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!  


12 thoughts on “I want to convert my garage into a bedroom, easy right?

  1. Hi,
    My home has three levels. On the ground floor is a large garage space (approx 4 cars). The front access to the garage was via a very steep driveway. The drive way was replaced and the steep access was filled in. So no front access. There is still access via the back garage door. We would like to turn the front space into a 2nd lounge. To do this we would like to install a patio door at one end of the space and replace the old garage roller door with a window or 2nd patio door. The front wall of the garage and part of the length of the garage wall is below the driveways. We have never had water/ damp issues. There is a water membrane and good drainage around these walls.
    How do I proceed with the planning process

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for taking your time to read and answer my email.

    I have a vendor client whom have converted the garage into a granny flat. There is a bathroom, consisting of a toilet and shower. Plus another small bedroom which had a window installed.
    The other room has the existing sliding doors from the original garage design.
    When these people purchased the house the garage had the plumbing already installed and these people then finished the conversion.
    1. Do they need council approval to constitute as a 2 bedroom granny flat?

    2. My clients don’t want to pursue the process of obtaining the approval before going on the market.

    Can I sell as is?

    What legally is the house. The original house is only a 3 bedroom home with a garage.

    There are only shade sails as the garage.

    • Hi Stacey, Building Approval is required. They can sell the property as is, it’s still buyer beware. If the house is originally a 3 bedroom with a garage, then it remains as is until a proper Building Approval has been issued and finalised. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s a “3 bedroom and garage with unapproved building works”

  3. Where do I start? After speaking to a town planner, do I contract a drafter/architect and then use their plans to apply for a development/building approval?

      • We are about to covert our garage, we have had plans drawn up. I’m just so confused about the owner builder permit etc here in QLD. We are going to get qualified tradespersons in to do some of the work eg. fit windows, topping slab, electricity. But my husband wants to do some of the simple work himself like framing and putting gib on the walls. Do we require an owner builder permit if we are doing it this way? Otherwise would we need to hire a company to do everything if we didn’t get an owner builder permit?

        • Hi Freya

          If the total cost of works including supply and labour is going to cost more than $11K, your husband will need to obtain a QBCC Owner Build Permit. Someone has to be the nominated principal building contractor for Building Approval. If you aren’t hiring a builder, then it will need to be your husband as the owner-builder. As the owner-builder, your husband can pretty much do most things, other than aspects that require an occupational license (e.g. plumbing, electrical, chemical termite protection, etc. ) All structural work will still need to be inspected by either the Building Certifier or the Structural Engineer.

          I hope this helps.

  4. Nirajkumar Bhatt says:

    This is a very helpful article. Thank you so much.
    I have talked with town planner. I am wondering if I should have answers of point 4,5 and 8 before I engage with draftsman and how can I get answers to those points? Can I get it on my own?
    Thanks and Regards,
    Niraj Bhatt

    • Hi Niraj

      You can measure the ceiling heights yourself, but just remember its measured from the finished floor level to the finished ceiling level. To find out if you have a damp proof course installed, best way is to order the original Building Approval documents of the garage from Council, the original drawings will confirm if a damp proof course was specified, going this route will also confirm if you garage has a building approval. With regards to flood requirements, you can find this out from Council, most council websites have a flood search report you can do yourself online.

      • Nirajkumar Bhatt says:

        Thank you very much for your help.

        I am also little bit confused about starting with builder or drafter or do I need an architect?
        It looks like drafter will draw the plan of the conversion however would not be suggesting how to design like where to put bed or where should be shower etc. Is that correct? Or should I work with builder first to see what kind of changes are possible and then inform drafter that we want to prepare detail plan? If we prepare plans first with drafter, is it possible that builder can say the plans are not possible to execute or vice versa?

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