A garage conversion is a viable alternative to expanding your home. Image Credit: Supplied picture

With garages being too small for some large SUVs, the space often ends up as a dumping ground for abandoned toys, cardboard boxes and other junk. If this sounds familiar, how about adding extra living space —and value to your villa — by converting the garage into, say, a home cinema, children's playroom, lounge or study?

Before you worry about where to store your kid's bike and the lawnmower, consult the municipality and your developer about whether garage conversion is permitted in the community you live in. Most developers are likely to insist that the converted space blend in seamlessly with the villa exterior.

Minimal interruption

Converting a garage shouldn't inconvenience you as much as, say, a loft conversion, since the roof, foundation and walls are already in place in a garage. Shivraj Dalvi, sales and marketing director at Home Concepts & Solutions, says, "A garage conversion usually takes 10 to 15 days. It does not affect the day-to-day activities of the house as garages are usually not connected to the villa. All the work is done outside and the workers do not need to come into the house."

Families usually convert garages into a gym, children's playroom, TV room, guest room, spare bedroom or study.

Lenka Basweidan, owner of a townhouse in Green Community East (Dubai Investment Park), converted her garage into a family entertainment room, complete with a 110-inch HD screen, early last year. "We finished just in time for the Fifa World Cup. Throughout the World Cup, we had the cinema full as our friends joined in the football fever. We also bought Wii sports for the kids to keep them entertained during summer," she says.

Al Asbab, a firm that specialises in audio-visual work and system integration, converted the garage in Lenka's townhouse by outsourcing the acoustics and fit-out work to a sub-contractor.

"When we first submitted the request, the developer [Union Properties] wanted to make sure that the villa facade would not be changed. Once we assured them that there would only be interior changes and no structural ones, they approved our request," says Lenka.

The cost to convert a garage depends on the use of the new room. The fancier the place, the higher the costs. "The cost depends on what you want to do with the internal finishings, but can be anywhere from Dh20,000 upwards," suggests Adam Riccio, operations director at Under One Roof, a firm that offers home improvement services in Dubai. The costs could spiral if you add a toilet to the room.

Budget considerations

At Lenka's Green Community townhouse, the conversion totalled Dh250,000, owing to the equipment, electronic gadgets used, full automation, stage and acoustic works.

Don't let that figure put you off; there are more affordable options available too. "The cost to convert a single-car garage depends on various issues: flooring [parquet/ceramic], ceiling, if AC is required, and so on. The average cost would be in the range of Dh7,000 to Dh10,000," says Shivraj.

Usually, garages have the main utility pipes or main drain going through them. In such cases, remember to let service providers have access to these areas even after the conversion. Lenka had to retain the door access for district cooling.

Lenka is obviously happy with her decision, saying "the new room added value to our lives. If we ever sell our villa, the right family will appreciate what we have done."

As far as the value added is concerned, the conversion must be seen in context. "A large villa with an abundance of rooms is not as likely to benefit from an additional room as, say, a small villa with limited space," says Jay Grant, a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors member and managing partner of Cavendish Maxwell.

Service providers

Make sure to obtain no objection certificates (NoCs) from the developer before converting your garage. Most banks require such NoCs before allowing valuers to consider home improvements. "Quite often, we are asked by banks to ignore alterations and improvements if NoCs are not available," says Jay Grant, a RICS member.

  • Home Concepts & Solutions, Deira Phone: 04 271 3845
  • Under One Roof, Al Quoz Phone: 04 323 2722
  • Al Asbab, Dubai Media City Phone: 04 363 0413

If your villa lacks space for your children to enjoy themselves, you could think of converting the garage into a games room. With the equipment away from the villa, you don't have to worry about the pounding noise every time your kids decide to play table tennis or pool. Use bold paints to brighten the dingy atmosphere in the garage. Roll a carpet over the concrete floor. Place a pool table in the centre of the room and make sure to have enough space around it.

How to remodel your garage

Many professionals are choosing to work from home and converting the garage into a home office can prevent clients from intruding into your private space. For the walls, opt for a colour that you can see yourself being surrounded by all day long. If you often have clients around, it's best to opt for neutral colours. To make the space look welcoming, hang some artwork and bring in some greenery. Put up bookshelves and add extra storage space for files and documents.

Fancy turning your derelict garage into a laundry room? If the garage is already supplied with water and electricity, it could be easy.

First, paint the garage walls off-white. Add shelves and baskets to store and sort out your clothes after they are dry. Don't forget space for a laundry basket. Move in the ironing board. Since this area could also be used as a quiet space to mend clothes, add a chair and keep a sewing kit handy.