Are you thinking of adding a garage to your home? There are a great number of advantages to this idea. You'll be protecting your vehicle -- not only from weather damage due to snow, hail, or strong sunlight, but also from theft. In addition, you stand to gain extra storage, much-needed room to work at crafts or hobbies, perhaps a cozy retreat (man cave, anyone?), a convenient home office, or even additional living space. The key to a successful garage construction project is careful planning before you begin to build. Here are 7 important steps to take.
- Look into zoning laws, setback rules, and homeowner's association stipulations. Make sure that local regulations will allow you to build the garage of your dreams.
- Think about your finances. The cost of building a garage starts at $30 per square foot for a basic attached unit. How do you plan to pay for it? If you can come up with the cash on the spot, great. Otherwise, you should line up your financing before you go any further. The most common methods are adding to your current mortgage or taking out a loan. Find out which would be cheaper and whether you qualify.
- Decide on the size. Consider not just your needs now, but also what they may be in the future. For example, a newly married couple may have only a subcompact at the moment, but in 5 or 10 years, might need room to park an SUV and a second car. If you have sufficient yard space, a 2- or even 3-bay garage will give you more flexibility, including room for large vehicles, as well as storage and workspace. For a 2-car garage, 20' x 20' is the minimum size, but 24' x 24' is preferable.
- Choose between a detached and an attached garage. Each has its advantages. Attached garages are less expensive, because they make use of an existing house wall and can be connected to your home's electrical system. (You may, however, need to upgrade your panel to accommodate any appliances or power tools that you will be using in the garage.) It's also more comfortable to get to your car or workshop via the house door to an attached garage. A detached garage offers different benefits: it's generally easier to obtain a building permit and to enlarge in future. You will have more privacy and security when there is no direct access to your home, and will also avoid the risk of gasoline fumes in the house
- Make sure the garage will match your home in terms of size, style, and elements like roofline, exterior finish, and door type. How will you heat and cool the space? (Don't forget to insulate -- it's much simpler to do during the garage construction process.) Do you plan to install ductwork and is there room? Which local utilities will you need to connect to? Electricity is obvious, but plumbing is also essential if you wish to install a washing machine, sink, and/or toilet in the new garage. Once you're sure of what you want, it's recommended to have a professional draw up the official plans.
- Look at the potential dollar value. Find out whether your garage can legally be converted into living space for extra income at some future date. If and when you plan to sell, the garage will be one of the first parts of the home that potential buyers will see, so take care to make it look attractive and fit in with the character of the neighborhood as a whole. Building a garage tends to bring a good return on your investment and help your home sell more readily. In fact, not having one may well act as a deal breaker, especially in areas with severe weather.
- Find a contractor. Compare cost estimates to build your garage. (Remember -- cheapest is not necessarily best!) Make sure you work with a licensed, insured contractor who will pull the necessary permits for you and sign a written contract.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.