Do It Yourself: How To Build A Garage

A step by step guide to building a garage. It also outlines the dangers of working from scratch and steps to prevent them.

If you are looking for extra room in your home, a garage may be the answer. Cars are no longer the exclusive residents of such spaces. These days, people use the space for storage, a home office or even a guest bedroom. However, building a garage is a little more complicated than nailing pieces of wood together. It may not be the best project for a weekend warrior to tackle. Still, with a couple of pointers and some outside help, you can turn an unused piece of land, into a building that will work for you.

The first step is to plan. Will this garage serve as an enclosed space for your car? Will there be one or two cars? Perhaps you need a place to start a home business. Before you begin, you need to decide some of the basics. How much space do you want? Will there be any windows? What style of roof are you looking for? The answer to some of these questions will help you come up with a detailed, scaled drawing of what you are looking for. This is your first opportunity to look for some outside help. An architect can help you draw a set of plans and even answer the questions you may not know about. Do you know your local codes? What permits will you need? Have you thought about the slope of the foundation for drainage? An architect can address all of these questions and give you the time to concentrate on the building.

Once you have a set of plans, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. First, you need to lay the slab foundation. This is the second area where you may want to seek the advice of a professional. You can always take down a piece of wood, but once the foundation is down, it is set in stone. Literally, a slab foundation is a wood frame that contains the poured concrete. Trenches, also called footings, encircle the edges to provide extra support. Before you pour the concrete, you should lay down a vapor barrier on the ground and a layer of sand or stone. A vapor barrier looks like a giant garbage bag. It keeps water in the ground and prevents moisture from seeping up through your foundation. Over time, moisture can ruin your foundation. Next, you need to pour the concrete while placing mesh and rebar into position. The mesh and rebar adds rigidity. Local code will dictate thickness of the slab, thickness of the footing, width of the footing, sizing of the wire mesh, thickness of the layer of gravel or sand and size and location of the rebar.

Once the proper amount of time passes for the slab to strengthen, it's time to start on the walls. Before beginning, you'll need to attach the "sill plates". Sill plates are pressure treated pieces of wood, which connect to the foundation, horizontally, by bolts. The sills give you a level base to build your walls. The walls are made with vertical pieces of wood called "studs". Usually, the easiest way to build a wall is to lay it out on the ground and then raise it into position. A second horizontal piece of wood serves as a base to the wall. Position studs every 16" to 24", depending on local code. A third horizontal piece of wood tops the stud. Finally, nail a fourth horizontal piece of wood. This is the "cap plate". Apart from your wall lying on the ground, you have one side done. For any openings, like windows or the garage door opening, you'll need to consult your local code to see how to frame those.

With the walls done, it's time to gather some of your friends to help you lift. The next step is to position the wall. Boost the wall up, so it is positioned on the sill plate. Make sure the wall is square and everything is level before pounding in those nails. Temporarily nail a piece of wood, diagonally, from the wall to the ground. This will keep the wall square and make sure it doesn't fall down.

Time for the roof: the easiest and cheapest way to form the roof, especially for the beginner, is to order prefabricated roof trusses. The trusses come already nailed together and at the correct slope. All you have to do is place them on top of the wall. Again, local codes will let you know the size and thickness of the trusses, how far apart they need to be and what you need to secure the trusses to the cap plate.

The skeleton of your garage is now in place. There are just a couple more steps left.

First, you'll want to "sheath" your garage. Most of the time OSB (or manufactured wood) comprises the sheaths. The sheathing attaches to the studs and joists. Think of this as the "skin" to the building. Make sure you stagger these boards when placing them. It will help strengthen the building. The exterior finish, paneling or brick for instance, will be applied to the sheathing. Once the sheathing is up, you can take down the diagonal bracing. If built correctly, your garage is now sturdy.

Last step is the roof. First, you need to layer "roofing felt" on top of the roof sheathing. This acts as a waterproof barrier. Make sure the felt is flat and overlaps the layer beneath it. This will protect water from seeping in. Most importantly, make sure it is dry before laying it down. Wet roofing felt will do you no good. That means you may need to check the weather report the day you decide to put the roof on. Shingles are the most common finish for the roof. These are easy to apply and come in various sizes, shapes and colors. Follow the manufacturer's directions to put these on the roofing felt.

That's it. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Easy, as long as everything goes as planned and no problems arise. The odds of that happening are not likely, so make sure a professional inspects your work at every step.

Before you set out on your project, you need to make sure safety is your number one priority. Make sure you wear proper eye and ear protection. A hard hat is essential. Read the directions to all the tools and materials you use. Unplug tools before switching blades. Use scaffolding when working on high places. Get help when lifting heavy objects. These are just some of the precautions you need to take, but there are many others. If you take things slowly, and think about what you are doing, you should finish your garage without any injuries.

Building a garage from scratch is not easy. However, the more work you do, the cheaper your garage will be. Of course, if done poorly, the savings won't matter. That's why it is essential to get the right help if you are having problems. However, if you do follow these steps, it won't be long until your car has a new home.

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