This Old Garage
Our Basic Garage package is priced to work for any budget. To find out what's included, click here.
By far the most common outbuilding we build is a garage. We replace a lot of garages that are falling down now because they were originally built without a foundation — just a slab on the ground. The result is predictable. The weight of the garage walls eventually cracks the slab. The walls start to sag, them the roof. Finally, the door jams and stops working. It's at this point that we usually get a call with many variations of the same question: "How much will it cost to fix."
Unfortunately, at this point the garage is beyond repair. There is no cure for the sags except to tear it down, repour the foundation and slab, and build a new garage.
The Garage Cost Calculator
The question we are most frequently asked about garages is "how much does it cost?"
Here is a simple garage cost calculator to help you answer that question. This form calculates the cost of our Basic Garage — a simple, non-insulated one storey garage on a 4" concrete slab. To find out what is included in the Basic Garage package, click here.
Before starting your calculations, please read the Instructions, below.
Detached garages as large as 400 sq. ft. can lawfully be built without a full foundation. This includes a single car garage and a small two-car garage (18' x 22'). We don't recommend it, however. Such garages do not last. Most of the garages we build have full concrete footings down to the frost line. Over this we pour a thick 4" reinforced slab carefully sloped so that water drains quickly out of the garage. This is a garage that will last as least as long as your house. We can insulate the slab if you want to heat the garage now or later. We can build your garage using standard or post and beam framing.
If you want a storage loft, a full second floor or a mother-in-law apartment over or beside the garage, we can do that too. Contact us for more information and a free estimate.
How Much Garage Do You Need?
While it may turn out that you actually need a heated, air-conditioned garage with extensive lighting and electrical service for all sorts of tools, including 3-phase 230v power for your industrial grade, computer controlled, shop equipment, most people can get along with less.
How you are going to use your garage determines what features it needs. If you are just going to park your cars out of the rain and snow and store the mower and a few garden tools, the basic garage may fit your needs exactly. In fact, even a covered carport may work for you.
But, then it gets a little more complicated.
If you intend to use the garage for your primary outdoor storage, you will need to add at least 3' to the back. Some of this is for the actual storage, and some to enable you to walk around the parked cars. Bigger is better. We generally recommend five feet - two feet of storage and three feet to walk around to get to the storage.
Most existing detached garages cannot be effectively heated because they were not built to be heated — there is no insulation under the slab and no thermal break separating the slab in the heated interior from the footings exposed to frigid exterior. You can, of course insulate the walls and ceiling, and this will help some. But, adding insulation to an existing non-insulated slab is virtually impossible to do cost effectively. Insulated and non-insulated slabs are built quite differently. If you intend to heat the garage, or may add heat to the garage later, an insulated slab is a must. Without floor insulation, cold simply flows in through the garage floor. So, if in doubt, insulate the slab. (For much more on insulation, see Insulating Your Old House.)
An electrical sub-panel with shut-off is now required in most jurisdictions to safely electrify a garage.
Plan on adding electricity if you want lights, outlets or an automatic garage door opener. For detached garages, adding electricity is getting fairly costly since recent code changes mandate new safety features including a shutoff in the garage and dual masts for overhead lines - one at the house and one at the garage - or underground wiring. Neither of these options is trivial and can add substantially to the cost of a basic garage.
For automated door openers, you will need at least one 15 amp. line from your house service panel to your garage. You will need a 50 amp. electrical service for heat and air-conditioning. Extensive shop tools may require 220-volt service.
If you want the convenience of a garage attached to your house, the complexity grows even more. We will need to build it just like your house with full footings. We will also need a 2-hour fire door into the house and 1-hour fire-rated gypsum board applied to all of the garage walls adjacent to your house. This is intended to prevent a garage fire from reaching your house long enough to give you time to get out. Finding a good location for an attached garage is often a problem. Most older lots are not wide enough for a garage alongside the house, so we have to figure out ways to attach it to the back of the house with an orientation that permits you to drive your car into it without violating any of the myriad of zoning or building code restrictions or backing into the hedge. Often the best solution is a semi-detached garage, that is, a detached garage connected through a breezeway.
Size is a cost factor. A two- or three-car garage costs more to build than a single-car structure. Add a loft for storage or a mother-in-law apartment above, and you can see why a basic garage costing less than $10,000 can quickly grow a price tag of more than $40,000.
Generally, the minimum size for a one-car garage is 12 ft. wide by 22 ft. long. For two cars, the minimum is 18 ft. wide by 22 ft. long. However, these numbers are a bare minimum. Most homeowners build their garages a little wider so they can open their car doors freely, and longer so they have enough room at the back to store things. Consequently, 24 feet is the most common garage length, and 14' and 22' the most common widths for one-car and two-car garages respectively.
When it comes to garage size, the rule of thumb is this: If in doubt, build bigger. You will appreciate having extra storage space for bicycles, the lawnmower, gardening tools and sports equipment, especially since it is difficult to predict exactly what your needs will be five or ten years from now.
If you intend to use your garage just for car parking, keep in mind that car sizes vary a lot. You could one day trade your Prius for a Humvee. If you build a space sized for your sub-compact, you may have to park the SUV at the curb. In short, don't plan just for today. You are probably going to have the same garage for many years and it needs to fit what you are likely to do in the future as well as your current needs.
Planning Your Garage
Our basic two-car garage with vinyl siding option — truck not included, sorry.
Building a garage is a major undertaking. It is an addition to your house and should be taken as seriously as any other addition. A well-designed and constructed garage can add considerable value to your property as well as useful functionality while you still own the house. A poorly designed garage can easily detract from your property, lessening rather than increasing its value.
Building a garage is generally not something to be done without serious professional planning. You will need detailed plans for the project. Oh, we know that 50 years ago good ol' Uncle Gus slapped up a garage on the Ol' Homeplace over the weekend without plan one, and it's still standing — more or less. Times have changed, though. All garages need building permits in most communities. This includes a site plan to ensure that the garage does not intrude into zoning setbacks and does not overbuild the lot. There are restrictions on how much of your lot you can use for buildings, and this is determined by your zoning and the size of your lot.
Good plans are not only necessary to get building code approval, but ensure that the garage is structurally sound, contains the features you need, and is designed to complement your house. Just as important, it helps ensure that you get only the features you need and that you are not paying for facilities you will never use.
Overall Design The overall design and every exterior feature of your garage should complement your house. It should have the same or a coordinating siding and overall appearance. The roof shingles on your garage should be the same color and material as those on your house. The shape and design of the garage roof should also mimic the style of your home. If your house is a Craftsman Bungalow, a steep pitched roof on the garage is out of place. If it is a Tudor Revival, a steep roof is almost mandatory.
The Garage Door The garage door will have a dramatic impact on the overall look of the garage. It typically will face the front of your property and either add or detract from your home's curb appeal. The garage door needs to suit the architectural style of your home. You will also want to pick a door that is well made for years of service, and, if you are heating your garage, one that will be energy efficient.
Windows Windows can be problematic in a garage. Sure, they let in natural light, which is always a good thing, but they also invite burglars to take a detailed inventory before they break into your garage. If you are storing a lot of tools and other valuables in your garage, you may decide, as a security measure, not to have windows at all or
to place them high on the wall so that it is not possible to peek in without a ladder. An alternative is one or more skylights. Installing skylights in a new roof as it is being built is trivial compared to the mess of installing them in an existing roof. In most cases a skylight is no more expensive than a window. And, an opening skylight adds welcome ventilation on warm days.
Equipping the Interior If the sole purpose of your garage is to park your cars, interior design is easy. But, if you expect your garage to do more, it gets a little more complicated. A good interior design dedicates different areas of the garage to different purposes. Here is a typical list of functional areas:
• Vehicle parking
• Equipment storage: lawnmower, snow blower, and garden tractor
• Workshop or bench with tool storage
• Storage for recreational items (bicycles, sports equipment, toys) and gardening tools and supplies
• Trash and recycling
• Wood storage
• Extra refrigerator and/or freezer
A good plan also anticipates future changes and set out a process for adding features to the garage as the budget allows.
And, while we are on the subject of interior design, let's not forget the organizers. If you have ever doubted American ingenuity just Google "Garage Organizers" and stand back. There is an organizer for everything, from custom made cabinets to wire shelving and all manner of storage in between. Here are just a few:
• Storage cabinets (Garden supplies, sports equipment, tools, oil, paint, anti-freeze)
• Storage shelves (Just about anything)
• Pegboards and slatwalls (Small and large tools and implements)
• Bins (Grass seed, bird seed, potting soil, fertilizer)
• Tool hooks (Shovels, rakes, brooms, the Weed-Wacker)
For more information about our garages, garage design and planning services, please contact us. We work only in Nebraska. If you are looking for a garage, but you are not fortunate enough the live in Nebraska, you can find a qualified contractor at Signature Contractors.