The following article is specific to Queensland Australia…

I seem to be getting a lot of enquiries of late from homeowners wanting to convert their garage into a bedroom and maybe an extra bathroom and kitchenette thrown in.

The first thing they always ask is, do I need a building approval? if so how much and how long? Well, the answer to the first question is YES, and like everything else in life the answer to the subsequent questions are… you guessed it… “it depends”.

Nothing is impossible, its just a matter of time, resources and moolah! If you are one of these homeowners wanting to make a side hustle on Airbnb… um… er… apologies, that’s a bit presumptuous of me… 🙂 perhaps you’re thinking about poor little old gran needing a place to stay and to be closer to the family so she can be better cared for. If you are indeed one of these homeowners, here is some food for thought –  

  1. Have you spoken to a Town Planner or sought preliminary advice from Council? Many town planning schemes in QLD stipulate the requirement of a covered garage or carport being provided as a minimum. If you convert it without compensating, you are now in breach of the planning scheme.
  2. If you are in one of the newer development estates. Have you spoken to the development estate managers regarding any covenants that may prohibit what you are trying to achieve? Newer estates have quite strict covenants attached, that will limit what you can and can’t do, in order to maintain a consistent aesthetic in the estate. If you do have developer covenants to adhere to, you will need their approval of your development to proceed.  
  3. Once you have the town planning sorted; and you’ve also got a developer estate covenant approval (if required), everything that applies to a Class 1a habitable room now becomes a consideration under the BCA. Easier said than done.
  4. You now need 2.4m min ceiling height, measured from the FFL. Can you achieve this?
  5. You now need to prove that a damp proof course vapour barrier was installed under your garage slab. Can you prove this? other wise a new topping slab with a vapour barrier installed may be required. Checking your existing building plans may verify this for you.
  6. If the garage is closer than 900mm off the boundary will it still comply with fire separation requirements as a Class 1a? If your existing garage wall is brick veneer and constructed so that it goes all the way to the underside of your roof covering, then no issues, if not, you may need to consider providing additional fire protection.
  7. Is the space conditioned? if not it now needs to comply with energy efficiency requirements, though the extent can be discussed and agreed upon with your building certifier.
  8. Are you in a flood area? if yes you will now need to meet the higher minimum FFL for habitable rooms.
  9. Are you in a transport noise corridor? If yes, and your house was built post 31 August 2010, you will now need to consider acoustic attenuation treatment to the external walls of this new bedroom. If you are in noise category 3 or higher, it won’t be easy to meet compliance…
  10. The new bedroom will now need to be provided with a photoelectric smoke alarm that is interconnected and hardwired to the existing smoke alarm system of the house.
  11. If your property has its own on-site sewerage system, will it cope with the new fixtures and increased occupancy? If not the system will need to be upgraded… $$ouch!!
  12. On and on…


I’ve never said it was impossible, it just depends…

If I’ve scared you away from getting a Building Approval but not from actually doing the conversion on the sly… I would highly recommend you think again. Worse case scenario, you sublet your garage as a bedroom, a fire breaks out… do you think your home insurance company won’t be asking any questions…? yikes!  


First, read thisarticle.

If your pressed for time, here’s the gist of it – 

  1. New Zealand and Canada have experienced an epidemic of leaky buildings.
  2. It’s cost NZ $23 billion dollars and counting and cost Canada over $4 billion dollars and counting
  3. The average cost in Canada per apartment was about $23K 
  4. About 80,000 NZ homes have been affected
  5. The culprit – 
    • Unwanted water penetration from poor weatherproofing of the building envelope
    • Inadequate flashings
    • Heavy reliance on sealants instead of flashing
    • Condensation forming in the interstitial spaces of the building fabric
    • Zero step down balconies
    • Compounded by poor workmanship
  6. It appears Victoria, NSW and the ACT are seeing a rise in this unfortunate phenomenon, no mention of Queensland thought, but is this more a when than an if?

Mould on Walls


My take as a building certifier

I use to provide the technical analysis and recommendation for remedial works when a home warranty insurance claim came through, this was during my time when I was working in the NT. The claims came through like clockwork, after a big storm, there was a lag of about a month before the claims from home owners and body corporates would come through for… you guess it… leaky roofs. The culprit… box gutters. Look, there’s nothing wrong with box gutters, but unless it has been designed by an engineer I think the chances are high that it’s a ticking time bomb. I’ve seen the calculations required to design a box gutter and it’s no simple arithmetic. Even when you’ve got the calculations right the engineer still has to draw the thing on paper. A properly designed and documented box gutter cannot be captured by a simple detail on the corner of the page. When it’s done properly the engineer’s details usually take the whole page or multiple pages and then it needs to be coordinated with the Architect. There was a time in the NT when box gutters were all the rage (might still be the case), it had that streamlined look that homeowners wanted so the Architects obliged. How often do you think I would see fully documented and properly designed box gutters in the building approval plans emanating from a claim?… Never. For these unfortunate homes, the typical detail I saw was basically an arrow pointing to the roof that read “Box Gutter To Comply with AS3500.3” Apparently this was all that was needed to ensure the builder and plumber knew what they were doing… right…

I learnt a few things during my time there –

1. There’s nothing wrong with simple hip/gable roof designs

2. Wide eaves are your best friend

3. Windows in single skin masonry walls are just asking for trouble

4. When the wind blows hard enough, water will run uphill

5. Removing unwanted condensation in the interstitial spaces of your building fabric is a real science.

Here at Agile Approvals, we are cognizant of the aforementioned issues, and this is where we are able to provide the kind of advice to your Architect / Design Team that you just can’t put a price on.

A few days late to this  article , it’s from the Courier Mail but it does appear the QBCC are cracking down on builders finances. The statistic that really surprised me was the number of builders in Queensland that have gone bust since the start of the year. Have a guess…5? 10? 20?… give up? It’s 30+ builders that have gone bust since the start of the year… and potentially a lot of houses, renovations, decks, carports that remain unfinished with homeowners left in the lurch.

I’m not sure where the Courier Mail got this statistic, and I have not verified it. I’m going to assume that they obtained this figure from the QBCC or somehow did some ASIC database sleuthing. I actually do wish there was a way to keep tabs on this and I do wonder if there is a way to know who is on this list of 30+ builders… but that will have to be an article for another day.   

Hope fully as a home owner, you’ve only paid up to the amount of work rendered, this doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost you more money, to the contrary, if you find yourself in this predicament, the chances are high that your builder hasn’t paid his subcontractors (including the building certifier) for the work they have done on your house. So the issue you’ll have is that the subcontractors may not be so inclined to help you finish the work if they haven’t been paid themselves.

It’s not the end of the world, but boy is it now going to cost you more time and money to have the house completed by another builder, keep all the subcontractors happy, and chase the required paperwork so that your building certifier is able to finalise the approval process so that you can lawfully occupy your own home. Not a very pleasant experience. 

In my experience as a certifier, the biggest pain point is chasing the paperwork from your subcontractors (i.e. Form 16s, Installation Certificates, etc) so that your building certifier can finalise the approval. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, your first call should be to the QBCC to see if there are avenues under the home warranty insurance scheme that you paid into at the time the building approval was issued. Your second call should be to the building certifier to ascertain the actual status of the building approval and the required documentation that is still outstanding that your building certifier will need a copy off in order to finalise your building approval. 

If you’re building certifier is not willing to assist or either you or your certifier have disengaged themselves from the project, feel free to contact us, no guarantees we will have an easy solution, but we are always happy to steer you in the right direction.   

unfinished house