage? I also want a porch fitting at the front of my house at the same time.
Jojo - 6-May-17 @ 3:36 PM
Stressedsara- Your Question:
Hi I have an outbuilding that was originally used as a gym. However over the years it's become a dumping ground. I was thinking to convert it into a annexe either for one of my children or rent it out. I have contacted the planning dept and they have advised me to submit planning application, to find out if I am allowed, and council tax would be payable. Can anybody please let me know if it a viable idea before spending monies on application please. Thank you.

Our Response:
If you think it would improve your/your families' lifestyles then it's certainly worth considering. Your council tax will increase if it has separate facilities (kitchen/bathroom) but if it's just a "hang out" space for a teenager it won't. If you were to create a completely separate annex and rent it out then you will have another source of income and charge back the council tax as part of the rent anyway. The other possibilities are to convert it to a garden building and enjoy it...e.g. a garden room, summerhouse, studio or office etc. With floor to ceiling windows/doors it could be a pleasant area to enjoy and certainly wouldn't detract from the re-sale value of your home in anyway.
ExtensionBuild - 3-May-17 @ 11:43 AM
Hi I have an outbuilding that was originally used as a gym. However over the years it's become a dumping ground. I was thinking to convert it into a annexe either for one of my children or rent it out. I have contacted the planning dept and they have advised me to submit planning application, to find out if I am allowed, and council tax would be payable. Can anybody please let me know if it a viable idea before spending monies on application please. Thank you.
Stressedsara - 2-May-17 @ 4:30 PM
lol girl- Your Question:
I have and out house but I want to attach it to my original house. Do I need planning permission or not.?

Our Response:
Maybe not - it would be treated as an extension so it will also depend on the utlimate size of the final building. Building control approval will certainly be needed. Your planning officer will be able to tell you whether you need planning permission or not (a phone call will usually be sufficient).
ExtensionBuild - 28-Apr-17 @ 11:55 AM
I have and out house but I want to attach it to my original house. Do I need planning permission or not.?
lol girl - 27-Apr-17 @ 9:54 AM
Hi, i have brick out buildings with an outside toilet and concrete roof.the roof needs replacing and i would like to convert this into a usable craft room with insulation and a couple more windows etc.the building itself is 15ft x 5 ft comprising of 3 separate 'rooms', 1 being a toilet and the other 2 i presume was once a coal shed and storage shed.ideally i would like to knock all together, but keep the toilet and revamp with a door on the inside and brick the existing doors only having 1 external door.the roof i would like to replace with just a wooden flat roof.would anyone be able to give an approximate cost of this????,, a rough guessitmate would do
wendy - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:38 PM
saiyed - Your Question:
I have an outhouse at the rear of the garden, which I want to convert to a self contained accommodation. It is built with cavity walls and insulated, it has electricity, cold water and there is also a connection for toilet. I will need to put a small kitchen on a side. It is about 6m x 4m. Can you pls advise on what I need to do next. Thanks

Our Response:
You will need to apply for planning permission as it's a change of use. They will explain what's needed and will refer you also to building control.
ExtensionBuild - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:52 AM
I have an outhouse at the rear of the garden, which I want to convert to a self contained accommodation.It is built with cavity walls and insulated, it has electricity, cold water and there is also a connectionfor toilet.I will need to put a small kitchen on a side.It is about 6m x 4m.Can you pls advise on what I needto do next.Thanks
saiyed - 17-Mar-17 @ 12:05 PM
Kalthleen - Your Question:
I have a outbuilding with a toilet can I use the same space to make kitchen a bit longer without planning permission

Our Response:
If this falls within permitted development, you may be able to do this without planning permission. Your planning officer will be able to tell you (without the need to submit an application at this stage). You will need building regulations consent.
ExtensionBuild - 3-Mar-17 @ 1:51 PM
I have a outbuilding with a toilet can I use the same space to make kitchen a bit longer without planning permission
Kalthleen - 1-Mar-17 @ 5:46 PM
chopper - Your Question:
I have a old out house that was attached to the house now they have fell down through to poor workmaship just wondered would I need planing permission to use the exact footprint for a small oap pad

Our Response:
If it's change of use from an outhouse to a residential building si it might need planning permission.
ExtensionBuild - 20-Oct-16 @ 1:00 PM
I havea old out house that was attached to the house now they have fell down through to poor workmashipjust wondered would i need planing permission to use the exact footprint for a small oap pad
chopper - 18-Oct-16 @ 5:26 PM
@Cites. You should not need planning permission. There's some basic building regs information here but you should reallly check with your local building control department for more details.
ExtensionBuild - 12-Feb-15 @ 11:55 AM
I have a 22ft two storey detached workshop plus garage at the rear of my garden. I am thinking about using the lower storey as a spare room /den for my son as since my husband passed away the work area has been unused . The building is block built with cavity walls , it has electricity and cold water as my late husband used it for working in on his hobbies can you advise me on any building regulations or planning I may need please.
Cites - 9-Feb-15 @ 4:57 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ExtensionBuild website. Please read our Disclaimer.