A garage is more than just a roof overhead and parking space for your vehicle.  It’s your workspace, storage area, hobby shop, and a soft landing for your favorite ride.  Here’s how you can turn the garage you daydream about into your real life, personal paradise. 

Plan with purpose

Any time you’re putting together a building project, starting with a well-thought-out layout is the key to success.  You should evaluate your basics, such as whether you want an attached garage versus detached, what direction you want the doors facing, and how large your space will be.  Of course, for most people, budgeting is a concern, and certain designs can be more efficient and effective than others.  For instance, simple shapes, such as squares and rectangles, are less expensive to build than more complicated options.  The fewer corners you have, the less costly construction will be in all respects. 

Material matters

The materials you use for your project will influence your building costs, utilities, and maintenance.  For instance, a steel structure is inexpensive, handsome, and energy efficient, and it can be built quickly.  When it comes to durability, steel, brick, and concrete are all superior to wood and siding selections.  If you want to DIY, steel is a hands-down winner, whereas a selection like brick is going to be far more time-consuming and require more expertise.  Similarly, going with concrete can be more expensive to start with, and you might have trouble finding a builder with the skills for the job, although, as The Seattle Times points out, it can be a cost-saver on utilities and homeowner’s insurance over a selection like traditional wood framing.  Weigh your building costs carefully, as well as what you can afford in terms of added monthly outlay.  

What’s underfoot

When it comes to your garage floor, you have several things to consider.  Start with a concrete pad, and ensure it slopes away from the garage interior so liquids drain out, rather than in.  If you can install a floor drain, all the better, and ensure your floor grades appropriately.  Also decide how you will protect your concrete.  This is a fun part, since there are so many cool options.  You can use an epoxy paint, which gives a nice, showroom-style finish, a sealer, which provides a simple and traditional appearance, or stain it, in which case an acid-based selection is ideal for durability purposes.  There are also interlocking tiles you can install, porcelain tiles, or mats you simply roll out, all of which offer traction and protect the concrete underneath. 

Cover your bases

Before you get too involved with your project, check with your local building authority about code and permit requirements.  If you hire a contractor, they might take care of it for you, but there are issues which might influence your final plans, such as proximity to a neighbor’s property.  If you have a homeowner’s association, they might have specific requirements such as roof pitch, colors, or parking areas as well. 

Accessorizing your space

If you like to tinker with vehicles, how you outfit the work areas in your new garage can be both the most exciting and daunting part of the process.  Obviously, you want everything “just right,” so careful planning is the key.  Think through all the things you want in your new garage and proximity to vehicles.  Bob Vila offers some great DIY workbench designs to think about.  You’ll also need storage for your tools, and you’ll want all the appropriate equipment for tinkering.  Depending on your hobby level, you can outfit your workspace with the basics or you can go whole hog with things like engine lifts, an air compressor, or a painting booth

Little is more satisfying than seeing your dream become reality.  When it’s time to create your ideal garage, do some thinking and planning.  Making good choices means you’ll be happy with your workspace, now and down the road. 

posted by Eric Rothman

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