Contribution by Ellen Arnison from ellenarnison.com | March 2015
Ellen has a husband and three sons and lives in Scotland.
Our 1970s three-bedroom wasn't big enough for our growing family, so we decided to convert the garage to give us extra space.
There was a time when the garage was a place to put the car. Maybe some people still do that, I just don’t know any of them. The rest of us stuff our garages with a miscellany of items that can’t be left outside, don’t fit in the house or you can’t muster the energy to get rid of. It struck me that there was a better way. We needed space for the growing family and couldn’t quite stretch to moving. A garage conversion was the answer.
The first step was to gather information and explore possibilities. I had no idea whether we were talking about £2,000 or £200,000 for the things we were considering. I asked neighbours what they’d done, by whom and how much it cost. I got quotes from builders and architects, picked their brains and read up as much as I could. The more people I spoke to, the clearer my own vision became. For example, I couldn’t work out how to get to the new rooms if we built a two-storey extension until an architect offered a solution.
We decided to go all out and use the whole of the garage footprint and build a second storey on the flat roof. The extension - or west wing as we dubbed it - would have a master bedroom with en-suite and dressing room, upstairs and spare room, utility, loo and office, downstairs.
For a garage extension project – especially a biggish one like ours – we decided to hire a project manager. We asked our architect to help with this. They also advised on and organised the necessary planning permissions.
Finding a builder was nerve-wracking but this could be down to the cowboy builders I've seen on TV. I asked everyone I knew for recommendations and even knocked on strangers’ doors to find out who did their work.
During the conversion work I checked progress daily. I learned it was important to speak out as soon as possible about things I was uncertain of or had changed my mind on. The earlier they can be factored in, the better.
Our work was completed on time and on budget and I still love it, it has given my family the space to grow. In fact, the extension was completed only a couple of months before my third son was born. The boys have a room each, I have an office, we have a spare room and enough loos so there's no queuing. I have no idea how we managed before!
The only thing I would have changed is to spend more money on better quality fittings, taps, radiators and the like. You want them to last as long as possible and you get what you pay for.