A garage that will serve you well in the coming years begins with a good plan. This guide will help you plan an addition that will work great as a standard garage and just as well if you decide to convert it to living space in the years ahead.

Plan Your Garage

Find a Basic Plan you Like

Before hiring an architect to design your garage, take a look through a book of standard garage plans. These books are available at home improvement stores, bookstores and online.
Your garage plan options include an attached garage, which is the most affordable, a detached garage or a detached garage connected to the house with a breezeway that can be a lovely screened area for use in warm weather or a three/four-season room, depending on your climate.

In the garage plan books you peruse, you’ll almost certainly find a plan you like well enough to use as is or with slight modifications. You or a contractor can pencil in the changes you want, and a building code department will accept it.

Consider Attic Trusses

Standard garage trusses are designed to create storage space above your garage. Attic trusses are designed to create living space up there. They cost 20 to 35 percent more, but they give you the ability to turn that space into an apartment, kids play room, man cave, bedroom, etc.

While you’re designing the attic space, consider dormers on the garage for even more room. The investment will save you the expense of tearing the roof off the garage in the future, when you want to add a studio or apartment up there.

Add Plumbing Now

Tearing up concrete to run water lines is a messy, tough and expensive task. Installing hot and cold water lines and a drain before the concrete floor is poured is simple and pretty inexpensive. You’ll have water for a utility tub and washing the car now, and the garage will be ready for its conversion to living space whenever you are. While you’re adding a central drain, install a second one in the place you’re most likely to add a bathroom in a garage remodel.

Install an Electrical Subpanel

This is another affordable upgrade that will produce benefits in years to come. Having additional circuits for use in the garage allows you to run equipment out there and have the juice available if you finish the garage in the future. Consider at least one 240V circuit for heavy equipment, a water heater or future dryer.

Take a Look at a Tall Garage Door

Standard garage doors provide seven feet of clearance. Eight-foot doors mean you can drive in a car or minivan with a small load on the roof without a problem. If that sounds like a winner to you, the expense of adding that extra foot isn’t much. Doors up to 12 feet are available, but they’ll create significant design issues, and they may limit your ability to use the attic of the garage for living space. Check with your building codes department before you install any door taller than eight feet.

Don’t Forget Permits

Your garage building project will require a building permit, and if you add mechanicals like plumbing and electrical, you’ll have to pull permits for them too. Permits range in cost from one community to the next, but expect to pay $150+ for permits that will help ensure the job is done properly and safely, so you’ll avoid potential future problems.

Image Credit: Flickr

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