For some, garages are among the least exciting home-renovation projects. But for others, the garage is the only exciting home renovation project.
The truth is, because a garage is one of the most useful and practical elements of your home, it holds a great deal of potential for making your home function at its best.
Garages keep cars off the street and out of the weather. They provide added security. They make a good home for tools and workbenches. They are excellent storage spaces for garbage cans, yard equipment, recreational gear and the dreaded (but ever present) "miscellaneous items," not the least of which are Christmas presents and decorations.
There are two types of garages. First, there is the attached garage, meaning it is attached to the house. The advantage of an attached garage is the proximity to the residence, making it easy to carry things from the car to the home and to avoid foul weather.
The second is the detached garage. Often, if the lot is too narrow to accommodate the extra width of an attached garage, an alternative is to place a detached garage behind the home. While this type of garage is farther from the house and exposes you to the weather, it can also be a great solution for your home. For instance, depending on the size of your lot, the garage has the potential to be much larger if it is detached.
Once you determine if your lot will accommodate an attached or detached garage, you need to look at placement, size, design and function.
Think about the placement of the garage in relation to the house and the street. Also, plan ahead, so the size and placement of your garage will not disturb any future remodeling plans. Having a master plan will help you not overlap your garage into the space where you hope to someday have a new addition.
The style of a garage should blend with the home and contribute, not detract, from its curb appeal. We recommend using a design professional to make sure the garage functions well and compliments the architecture of your home. We also caution that bigger is not necessarily better.
A garage should dwarf neither your main dwelling nor that of the neighbor's. You will need to check city zoning ordinances that specify the maximum size and height allowed for a garage, as well as for restrictions on where the garage may be placed on your lot. There are also often restrictions on the functions allowed in a garage; many people think about adding an apartment over the garage, but this is generally not allowed by zoning ordinances.
When you are planning your garage remodel, you should determine how you want your garage to function. Are you really going to park cars in it, or will it actually be an auxiliary storage space? Will it house a wood shop or a place to restore your 1960s muscle car?
You need to determine the function of the garage in order to determine the level of finish you will want. Most garages are unfinished on the interior, with the studs and wood sheathing exposed, making it easy to hang things. Finishing the interior with insulation and wallboard, however, will make the interior space more comfortable to work in and will temper it for storage of more perishable items. Floors are typically unfinished concrete, but products such as concrete paints, rubber membranes or rubber mats can improve a garage's appearance and comfort.
Garages are a major part of your property and a substantial financial investment. Construction will cost about $80 per square foot for an unfinished interior. Add a finished interior and you are up to about $100 per square foot. (Compare this to a pre-manufactured storage shed, which will cost about $40 per square foot.)
Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.