If you're in need of a new garage, try building one on your own

To many people, a garage is simply a place to store a car. To others, it's a catchall for out-of-use items, with or without wheels. And for still others, a garage is a successful combination of storage areas for cars and seldom-used items, a convenient place to enjoy hobbies or do household repairs.

If you're in need of garage space, you needn't wait until you can afford to hire a contractor. Building a garage is well within the ability of most anyone handy with common carpenter tools and building materials. The job can easily be completed in several weeks and is often an excellent summer-vacation project that can involve the entire family.

As with any other home-improvement project, it's a good idea to ask yourself some preliminary questions and research local building codes before you plan the structure. Shortcuts in research and paper work often create needless problems and a structure that doesn't provide as much as it should.

Aside from cost, the main question to answer is whether the site is large enough and suitable (in the eyes of the local government) for a garage. You must , for example, take into consideration all city setback restrictions and any other deed restrictions related to adding a new structure to the land.

In some areas, deed restrictions do not permit detached garages, so the space must be large enough to attach the new garage to the house and be within rear-, front-, and side-setback lines.

Limitations of the site (slope and location of the driveway, for example) will help you determine the best location as well as the type of garage: attached, detached, basement, or carport.

Where space is not a limitation, the attached garage has much in its favor. It may give better architectural lines to the house, is warmer in the winter, and provides covered protection to passengers, convenient space for storage, and a short, direct entrance to the house.

Building regulations often require that detached garages be located away from the house toward the rear of the lot. Where there is considerable slope to a lot , a basement garage may be desirable. Generally, such garages cost less than those above ground if they are incorporated in the original house plans.

Size is another important question. How many cars will your new garage accommodate, and what size are they? What other uses do you have for the garage?

To avoid designing the garage too small for convenient use, allow an inside length of at least 21 to 22 feet and an inside width of at least 11 to 13 feet per car. The minimum outside dimensions would therefore be 14 by 22 feet for a single garage - 22 by 22 feet for a double garage. The addition of a shop or storage area would increase these minimum sizes.

A new garage should be in keeping with the style of the house, whether it is completed as part of the original house construction or as a later addition. Mixing a modern flat-roof garage with a traditional colonial home can have an adverse effect on the resale value of the property. Stick with the original style, always keeping in mind that the structure you are building is far too large to hide from view once it is completed.

Here are some of the many styles and types of garages you may wish to consider:

- Attached as an in-line structure.

- Attached as an L shape.

- Attached as a front projection.

- Attached as a balancing wing.

- Attached as an angular shape.

- Attached to help form a court.

- Attached under the house.

- Attached on a corner lot.

- Attached with a breezeway.

- Attached with a family room.

- Attached as a hobby garage.

- Attached with living quarters under the same roof.

There are a number of ways to obtain plans and specifications for building a garage. Hiring an architect or home designer is one option, but it's the costliest way to go. You can also browse through catalogs or books yourself. Stock-plan firms offer books from which you may order plans and a list of materials to do the job.

Look at other garages in the neighborhood. Talk with owners and ask what they would change if they had the chance.

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