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It's not a home until the garage is built....

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A garage serves more purposes than just providing a covered shelter for cars. A garage can be designed to provide much needed living space, extra room for storage items, a recreational room, or an area to spend time working on hobbies. Whatever your needs may be, building, remodeling, or converting your garage into ideal space provides more breathing room and enjoyment. Before beginning any major project, take the time to develop a strategic plan and secure the right help. The guidance and tips found in this section will help you get started and keep you focused on creating the ideal garage space.

Whether looking to create a new garage space or update an old one, garage doors and openers need to be considered. There are a variety of options to choose from that add elegance and beauty to any exterior. As you contemplate the choices, learn what options are available, what materials are best for your climate, and what selections provide the longest durability.
Building a Garage
Garage Building & Remodeling; Garage Building & Repairing; General Contractors

Including a garage as part of the home is a solid investment. Many potential buyers consider this a must-have and may not consider the home if it doesn’t have one. Because of the valuable benefits of the extra square footage, it will not be difficult to recuperate the costs when it is time to sell. According to Remodeling Magazine, a garage remodel can expect to see a 74% return on investment.

Most homes built today include a garage. However, if you are looking to upgrade an older home or you’re building one for the first time, seriously consider including a garage. Aside from providing a place to keep cars protected from climate elements, extending their longevity, a garage offers a number of other benefits. As you contemplate the optimal garage, consider the following information to develop a plan that fits your needs.

Develop Objectives
In addition to housing cars, what other functions do you want the garage to perform? Are you looking for increased storage space? Would you like to build a work area for hobbies and projects? Is there a side business it needs to serve or would you like to turn the upper level into an additional room? Determining the objectives behind the garage provides direction to develop a solid plan and ensure the garage of your dreams becomes a reality.

A garage provides extra space for storing tools, lawn care equipment , recreational vehicles, holiday décor, sports equipment and other items your family wants to keep. If project space is a must, building a larger garage accommodates the room for work benches, heavy duty shelving, and larger tools. If the garage needs to support a side business of fixing cars, build in a mechanic’s lift or a home office to support a home based business.

For homes that can accommodate more space, consider including a second level to the garage. The second level can be developed as a much needed master bedroom, a mother-in-law suite, or a fully functioning apartment that can be rented, providing addition income.

Determining Size
Once the garage objectives are set, determine how large it needs to be. How many vehicles will it hold? Will it have a work shop or storage rooms? This determines whether a single, double, or triple garage is required. Will standard sizing accommodate all of the storage or will the garage need to be over-sized for workbenches and storage?

Current lot space and the size of the home play a large role in determining the total square footage available. An oversized garage next to a modest size home is an eyesore. The size of the garage should blend with the lot and the home, while seeking to meet design objectives.

Building Zone Restrictions
Prior to building, plans need to be approved by the local building department. You may discover that zoning restrictions may prohibit some desired garage enhancements. The local building department will also verify if a second story, adding a rental unit, or bringing in plumbing and electrical is allowed in your area. Speak with the local building inspector once objectives are set. Depending on the feedback, reset expectations if certain elements are not permitted. A building permit is also required before any work can begin. Knowing what is allowed upfront saves time and effort, eliminating the need to submit plans more than once if they are rejected.

Creating Plans
As a permit is required, the local building department may require a full set of plans as part of the submission. If using an architect or contractor, they will supply the plans as part of the project. If handling the project yourself, a number of online software options are available to create the necessary plans. Several sites offer free home remodeling software that includes creating a garage, or download specific garage building software.

Attached or Separate?
Is the garage of your dreams attached to the house or does is stand alone? Each option has its own set of pros and cons. Attached garages are ideal for staying dry on cold rainy mornings and detached garages allow for the use of loud mechanical equipment any hour of the day. Building a detached garage also offers the ability to hide it from street view. This aids in privacy as well as curb appeal if an oversized garage is desired. Building code and lot size may make this decision for you. Code may not permit electrical and plumbing if the garage is not attached and a rental unit may not be allowed if attached to the house.

Keep the Look Consistent
The look and style of the garage should match the style of the home. Use the same siding, roofing material, trim, etc., to ensure the look stays consistent and part of the overall property.

Choosing a Builder
The majority of general contractors have extensive experience in building garages. However, you can also choose a contractor who specializes in designing and building garages. If you already have a general contractor who helped with other remodeling projects and you trust them, keep using them. If the garage build is the only project you are considering, a specialist may be ideal. Using a garage builder who specializes in garages only ensures they are up-to-date on the latest offerings and luxuries available in garages.

Regardless of contractor, seriously consider using a professional to build a new garage. The extensive code requirements and scale of this type of project merits the need for professional help. Even for the knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer, the time commitment itself may be more than you want to tackle. To find a professional in your area, visit the General Contractors or the Garage Builders heading at

A garage door does more than just seal up the garage. It provides insulation for those who use their garage for laundry and workshops. Accounting for up to 30% of the visual exterior, a garage door sets the tone for curb appeal and the exterior style of the home. They also provide easy access into the home for those who forgot their keys. However, garage doors are often considered an afterthought until you need one. So before you rush out to look through the variety of showrooms and catalogs, take a minute to review a few considerations to narrow the search.

Door Type
Two common door types are available on the market today. Each one offers a distinct look with unique pros and cons.

Tilt-Up: The choice for older-style homes, tilt-up garage doors are single panel doors that pivot out and up in a single motion before resting along the ceiling of the garage. Many elegant wood framed varieties are tilt-up garage doors as they provide a classy, no seam appearance. These types of doors are not practical in snowy climates where snow and ice often pile up in front of the door. As the panel pivots out before going up, anything blocking the front of the door will prohibit its opening. Therefore, the space needs to remain free from car bumpers, bicycles, children or lawn mowers.

Sectional Roll-Up: A more popular choice in modern homes, sectional roll-up doors are made up of four or more horizontal sections. The sections are hinged together and travel on tracks. Each section bends as it reaches the top, allowing the door to open straight up and roll back to face the ceiling. This type of door uses much less surrounding space and does not require free space in front in order to function. The panels offer a variety of styles, colors and textures to create an elegant and beautiful door.

Door Material
The majority of garage doors are made from either wood or steel. Aluminum and fiberglass garage doors are also available but are used less frequently than wood and steel.

Wood: A popular choice due to its elegance, natural look, and affordability rather than its durability. As wood expands and contracts, it warps and cracks as it weathers. In order to preserve its look and longevity, wood garage doors need to be repainted or refinished every two years. Available in a variety of styles and colors, wood offers an elegance and beauty unequaled by other materials. Painting and staining also increases the color choices to match any exterior décor.

Steel: Stronger, more economical and more secure than wood, steel doors won’t warp, crack or deteriorate due to weather. Steel garage doors are available in a variety of colors and new technologies allow steel to mimic the look of wood. Painting steel doors increases the number of color selections matching it to any style or décor. Steel is not without is flaws, however. It is prone to denting and fades over time. Available in two distinct types, each type provides a level of strength and durability.

Single Layer: The most economical of all steel garage doors, single layer doors are made from a single sheet of hot-dipped, galvanized steel. Clad in vinyl or with a baked-on polyester finish, these doors are resistant to rust and do not require frequent painting, unlike wood.

Double Layer: Inside the galvanized layer is a thick layer of polystyrene or polyurethane. This additional layer creates a backer that provides soundproofing and increased insulation to the door. Double-layer doors are more durable and create an aesthetic look even from inside the garage.

Door Styles
Offering a distinct look to any garage door, a variety of styles are available to complement any exterior. The style you choose should blend with the existing exterior while providing elegance and beauty. The most common styles of panels are as follows:

Flush Panels: Basically flat, these slightly textured panels lay flush against each other and draw less attention as they blend into the surrounding wall.

Raised Panel: Available in long and short, raised panels give depth and detail to the garage door. Created using a rectangle or square crease inside the panel, the center is left raised to give dimension and detail. Long panels or ranch panels are longer creating a distinct style and elegance for more formal exteriors.

Short panels include more detail to each panel and are ideal for homes that have intricate trim and detailing.

Recessed Panel: Using the same crease of a raised panel, the center of the panel is also removed providing a recessed interior to the panel. This look offers a unique dimension and depth as well.

Windows, window panels, decorative inserts, or architectural design panels are also available, providing a limitless number of designs. Windows and decorative panels are traditionally placed in the top panel position providing natural light while locking out seasonal temperatures.

The benefit of opening garage doors without leaving the car is a must, especially in locations where climate temperatures are more severe. Garage door openers are available in a variety of styles and power levels to make the entry quick and painless. Determining the garage opener that is right for you depends on a variety of factors. The size and weight of the door plays a large role along with your personal tolerance for noise. Consider each of the following factors to find the solution that is right for you.

Drive Systems
The drive system is the mechanism that actually raises and lowers the door. They are available in a few basic varieties, each with certain advantages and disadvantages. Noise is often the most important consideration, especially if a prominent room is located above or to the side of the garage. When bedrooms or family rooms are located near a garage, focus on an opener that minimizes vibration and reduces noise.

Chain Drive: This is the most popular drive system, primarily because it is the least expensive but it is also the noisiest. With a chain drive system, a metal chain runs along a track which lifts and lowers the door.

Belt Drive: A quieter option, a belt drive uses rubber bands to lift and lower the garage door. These smooth-running belts also reduce vibrations and noise. While it is also the most expensive option, garage doors openers in general are not a significant out-of-pocket expense. A good quality belt drive can be found for under $300.

Screw Drive: This system raises and lowers the door as a lifting mechanism runs along a threaded steel rod. Using the least amount of parts, this system is more reliable and requires less maintenance. The noise level is average but it can be minimized by purchasing one with a plastic lined track.

After choosing a system, make sure the power behind the system is adequate for the size and weight of the door. Without adequate power, the system runs under stress and breaks down sooner that it should. Three standard sizes include: 1/3, 1/2 and 3/4 horsepower. A single garage door usually requires 1/3 horsepower and a double garage door requires 1/2 horsepower. If doors are heavier than usual, consider purchasing more horsepower to ensure it operates smoothly and is less taxed. This will extend the life of the system as well as save energy. Three-quarters horsepower is typically only used in commercial facilities.

The power of a system is also related to how quickly it raises and lowers the door. A standard speed is seven inches per second. Higher-end models raise the door quicker, saving time, but due to safety, all garage doors close at the same slower speed. Choosing a model with a slower start and stop ensures greater safety as well as ensures a quieter opening and closing.

Required by law, all garage door openers close at the same speed and reverse when something crosses its path. The majority of doors use an electronic beam that triggers the safety mechanism once a person or object breaks the beam. Most doors also have a hand release allowing the door to be opened manually in the case of a power outage. Some garage door openers have a battery back-up feature that keeps the door running, despite the loss of power.

To optimize security, all garage door openers use a rolling code. This process generates a new, random code every time the door is opened or closed. Random codes prevent thieves from stealing your code and they cut down on the possibility of a neighbor’s remote control opening your door. Some garage door openers also offer a timer feature allowing you to lock the garage door and disable it while you are on vacation.

As another security feature, most garage door openers have a built in light on the motor unit. This light illuminates whenever the door is opened and remains on for a few minutes to let you get into your car or enter the house.

Remote Controls
A variety of remote control options are available depending on your needs. One-button remotes control one door and multi-button remotes can be programmed to control more than one door. Smaller remotes can be placed on keychains making it more portable.

Wall mounted controls look similar to a door-bell and provide one touch opening and closing without the need of a remote. Placement of the fixed remote is traditionally on the inside of the house or outside in the garage. A keyless entry pad can also be mounted on the outside of the door allowing access using a special code. This is especially useful when you forget the remote or for children to gain entry.

Newer garage door openers also offer a special delay feature making it easier to exit the garage after triggering a fixed remote. Delayed closing provides additional time to get past the door beam without dodging the lowering door or stepping over the beam.