Warehouse Conversions … they’re NOT just a kitchen and a bathroom

Don’t be distracted or mislead by the apparent simplicity and possible low cost of converting an old & empty warehouse or factory into a residence or a café or a bar or something similar … The one you’re considering just might be a cost ‘black-hole’.

When you are discussing budgets prepared by clients for these potential jobs I suggest you have a good look at them (the budget that is, not the people!)… And do your own sums before venturing too far into a job that may be going nowhere.

It seems to me that many take the approach that “ …Well, the building is there and it’s got a floor, walls and roof, therefore I am just whacking in a kitchen and a bathroom and a trough and it shouldn’t cost much…”


Consequently, I see some very unrealistic ideas of budgets … often accompanied by complex designs with nothing left out.

When buying a warehouse shell, clients may be surprised at what they don’t get.  Often there are :

  • No floor linings and no wall linings, and maybe no ceiling,
  • The plumbing point is just one outlet in the corner,
  • The power is just one point in the corner,
  • And the windows – although they may not leak too much – may need replacing or upgrading.
  • Fire protection i.e., sprinklers, if required, may be just a supply point yet to be completed… if at all.

All these things have to be modified and extended to suit the new layout.

And, it may be 2 or 3 storeys up (or more) and access may be limited and awkward. Therefore the builder’s work space is also quite difficult to get to.  And, once you start knocking out the windows and some walls to improve the outlook, the price goes up and up and up.

So, when converting an old warehouse or factory into a residence, you may need to…

  • Modify the ground floor level – maybe to park a car and pop a staircase in,
  • Underpin the boundary walls,
  • Lift the roof … or even remove & replace it,
  • Remove the windows – for replacement, relocating, or blocking-up
  • Strengthen the walls
  • Upgrade all of the services – both incoming & outgoing

Consequently, there is little (or no) salvage value in the existing building – and a fair bit of nuisance-value … and so, little or no cost savings.

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