Did you know that when you live in California you cannot convert your garage unless you comply with the state building codes? What does this mean exactly? This means that if you want to create an accessory dwelling unit on your property, you have to get permission before you can start dismantling your garage floor. Previously, single-family homes could not be granted permission to convert their homes. However, after going through stringent rules and building code requirements that were stipulated by Senate Bill 1069, these homeowners can now enjoy the same opportunity to convert their space as they wish.

Even though the laws have changed and more homeowners can be considered for these permits, there are still many challenges that are in place in California. If you are planning on converting your garage into an extra room, you may want to check out our guide first. Keep on reading to learn more and to answer your pressing questions.

The following are the factors that are governed by the state and local ordinances.

The Floor Area and Setbacks

If you have been scratching your head and asking yourself ‘can you convert your garage into living space in California?’, you no longer have to. The first thing that you can learn about is the zoning code that fines the floor area ratio setback in this state. This can be a significant requirement that homeowners often overlook when they have to develop their residentially zoned properties.

This ratio serves as an essential measurement control for the building coverage intensity even though it does not replace any conventional bulk control measures. However, the code sections tend to exclude certain floor area features in the measurements. If you are planning on doing something with your garage floors, it is important to ensure that you are aware of any individual requirements. The floor area ratio setback calculation is different in California depending on the type of home that you have. For instance, single-family sized home uses a small-lot calculation and bigger sized family homes use a larger lot calculation method. This ratio calculation has been acclaimed for its ingenuity in providing flexible ordinances for zoning limits.

Parking

While asking yourself when can you convert your garage into a living space in California, you should not forget about the parking requirements of building your new accessory dwelling unit. Before the Senate bill came into effect, if you did a conversion to a structure in your property, you had to provide parking for it. However, this is no longer a stipulated requirement provided that it meets the following criteria.

  • The added dwelling unit is located close to a commuting facility such as a public bus stop or train station.
  • The new structure is part of the primary residence.
  • The tenant has not been offered an on-street parking permit by the owner of the primary residence.
  • The converted structure is located a block away from a vehicle sharing service. Provided that the service is available daily and hourly.
  • If the new dwelling unit is located within a historic district that is listed by the city.

If your building fails to meet the above-mentioned criteria, the person responsible for the conversion will have to include replacement parking spaces. If you will be required to add additional parking space, there are some things that the city requires. For instance, you can be limited to building one parking space per bedroom. Or you can only build tandem parking spaces on the driveway. It is important to check through the codes to ensure compliance.

It is essential to take the necessary measures when building this parking space. It should not only meet the city’s standards, but it should also be practical to use. So, you can consider bringing in a professional architect to help you design and execute your parking space.

Foundation and Flooring

You cannot be thinking of when can you convert your garage into living space in California without wondering about the requirements for the foundation and flooring. Your new structure will be useless without a strong foundation to give it stability from the ground up. It is important that you cover all your bases when you are considering new ways to update a home. On the plus side, being up to date with your building codes and requirements can help you save a lot of money in the future.

Additionally, a strong foundation and adequate flooring can help you prevent the underlying soil from being overloaded. This type of unequal settlement can cause life-threatening consequences if it is not fixed immediately. Fortunately, the requirements by the city are not too stringent and vary according to each project’s criteria. However, if you are struggling to decide on the type of foundation and flooring that you want in your additional dwelling unit, you are not alone. This is why we have included the common ones below for you.

  • Concrete slab. This is the simplest type of foundation that will not cost you much. Plus, it requires very low maintenance.
  • Crawlspace. This foundation elevates your home a few feet off the ground.
  • Basement. These are ideal if you want to anchor your property to the ground.

A foundation is an essential part of ensuring that you have an additional dwelling structure that is safe, stable, and usable. However, you need to ensure that you maintain it by doing regular foundation inspections. You can check your plumbing for any leaks that can affect your foundation. You can also call your local residential roofing contractor to come in and assess your roof for any drainage issues. When you have preventative measures in place, it can help your foundation and flooring to last longer.

Space Conditioning

When you know the answer to can you convert your garage into living space in California, you will be able to get through the many things that should be considered first. The space conditioning of the new space is one of those things that can impact your plans. The Building Energy Efficiency Standards have a list of regulations that any garage conversion needs to abide by. For instance, there are specific cavity insulation criteria that each garage needs to comply with. The size of the new space will be an essential element that determines the cavity insulation that will be required.

For example, the new walls that replace any garage doors, require to be on the same plane to conform with the same cavity insulation. The roof also requires insulation to have its thermal resistance to be set at a specific point. However, certain requirements that relate to insulation have varying requirements because of the climate zone. There is also a certain standard for the resistance of sunlight that the glazing should be able to handle. There are many important aspects that each homeowner needs to know before attempting to add an accessory dwelling unit to their property.

It is important for every type of building structure to have adequate ventilation and insulation to cater to various weather conditions. There are additional measures that you should take as a homeowner to ensure air quality control. For instance, you can invest in dust and mold removal services to improve the conditioning of the unit.

Mechanical Systems

There are different types of mechanical systems that will have to be installed in the newly converted space. If you are planning on installing any mechanical systems in your dwelling unit, you should consider these few requirements before you purchase one.

  • The return air cannot be shared with other accessory dwelling units.
  • The heating and cooling system needs to meet the same requirements that apply to the accessory dwelling unit.
  • If the conversion is bigger than 1000 square feet, it requires whole building airflow.
  • If there isn’t a gas connection to serve the dwelling unit, an electric water heater should be installed to serve the needs of the occupant.
  • If there are any gas-fired water heaters or furnaces they should be removed from the new space, or they should remain enclosed.
  • The following are some benefits of keeping your new space conditioned.
  • It can reduce the possibility of asthma attacks.
  • It can be an alternative to security systems.
  • It reduces insects and parasites.
  • Improves sleep and work performance.
  • It can reduce the risk of dehydration and the risk of a heatstroke.

The city emphasizes the need for an accessory dwelling unit to have adequate ventilation to improve the air quality that the occupants will have. Additionally, when we talk of your home’s mechanical systems, we include your home wiring and plumbing. Maintaining a functional system in your home and converted space can be a valuable investment. Besides, when you ask yourself when can you convert your garage into living space in California, you ought to be prepared for everything.

Life Safety

Perhaps the question should be whether California has fire protection measures for an accessory dwelling unit, instead of when can you convert your garage into living space in California. It is a well-known fact that California is a region that is primed with severe wildfires. Converting your garage into a living space requires more than just removing the axles from the door to close off the wall. For instance, the city requires specific fire safety measures in place. Does your planned garage conversion include a way for the occupant to escape should a fire ensue?

Having active fire safety measures can effectively save many lives in case of a consequential fire. Placing alarms and smoke detectors in strategic areas around the property can help to reduce the impact that a wildfire can cause. The building codes outline the main factors that should be considered and the requirements that should be met. When asking yourself when can you convert your garage into living space in California, you should ensure that you can provide adequate security measures for the person who will occupy this space.

Below, we have a list of additional tips to help you improve your fire safety measures.

  • If you do not add a wall to replace the garage door, opt for an eco-friendly garage door service to apply fireproof coating on the door.
  • Opt for fire resistant glass and windows.
  • Use fire resistant building materials for the construction.
  • Upgrade your siding with concrete, stone or bricks.
  • Use non-combustible roof materials

Even if you have taken out an adequate insurance policy as a homeowner, it is advisable to take extra precautionary measures. For example, heavy-duty sprinklers are lauded as a viable defense system that can protect a home from wildfire damage.

Building Permits

When can you convert your garage into living space in California? Once you have met all the requirements to build an accessory dwelling unit, you can send your application to build it. There are various documents that will be required. This depends on each city’s requirements. The types of documents that you can expect to submit are structural drawings, the roof framing plan, and the permit application form.

Once you have submitted, the documents will go through a plan review process. It can be reviewed once or twice. As a result, it can take up to six weeks to find out if you have been issued a permit to build or not. Thereafter, you can decide if you will be doing the conversion as a DIY project or if you will call in an expert.

The Bottom Line

Can you convert your garage into living space in California? Yes. Are you asking yourself when can you convert your garage into living space in California? You might want to check what the city’s requirements are for building an accessory dwelling unit on your property. Space will always be a problem that needs to be addressed when you are converting your garage. Talking to a garage door services provider can help you to understand the building needs of living space.

Moreover, having a sufficient budget is very essential. Any home remodels or conversion requires a significant amount of money to buy materials and outsource resources. You can speak to your accountant to find out if you can afford to meet the building requirements before you commit to a costly construction project.

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