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Last edited 26 Nov 2019
Room above garages and outbuildings
There comes a time for many growing families that a choice has to be made: do we move to a bigger property to accommodate our new arrivals – and potentially plan for more – or do we look at adding room to our current home, perhaps an extension? Each is a viable option, and each costs money, and there is a lot to consider when looking for a bigger home.
In the UK many houses are built in close proximity to others – the housing estate is predominant in the towns that act as the suburbs of our many cities – and often the only choice is seen to be moving home. Often, this means leaving behind a neighbourhood you are happy in, comfortable with, and in which you would like to remain. So, what’s the option?
Have you considered adding an outbuilding, one with accommodation above it? Perhaps you have space that would accommodate a garage, for example? Or, if you already have a garage, can you build on top of it? These are questions you should ask, and scenarios you should investigate, before you commit to selling up and moving house, as the outbuilding solution may be the one that saves you the most money.
 Adding a Garage or Outbuilding
Let’s say you want to build a garage. You have the available space and you like the idea. What method will you use to build it? Before we go on, we’ll touch on planning permission a little later on, as you will find it might be necessary.
You could invest in a brick-built garage, with accommodation added on the upper floor. This is a cost-effective and popular way to build and add room to an existing home and can be surprisingly quick to complete. Or, you might look at steel-framed buildings, which are very modern, durable, easy to erect and versatile.
Then there’s a method that many homeowners in rural areas are turning to for added space in the form of an outbuilding: the oak framed building. You might be thinking ‘now that’s going to be expensive’ but, in fact, you may well be surprised. Here are some benefits to using oak framing for your outbuilding that you may not have thought of up to now and the cost can be comparable if not cheaper than some alternatives.
Let’s stick with a garage that has room above accommodation for the benefit of this article as this is my area of expertise and often easy to present under planning law, although your outbuilding can be used for whatever purpose you require. What are the benefits of an oak framed garage? First, this traditional method of building has been around for many centuries, and results in a very attractive building that will never tire on the eye.
It’s also a tendency that in rural areas, the planners, local council and neighbours will be in favour of an oak building – thanks to its traditional beauty and style – than they would a brick or steel-framed building, so that is certainly worth bearing in mind. They are also very long-lasting, and can be put together surprisingly quickly, and you may be surprised by the cost of having an oak garage with room above accommodation built as predominantly it’s the same roof volume that becomes the habitable space
A cost-efficient starting point would be to measure up the build plot space where your intending to build your garage, leave a 1m distance around the building and then compare this build space to the modular oak frames offered in the marketplace. These will come predesigned for planning with structural engineering and professional guidance. You can download PDF elevations of predesigned oak framed garages here with options to increase the usable floor area in the room above.
While perhaps more popular in rural areas, where the oak building is in keeping with the surroundings, there is no reason why such a building should not be erected in a suburban garden given the space available is sufficient, and planning can be obtained. In fact, if the building is not forward of the principle elevation it is often favoured by the planners when position at the side or rear of a property.
 Planning and Construction
No matter where you are in the UK, whether in a rural, semi-rural or suburban location you will have to talk to the planners if you are looking to build an oak framed building with room above. This applies whether you are using it as a garage or other space, and the room above as anything from a bedroom, playroom or simply additional accommodation for when visitors come to stay.
The reason you need to apply for planning permission for oak garages and outbuildings is because in the UK planning is required on all outbuildings with room above accommodation as these structures are above 4m in height and are for habitable purposes, therefore Permitted Development rights will not apply, the planning portal has a useful guide to this which we strongly recommend you read.
Should you be building in a rural setting then it may appeal to the planners, as mentioned above, but that does not mean it will automatically be passed as planning law must first be fulfilled. However, as many oak garages with room above have already been successfully applied for and planning granted, the chances are you will be successful. In more heavily populated areas, the conditions to be met may be different, so we advise talking to an expert about planning for any outbuilding garage with accommodation.
We think we’ve covered the subject quite comprehensively, but when it comes to summing up why you should consider an oak-framed outbuilding or garage as your modern extension, there are some factors that we should recap. These really are very beautiful buildings and have been designed to reflect the sheer elegance and rustic style of oak buildings of old. Also, oak remains a useful, versatile and long-lived building material that can be manipulated to fit, and that is used in a variety of different applications throughout the building. Insulation can be added around the oak work leaving it on show both inside and outside the frame and this is often one of the most appealing factors to homeowners.
Perhaps the most important factors are the cost-effectiveness of having an oak garage built, especially one that has the added value with an accommodation above, and the fact that once the frame has been manufactured off site, this is a building that will be erected very quickly, with minimum mess, and that will be loved and used by you and your family for years to come. Oak dries, hardens and silvers quickly with time and soon adopts the feel of a building that was installed many years before.
Which ever direction you decide upon, it is always recommended to explore all types of building methods and materials to see what fits best with your property and budget, don’t forget – adding an outbuilding of this calibre with habitable space will increase the value of your property which in turn off sets the build cost back into the value of your estate.
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