Wanting to add a garage onto your home is easy. Doing so expands your usable (even if not livable) square footage, which increases your property market value. At the same time, depending on the its size, a garage provides a secure place to store your car, lawn tractor, tools, etc., which extends their life span. The tough part is deciding what you really want in a garage – that always seems to be a big roadblock for homeowners to overcome.
And those decisions will affect the final price of the garage. Ask two contractors for a quote to build a basic garage and you might get bids returned that are $20,000 apart or more. This isn't necessarily because Prima-Donna Pete commands $95 an hour just to get out of bed, it's because there are so many options you can have in your garage. The best way to plan out your ideal garage is to start with the big stuff. Once you have made a list of the basics features you require, you can start to search for the garage plans that suit your style.
Do you drive a Prius or a lifted truck on 38.5-inch tires? Will your garage be the local neighborhood hangout for beer drinking, or will it strictly be storage for your car and Christmas ornaments? These factors and more go into determining the most important thing to square away with your garage – the square footage. The first thing to look for in a garage is whether you want a 1-car unit or one for 2+ cars? Single level or loft that has an apartment for when your in-laws and other guests visit? Standard dimensions for a typical two-car garage: a minimum of 20 ft. by 24 ft. for two cars – at approximately 480 square ft. But this size does not leave much room for storage or a workbench, in which case you should plan on a space that is at least 30 feet deep or more and 24 ft. wide if you can swing it.
Windows, Doors, and Walls
To be honest, your two major decisions with a garage come down to what size you want and what you want to do on each wall. Once you narrow down the size of the garage that ties in with your house, the next decision is whether you want windows and if so, how many. Windows are a nice source of natural light but also an access point for crooks. Before windows (which are optional), you need to figure out your door. Not only what material and appearance, but whether you want it insulated or not and whether you want windows in the door or not.
How Will You Finish It?
Many times it's not actually how big or small the garage is that determines the overall cost but how detailed you want to go with the build. In order to know what to look for in a garage you have to know what you want to get out of it. For a shop you might want to look into splicing the HVAC system from the house out into the area. Of course before that you'll need electrical, insulation, drywall, and maybe even plumbing.
Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves – Foundation First
A quality contractor won't leave this up to the homeowner – mostly because it's required by building code – but the foundation of your garage matters. If you're lucky enough to live in Santa Monica or the Maldives you can get away with a concrete slab poured on grade. For the rest of us, we need footers that extend deep into the frost line with a slab poured between concrete forms for stability. The good thing is, when your foundation is being poured you can opt in for in-floor heating or fancy surface decorations.
Don't Forget Curb Appeal
While your garage adds value as a place to store your stuff, it can't be overlooked how important the build is to the overall curb appeal and aesthetics of your property. Whether you have a Craftsman, Farmhouse, Country, Ranch, or Modern home, you’ll want the garage to complement its architecture. Depending on how detailed you went with the interior plumbing/finishing/insulating/HVAC – and its effect on your budget – your only option for the siding and roof may be Tyvek housewrap for a couple years. Once the budget does come around, it's time to look at your siding and roofing options. Ideally you want your garage to be an extension of your home, not a weird uncle outcast to the kiddie table of your yard. Plus, the siding and roof you chose do have an impact on the energy efficiency of your garage if you chose to finish it completely.
The best thing about knowing what to look for in a garage is that there are a lot of things to consider. It's one of the most customizable areas of your home/property that can be used for anything from storage to an office to a shop to a bedroom for your stepson to an actual place to park your cars. Therefore ... the sky's the limit!