8 Things to Consider When Building a Garage

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated September 10, 2021
Modern home with a two car garage
Dariusz Jarzabek - stock.adobe.com

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A well-built garage is so much more than just a place to store your car, which is why many homeowners aspire to build or upgrade an existing structure. Garages can create extra family space, give you room to express talents or explore new passions, and much more. However, it’s a significant project and requires careful planning and attention to detail to execute well. Think of these eight tips as your homeowner’s checklist to make sure you’ve thought through all the factors you need to consider when building a new garage.

Note: Building a garage yourself can prove dangerous, not to mention deceptively complicated. The information below is intended to be used to help you plan your project with a pro. This is one we definitely recommend you don’t DIY. Instead, consult a local garage builder who can craft a one-of-a-kind space for you.

1. Understand Local Garage Zoning Laws

Local zoning laws control how and what you can build on your property. Read up on these before building a garage, and be confident you’re in the clear before installing one. The office of your city or town’s government (either in-person or online) is usually the best place to find information on your area’s regulations.

More often than not, you’ll need a permit for home additions. Rebuilding an existing structure on the same footprint may not require any permits, but it’s still good to be sure. Zoning violations can come with hefty penalties and even short jail sentences in some states. This is also an area where your pro can likely help.

2. Determine If You Want an Attached or Detached Garage

The two main types of garages are attached and detached garages. A detached garage stands alone, while an attached garage becomes an extension of your home’s structure. An attached garage costs about 10% to 15% less to build. In general, the cost to build a garage that holds one to two cars ranges between $16,000 and $39,000. A three-car garage can run more than $57,000.

Benefits of an Attached Garage

  • Convenience

  • Can hook up existing electricity and plumbing

  • More affordable

  • Increase’s property value

  • Complies with most HOA agreements

  • Bonus: No scraping ice or snow off your windshield on winter mornings!

Benefits of a Detached Garage

  • Keeps vehicle noise and emissions further from the house

  • More freedom to build how and what you want

  • More space

  • Some homeowners find a detached garage more attractive

  • Easier to expand or add to

  • Increases property value

3. Consider Usage

Beginning with the end in mind is always helpful when planning any home improvement project. So, it’s worth asking: how will you use your new garage space? 

Parking cars inside is pretty much a universal desire, but other possible functions include:

  • Workshop or building area

  • Entertainment room

  • Storage

  • Greenhouse

  • Space for passion projects or a small business

  • Gym or workout area

  • RV garage

Make a list of what functions you want your garage space to serve. If resale value is a priority, be sure to consider any highly personalized plans before executing them. For example, many homeowners are willing to pay extra for good storage space, but some may not care about (or even want) an entertainment setup in their garage.

4. Determine How Many Stalls You Need

Modern home with a dark color one car garage
pridannikov - stock.adobe.com

How many cars do you plan to fit in your new garage, and how big are they? Not all parking spaces are created equal, so if you drive large trucks or SUVs, you may have trouble fitting them inside standard stalls. Take measurements and chat with your garage building expert about dimensions.

Two- or three-car garages are usually your best bet for resale value, whereas building too small or too big of a garage could deter some homebuyers.

5. Consider Garage Door Design

One thing homeowners often don’t think about until it’s too late? Door design—or, more specifically, the height of their new garage doors.  A local garage door company typically charges between $750 and $1,600 for installation, so make sure you get what you want.

8- or 9-feet wide by 7-feet tall is the gold standard for garage door dimensions. But building a space with higher ceilings and doors could be essential depending on your lifestyle. For example, if you go camping and frequently strap outdoor gear to your roof, taller garage ceilings and doors might be nice to have.

6. Carefully Consider Garage Ventilation

Trapped car fumes in a garage can make you and your family sick. If the airflow in your garage is stagnant, harmful carbon monoxide could even make its way into your home if you’re building an attached garage.

Installing an exhaust fan is one option, but making sure your new garage’s design includes windows, vents, and a good balance of insulation and ventilation in cold-weather climates.

7. Consider Driveway Ramifications

Your new garage may affect your existing driveway’s layout, making it either ineffective or simply too small for your space. Building a new driveway from scratch costs about $4,500, but even modifying it could cost a couple thousand dollars (especially if you’re widening or lengthening it). Factoring this into your budget is equally important.

A good rule of thumb: a new one-car garage requires about 10 feet of driveway, while a two-car garage needs at least 20, if not more.

Consider your usage plans too when designing your new driveway. If, for example, you’re building an entertainment area in your garage, maybe you make plans to install a flatter driveway so you can set up a basketball court. (Swish!)

8. Consider the Cost of Your New Garage

Building your own garage is a huge undertaking. It could also be dangerous when you consider the number of projects that go into installing equipment (think motorized doors that involve wiring electricity and hooking up loaded springs).

That said, those who go the DIY route stand to save some cash. A metal garage kit you install yourself may only cost between $3,000 and $11,000. A garage contractor charges between $16,733 and $38,913 on average but comes with the benefit of having experience (and even potentially existing layouts to choose from).

A garage builder near you can give you an accurate quote for building or upgrading your garage.

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