Considering an outbuilding conversion? What you need to know.
By Alex Wood
By Danielle Warfe
01 August 2019
Thinking of creating more space and converting your unused shed or garage into a home office or a bedroom for your teenager or parent? Or maybe you want to take advantage of great views and Tassie’s booming tourist market and turn it into short-term visitor accommodation? Shouldn’t be a problem, but there’s a few things to take care of first, especially if you want to make sure your insurance covers you if the unthinkable happens.
It’s important to keep in mind that your existing outbuilding was originally designed and built as an outbuilding, not as a building for people to spend a lot of time in. There may be some elements that need to be upgraded to make sure it’s suitable for people to occupy: things like energy efficiency (so you don’t have to run the heater full-tilt), weatherproofing (so it’s not damp), and a smoke alarm (so you wake up in time to get out). If you’re close to the bush then you may also need to include design features for bushfire-prone areas. All these kinds of changes will need to be documented by a designer and assessed by a building surveyor.
It’s also possible you might need planning approval from your local council, especially if there will be more people coming and going. Planning approval means you can use your site for new accommodation, but building approval pertains to the actual structure and can’t be issued until the planning is sorted. And if you want to include anything involving water movement you’ll also need plumbing approval, which is also provided by the council.
The follow steps outline a tried-and-tested approach for converting outbuildings:
- Engage a friendly building designer to draw up the existing building and the changes you’re proposing to do. Sometimes it’s worth having a friendly building surveyor in site at this point as well, to advise on the compliance and feasibility of your ideas.
- Submit a planning application to your local council for approval or exemption.
- Engage a friendly building surveyor to assess the documentation and make sure what’s proposed will be suitable and safe for people to use.
- Once you’ve got your approvals in place and your authorisation to start work from the building surveyor, you can start refurbishing, either as an owner builder or by engaging a friendly builder.
Adapting an outbuilding is a great way to create more space for changing family and life situations. But doing it without approval will come back and bite (usually right when you need to sell!), and may also void you insurance if there’s fire or weather damage. Getting everything planned and approved up front means you’re far more likely to get as comfortable and enjoyable a space as you envisaged, as well as adding value to your property.