Getting a permit proves that changes on your property follow the City of Austin’s rules or are “up to code.” Building permits guarantee that any changes you make are safe for you, guests, and neighbors. Before you start converting the porch, carport or garage into interior living space or applying for permits, it’s important to:
- define and describe your project,
- find out if you need permits and what they are,
- and collect the right information for your consultation and application.
You can start by making sure your definition of your project is the same as the City of Austin’s definition.
What does it mean to convert a porch, carport or garage into interior living space?
A porch or carport conversion builds exterior walls to enclose the space. A garage conversion fills in the area where the garage door is located.
Whether your project needs a permit or not, there are still zoning regulations you must follow to make sure your conversion follows the City of Austin’s code. Zoning regulations usually apply to exterior projects and exist for your safety and the safety of your family, guests, and neighbors. The zoning code allows covered porches to encroach into required yard setbacks. Converting a covered porch into interior living space may not be possible if the covered porch encroaches into a yard setback.
What is a setback? The space between a lot’s border and the area where a building can be built. Setbacks typically cannot have anything built on them. Regardless of how tall your deck is, you can’t build it within 10 feet of the rear border or within 5 feet of the side borders of your lot. Learn more about setbacks.
What is an easement? An area of a resident’s property that can be used, built on or changed by a government entity or neighbor. You may not build on any easements on your property. The city will need to access any easements on your lot. You may be fined or asked to demolish your deck if you choose to build it on an easement. Learn more about easements.
What is imperious cover? Rooftops, driveways, parking lots, and other man-made or stone surfaces that keep water from being absorbed into the ground. Impervious cover restrictions are put in place to prevent flooding during and after heavy rains. If your deck is uncovered, has spaces between the planks, and is located over a permeable surface like grass, then only half of the deck’s surface area will affect the total amount of impervious cover on your property. If you are covering your deck or there won’t be spaces between the planks, then 100% of the deck’s surface area will count towards the amount of impervious cover on your property. A reviewer can help you come up with options if you have or are close to maxing out your impervious cover. Learn more about impervious cover.
Do I need a permit?
The City of Austin provides a variety of permits to help residents build safe and sustainable projects. Many projects require more than one type of permit.
The conversion of a porch, carport or garage into habitable space requires a permit. Electric and mechanical permits will be needed. A plumbing permit will be needed if a bathroom is being added, the washer/dryer is being relocated or any other fixture that requires water or has is being added or removed from the space. If the converted space contains a gas water heater, be advised that new venting may be required for safety.
Adding or modifying the electrical layout of a space requires an electric permit.
Make sure to circle it on your application.
Only a registered electrician can get a permit if the electrical changes require making changes to the main electrical service.
A mechanical permit will be needed to bring code-required heat to the converted space(s). The use of a portable space heater is not allowed.
Make sure to circle it on your application.
Only a licensed HVAC contractor can get a permit if the mechanical changes require reclaiming refrigerant.
A plumbing permit will be needed if water or gas lines are being added or removed from the converted space.
Make sure to circle it on your application if this permit is needed.
Only a registered plumber can get a permit if the plumbing changes involve natural gas or liquefied petroleum systems.
Make sure you can get a permit
You may not be able to get a new permit right away if your property currently has an expired permit. Use the public search at Austin Build + Connect to check for expired permits.
You may also be unable to get a permit if your property is in the Subchapter F area of town and the Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) has been maxed out for the property or if the conversion of parking areas (i.e., carport or garage) reduces the amount of onsite parking below the necessary requirement.
You may need a consultation to determine your conversion requirements
It is possible to prepare your permit application without consulting with a reviewer. However, many residents prefer to come in for a free 20 minute consultation with a reviewer before applying for a permit. During this consultation, the reviewer will:
- give you the personalized property information you need to fill out your building permit application,
- give you a list of documents you need to prepare for your building permit application based on your specific project,
- and explain any next steps needed for you to correctly permit your project.
Hiring a professional
You may need to hire a licensed professional to help you complete your project.
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