Looking into expanding our garage. Where do I start?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ June 25, 2010 ~ No Comments

We want to add on a large area for the RV and convert our 2 car garage into a deeper one with a shop at the back. Our garage is attached to the house by the roof only. We have lots of space to add on to the left side of it, but can't picture how the roof will fit in being taller for the RV. Where do I begin with this project?

Kathy S. ~ Washougal, Washington

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Kathy, A garage modification can be one of the easier home remodeling projects as it usually doesn't involve much interior finish work, but there are still some preliminary steps before you can get started.

The first step is to make sure you have room on your property for the addition. When you went to settlement on the home you should have received a plat which shows a footprint of the home on the property. The plat should show any easements and setbacks that your lot has. An easement is a right-of-way on your property that you normally can't build in. Most easements are for utilities. A setback is a buffer zone so that you aren't building right up next to your neighbors' property.

You should have a rough idea of how much larger you would like the garage to be, so make a copy of the plat and draw the addition on the copy to make sure you will not be encroaching on the setbacks or easements. There should be a scale on the plat, they are normally in an engineering scale such as 1 inch equals 30 feet. If you don't have a plat, there should be one on file in the city or county offices of Washougal.

The next step is to meet with a draftsperson or architect to start on drawings for the addition. You will need drawings for building permits and to get estimates from contractors. You may also need drawings for your homeowners' association if you have one. When the preliminary drawing is finished you should have an opportunity to see how the new roofline works with the existing house. The architect should check to make sure the new roofline doesn't interfere with any neighborhood height restrictions.

Before you meet with the architect make a list of everything you can think of that concerns the garage addition. This list should contain any questions you might have and any notations you would like on the drawings. When I say notations I am referring to anything special you would like to call to contractors' attention and would like to make sure are in the price. If you have any special wiring requirements for the shop area or would like an interior hose bib for washing the RV, those are the types of notes that should be on the drawings so that you are getting an accurate estimate and everyone is pricing the same thing.

The last step before construction is to hire a contractor. If you have worked with a contractor in that area of Washington before, and it was a good experience, you may want to bypass the bid process and negotiate a price with that contractor. Make sure that contractor is capable of taking on a project of this size though. If they have a draftsperson on staff, you may be able to bypass the architect step and have the contractor draw the plans.

If you don't have any one you have worked with in the past, then I recommend getting bids from three good contractors. The architect may be aware of some good contractors in the area. Make sure the contractors can provide references for past projects they have done, and you should go and look at the quality of the work and talk to the homeowners. Check for up to date insurance and license information from each contractor.

If you aren't very familiar with the construction process, feel free to ask the architect to help you compare the estimates. You don't want any cost surprises after the project has started such as finding out that insulation or a garage apron weren't included in the price. It sounds like a good project, good luck with it!

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