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Converting Existing Outbuildings into Living Space

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Jul 2019 | 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.

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Somebody please answer this question: I have a back yard in my end of terrace house which is roughly 3 meter long and 4 meter wide. If I want to cover it for example with a roof or Lantern window to convert into a living room, do I need planning permission and am I allowed? Thanks
Shaz - 11-Jul-19 @ 4:57 PM
A neighbour built a 2 car garage in the last 2 months facing onto a street at the bottom of his garden. He has now applied for planning permission to convert to a 2 bedroom bungalow. Doesn't a structure like a garage have to exist for more than a few months?
Annie - 13-Apr-19 @ 11:32 AM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 12:22 PM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 12:05 PM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 11:40 AM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 11:33 AM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 11:17 AM
Hi we have a neighbour who is proposing changing a double garage into living space, the garage is detached from the main building and is a double garage running front to back, not side by side, so it is approximately 10 metres long. The garage runs the entire length of our rear garden which is triangular in shape as it is a corner plot, and the garage is situated right on the boundary line, I am unsure how this was ever given planning permission but it was done around 45 years ago. The proposal is to have a bedroom, bathroom and living area, the owners currently host up to four foreign students at one time in the house, our concerns are that this is for a private let or for renting to students. The Council are not being very helpful, do you have any advice on this matter please, as far as we are aware change of use is regulated to use for the family or visiting relatives, but our council will not tell us any information, also the fact that it forms the boundary of our two properties means an increase in possible noise as the garage projects at 45 degrees into to the rear line of our property being as we are a corner plot. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
pete - 7-Feb-19 @ 11:09 AM
I have a Victorian property with an outhouse Behind the house.I wanted to convert this to another bedroom.Do I need planning permission to Do this
Lina - 19-Jan-19 @ 11:39 AM
We have a single story double detached garage. We would like to split the land and convert this to a separate one bedroom property for us to live in and sell the main property.So have two separate addresses and supplies for utility services.Is this possible?
DELBOY - 3-Nov-18 @ 6:49 PM
Hello, we have a garden room which was built a couple of years ago with proper permission. Now I want to use this as a living accommodation. What do I need to do.
Sam - 7-Oct-18 @ 4:01 PM
Conversion of existing brick build out house To studio urgent Can you respond interest Area Banstead Surrey Kind regards Edwin
Edwiin - 14-Jun-18 @ 10:52 AM
Please can you call me as I would like a quote to covert an outhouse into studio / office - it’s existing brick built Many thanks Edwin - we would need to undertake work as soon as possible
Ed - 13-Jun-18 @ 8:36 PM
Janey T - Your Question:
We have an L-shaped outbuilding that is made up of a garage, workshop and annexe (walls in between each). When we bought the property, the previous owners had already converted part of the building to a granny annexe with kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and ensuite. We've lived here for 6 years and we suspect this was at least 4 years before that. Can we use the space as a holiday let if only let for the maximum numbers of days per annum - as you could with a park home - or would we need to get planning (& building regs) or change of use?

Our Response:
You will probably still need to apply for change of use if you want to use it as a holiday let. Your planning officer will be able to advise you.
ExtensionBuild - 23-May-18 @ 1:54 PM
We have an L-shaped outbuilding that is made up of a garage, workshop and annexe (walls in between each). When we bought the property, the previous owners had already converted part of the building to a granny annexe with kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and ensuite. We've lived here for 6 years and we suspect this was at least 4 years before that. Can we use the space as a holiday let if only let for the maximum numbers of days per annum - as you could with a park home - or would we need to get planning (& building regs) or change of use?
Janey T - 21-May-18 @ 4:38 PM
Suzie - Your Question:
I have a wooden shed at the back of my intergral garage which runs alongside my kitchen. Do I need planning permission to brick it up and use as a utility room. I have been told if I use external electric sockets that planning permission isn’t required, is that right? Thank you.

Our Response:
This is quite specific and we don't actually know the sizes etc. Your planning officer will be able to advise you on this if you take along a rough drawing with details of what you plan to do.
ExtensionBuild - 13-Mar-18 @ 12:30 PM
I have a wooden shed at the back of my intergral garage which runs alongside my kitchen.Do I need planning permission to brick it up and use as a utility room.I have been told if I use external electric sockets that planning permission isn’t required, is that right?Thank you.
Suzie - 10-Mar-18 @ 11:44 AM
Madz - Your Question:
Hello. I’m interested in a property that has a number of outbuildings adjoined to the house, one of them being a two storey store building. I can see that building two storey outbuildings is problematic but what about converting an existing one? And advice much appreciated!

Our Response:
You should talk to yout local planning department to see whether permission would be likely. A builder, architect and your local building control officer will be able to advice on the physical/practical possibilities.
ExtensionBuild - 2-Feb-18 @ 10:20 AM
Hello... I’m interested in a property that has a number of outbuildings adjoined to the house, one of them being a two storey store building. I can see that building two storey outbuildings is problematic but what about converting an existing one? And advice much appreciated!
Madz - 31-Jan-18 @ 10:10 AM
Hi there, we have a 1940’s ex council house with a separate outhouse set 1.5m from the house, it has windows and a toilet, with electric, if we wanted to convert it to a summer house would we need planning, it would not be for sleeping in.
Gazzagee - 21-Jan-18 @ 2:51 PM
Suze - Your Question:
Hello, we have an attached coal store and toilet built with the house originally. We either want to convert this so it's part of the house(raise floor level, Damp proof, insulate etc) or knock this down, as it's pretty dilapidated, ivy growing through, damp etc then we could use the original foundations and rebuild. My question is do you think we would need planning for either option?

Our Response:
This may not require planning permission but it's worth talking to your planning officer - they will give you advice on this for free. Whatever you choose to do it will require building regulations approval.
ExtensionBuild - 13-Dec-17 @ 2:11 PM
Hello, we have an attached coal store and toilet built with the house originally. We either want to convert this so it's part of the house(raise floor level, Damp proof, insulate etc) or knock this down, as it's pretty dilapidated, ivy growing through, damp etc then we could use the original foundations and rebuild. My question is do you think we would need planning for either option?
Suze - 11-Dec-17 @ 2:24 PM
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
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