16 Jul Did you receive a code violation for illegally converting your carport or garage?
One of the most common building code violations we come across in South Florida are illegally converted carports and garages. Most homeowners decide to convert their existing carport or garage into bedrooms and living spaces. This is typically the fastest and most affordable solution to add space, square footage and value to their home. However, most homeowners fail to pull a permit for the garage conversion and understand the code requirements. Converting a carport to an enclosed garage involves more than throwing up a couple of walls and hanging a garage door. In fact, if that’s all you do, you’ll be creating two problems for yourself: a code violation and a potential fire trap.
They miss key upgrades that are required by the Florida Building Code (FBC), triggering immediate building code violations. These violations become a major headache for the homeowner and can eventually turn into daily fines or a potential lien on the property, if not resolved in a timely manner.
An indication that a garage was converted without a permit is if you must step down to the converted space. The most common code violation we see in garage conversions is failure to raise the floor slab to the minimum FEMA standards. In Florida, FEMA requires that the floor height in living spaces be above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) set for the area. This is to prevent flooding during heavy rains and hurricanes. Garage floors are set much lower than living space floors to allow access to cars, however, once the room is converted to habitable living space, it must meet the minimum FEMA floor height which is often level with the flooring of the rest of the home.
Without properly raising the slab you will see a lot of flooding and mold issues immediately after hurricanes and heavy rainy seasons. The mold can quickly spread from the damp and damaged drywall which will result in more dangerous conditions for your home and your family’s health.
Once the garage is converted from a service space to a habitable living space there are other Florida Building Code Requirements that are prompted such as electrical outlet spacing, lighting, A/C requirements and sizing for the additional space. The existing AC unit will need energy calculations to determine if the A/C is large enough to cool and heat the additional space. If a separate A/C unit was not installed for the converted garage, then the odds are the existing unit will not meet the current calculations as required per FBC. In most cases its more affordable to install a dedicated A/C unit than change out the main unit for the home.
If the converted garage has a bathroom that requires legalization, then the raising of the floor will require most of the plumbing to be redone. Toilets, sinks and tubs can be usually be salvaged but shower pans can’t be saved. Keep in mind, a city inspection will also need to verify the underground plumbing connected to the existing sewer or septic.
The fire Department will also enforce “means of egress” which is how somebody can get out of a enclosure if there was an emergency. This may require installing a door or window with a larger clearance once opened. Also, If your new garage shares a wall with your house, or if there’s a living space above the garage—you’ll need to build a buffer between them in the form of a one-hour fire-rated wall or ceiling.
Clearly, there are many things to consider when deciding to convert your carport or garage into additional living space. Here are a few key items to review before you make the switch:
- If your neighborhood is part of a homeowners’ association, get permission for the project before you start it.
- Get a building permit from your local municipality and follow all zoning rules. In rare cases, the city won’t allow you to enclose your carport if it’s too close to the property line. If you hire a licensed contractor, obtaining the permit should be included with the construction.
- Plan! Decide how you want the garage to look and what materials it will be made from. Often, you will need an architect or engineer to show how space will be built to ensure it meets proper FBC before the city will even issue your permit.
- Get help! If you’re ultra-handy, a carport conversion might be a do-it-yourself job and you can pull an owner-builder permit. It’s easy to find a licensed and insured contractor who is familiar with codes and knows how to do the project right.
Aruba Permit Services partnered with Aruba Construction & Roofing, Inc. specializes in resolving open/expired permits and code violations. Our team of engineers, contractors and project managers has legalized hundreds of building code violations having to do with carport or garage conversions.
Call us today for a free estimate!