Converting Unused Space

  • Creation Date: Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Have you ever considered converting unused space in your home?
Potentially this is a way to save thousands of Rands and add considerable value to your existing property.
If you need more space but are unable to extend the existing boundaries of your home, consider extending into the attic or basement, or converting an existing outbuilding. Conversions are usually less expensive than new additions since they do not require foundations or new walls.

The attic may have enough ceiling height to be used as it is, or your roof could be raised and dormer windows added to create the required heights and to allow for natural light and ventilation. An attic room will need to be insulated for heat and cold and made weather-tight

If the basement is not too damp and the ceiling height is high enough, it could be converted into a workshop, hobby room, garage, wine cellar or guest suite if you can provide adequate light and ventilation.

Outbuildings such as garages, staff quarters, stables or laundries can also be converted to different uses.

Verandahs and balconies can be enclosed to extend an existing room or to create a new room, bathroom or study. These spaces are often too narrow to be used as bedrooms and you will need to consider the light and ventilation effects on rooms off the existing balcony.


Check the building regulations to determine the necessary headroom. This is usually a minimum of 2,4 m for ‘habitable spaces’, such as bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms, and a minimum of 2,1 m for bathrooms and stores

According to the building regulations, habitable spaces require an opening (window, skylight, etc.) measuring a minimum of 10% of the floor area for natural light and 5% of the floor area for natural ventilation.

This refers to the way the converted space is accessed from the existing house (stairs, covered passages or walkways).

What will the converted space be used for and how does this relate to the adjacent spaces? For example, it is not a good idea to place a quiet bedroom directly off a noisy living space or to locate a toilet directly off a kitchen, without a separating lobby space.

Do you want electricity, water supply and drainage in the space? How will these factors be linked to existing services?

The existing space may need to be insulated (especially attics), damp may need to be attended to and remedied (usually in basements and in garages).

New windows and doors may be necessary to light and ventilate the spaces and for access. The effect of these on the overall appearance of your home needs to be considered.

This is a very important consideration as it affects your building costs.
Even if the structure is sound, the additional loads of, say, an attic space, or the added depth of a basement, may mean that the existing structure will need to be reinforced or underpinned. Your architect and engineer will be able to advise you on this.

The above information is written by Architect, Amanda Katz and is subject to copyright.