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SDEngr 05-28-2010 01:05 PM

Garage Conversion
Hello to all!

I am going to do a "garage conversion", but I have a couple of questions.

First, I live in San Diego and like many other places the city website states that "A garage conversion requires a permit."

Second, I use the term "garage conversion" loosely because I am not converting it to habitable space. I am simply replacing the ugly garage door with french doors and the use of the garage will remain the same (a laundry room). I might add a foosball table later...

My questions:
1. Does this qualify as habitable space?
2. Will I still need a permit?

Note: I have plenty of off street parking, so that is not an issue.

Thank you for any/all input. I will be back with more questions once this is clarified.


nap 05-28-2010 02:02 PM


1. Does this qualify as habitable space?
that would have to be answered by your local building department but almost assuredly, yes.


2. Will I still need a permit?
yes, even if it wasn't being considered habitable space, you still would be likely required to obtain a permit. There are srtuctural concerns involved even without habitability concerns.

PaliBob 05-28-2010 02:11 PM

Alex, Welcome to the Forum

Forget about the definition of habitable space and on-street parking. The city is less concerned about what is inside the garage but what structural modifications (e.g. removing the garage door) will prevent using the garage for its original purpose.

Call the City and ask Building and Safety about your question.

SDEngr 05-29-2010 04:18 PM

Slab requirement for non load bearing wall?
I plan to keep the framing as is and construct new framing for french doors. I understand that the garage will not be able to hold a car, but I have a large two car garage off of the alley.

My next question is: What is the slab requirement for a non-load bearing wall?

I can find plenty of information regarding load bearing walls and their respective foundations, but not for the non-load bearing foundations...

Gary in WA 05-29-2010 05:38 PM

With new framing for doors, it sounds as if you don't want to get a permit. Adding the space for use other than a vehicle requires a permit, as you found, why not comply. It's for your safety as well as your family's. And your Homeowners Insurance will cover any claim if you build legally.

If the furnace or HWT is there, it may need to be moved. A heat supply is required, also light and ventilation. Listing with the City will help financially when selling as the permitted work will be on your house's personal usable square footage report section.

Be safe, Gary

SDEngr 05-29-2010 07:16 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Gary, I understand what you are saying. However, I have absolutely no intentions to use this room as a sleeping room. Wouldn't that take care of the water heater, ventilation, heat supply and lighting?

As for our safety, I've read through the San Diego building codes and am building the framing per the specs. I am literally changing nothing as far as the load bearing wall goes. The only thing I am unclear of is the concrete footing for the non-bearing wall.

On page four of this link, you will see the only detail that I can find regarding the footing. What is different for me, is that due to the construction of the foundation of the garage, I am forced to install the frame over the driveway slab. If I modify the slab per the drawing, will there be a problem with it?Attached is an image depicting it.

Gary in WA 05-29-2010 08:16 PM

Most Building Inspectors will want plastic under the new slab for a living space, not a garage for a vehicle. To stop any moisture (sub-terrain) from mitigating up to the warmed area. The outside walls now need to be 6" from wood/dirt or 2" from stucco/smooth surface (driveway, walkway, etc. for splash distance). Local B.D.'s establish what is usable living areas (garage/recreational room), as said---- it is best to check with them.

Be safe, Gary

vsheetz 05-30-2010 10:50 AM

I live in Escondido (North San Diego county) and have 'converted' my garage. They are very perticular about garage converstions in the area to ensure safety is maintained. If fact they having folks roving the nieghborhoods looking for unpermitted and non-conforming garage conversions.

In discussion with the building department, permanent changes that make it so a car could not still be parked in the garage is the problem. The garage door was left in place. I room finished the wall and ceiling, insulated, etc. The floor was finished with a Rustoleum concrete paint kit. Installed a couple new circuits for outlets and can lights in the ceiling. HVAC unit mounted in the wall. Work benches for electronics and ham radio hobby. Several cabinets and shelving units for storage (but none could be lined up so as to block the garage door entrance). A large cloth cutting table for my wife's quilting hobby, plus sewing machine tables, etc. However, all was done so the ability to use the area as a car parking garage was retained so the city was ok.

Setbacks can be an issue as well. Ever noticed how on some houses the garage extends further to the front property line than the rest of the house? That's becuase in some places their are differing setbacks requirementes for inhabitable spaces vs. habital spaces. I lived in the New Orleans area for many years, with small lots and such setback rules. Garage conversions could therefore sometimes be problematic.

As others have said - talk to the building department first about your intended usage and desires to see what is doable and what is not.

vsheetz 05-30-2010 11:00 AM

Also as Gary pointed out plastic under the slab can be an issue.

I built a 24x30 separate workshop on the rear of our property. I documented and put plastic and did the slab as it would be for habitable space, as we are permitted to have 'granny flats' here, and wanted to have the option for the building to be converted at some time in the future. Simple to do during construction and could be good for future resale value.

PaliBob 05-30-2010 12:12 PM


Originally Posted by vsheetz (Post 448822)
If fact they having folks roving the nieghborhoods looking for unpermitted and non-conforming garage conversions.

They are also in your neighborhood right now. They are most likely not city employees but just folks in the neighborhood out for a walk with the dog. They see the new French doors on your garage and say to themselves there goes the neighborhood, that dude has someone living in his garage, so as soon as they get home, the City gets called to report an illegal conversion.

By the way this will happen even if you did get a permit and everything is legal. The only difference is in the consequences. With the Permit no affect on you, with no permit you get at least a big $$$ fine.

SDEngr 06-01-2010 01:42 PM

I do appreciate all of the input.

Another question:

What is the approximate cost of a permit for a simple conversion?

(Garage is ~ 200 sqft, no real structural changes, foundation at front of garage will be modified per the city bulletin, no electrical work, no plumbing, nothing else changed. Just adding a wall and a door.)


Scuba_Dave 06-01-2010 01:53 PM

Permit costs vary by area, check with your local building Dept

SDEngr 06-01-2010 01:57 PM

Yeah, I understand that. I was hoping for an answer from a local. :thumbsup:

PaliBob 06-01-2010 04:11 PM

I got a permit 10 tears ago for my deck which involved an Engineers stamped drawing which I presented to the LA Building & Safety for approval as a homeowner/builder. There was a written requirement that I hire licensed contractors, but no prohibition from doing the work myself and no inquiry by the on site inspector as to who did the work before he signed off the job.

I don't recall the cost of the permit, but I do remember that it was based on a percentage of what I said it was going to cost.

To find out what as the current percentage, I would call and ask what is the cost for a permit for a job costing X dollars. There must also be a minimum cost for a Permit.

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