Building a Garage: Planning, Costs and Design

10 key things you need to know when planning your new garage
by Build It
14th August 2018

Most people still think of the garage as a standalone zone with the chief purpose of housing the car.

However, a growing number of homeowners – and self builders in particular – are rethinking this strategy, and choosing to create multi-functional spaces that form an extension to the main living area.

A well-designed structure can also infuse your property with extra kerb appeal. These tips will help ensure you achieve the right result for your scheme.

1. What functions will my garage need to perform?

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Yes, you’ll want parking space – but this zone could also offer anything from simple storage to a home office or gym.

Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider what role the space needs to perform at the early design phase of your project. “This will inform future decisions, including the size and shape of the structure,” says Zoe Dolan from Scotts of Thrapston.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that incorporating a multi-purpose zone could provide an extra selling point if you plan to move house in the future. “We’re seeing a trend towards tailoring the garage to fit with people’s lifestyle needs, such as a zone to exercise,” says Dominic Wishlade from Dura.

“It’s ideal, because you’re working with a well-ventilated space and there’s plenty of room. Plus, as it’s on the ground floor, it’s also easier to install heavy gym equipment.”

2. Will an integrated design suit my house?

Whether you build an attached or detached garage will depend largely on your plot, budget and the amount of available space. There are a number of advantages to creating a zone that’s directly linked to the main property.

For example, if your garage is going to double up as a utility area that houses the washing machine and tumble dryer, access will be a lot more straightforward. Plus, if you need to add more living space at a later date, you have a ready-to-convert structure that’s already connected to the main residential dwelling.

Positioned on a lower-ground level, this T-ribbed sectional garage door is available from specialist supplier Hormann
This multi-purpose oak frame complex by English Heritage Buildings features a sunroom, separate living space, garage and log store

Find structural systems and suppliers in the Build It Directory

3. What are the advantages of a detached garage?

If you have the space to build one, a standalone garage can make a striking visual statement that complements the main dwelling. “If you’re creating a new structure on the grounds of an existing property, you’ve got more freedom to develop what you want without having to fit it around the design of the main building,” says Charlie Mills from Oakwrights Country Buildings.

“Key considerations will be how to position the building for good access, as well as drainage, power and water supplies – depending on how you intend to use the space.”

You should also think carefully about the proportions of the structure and how it’ll relate to the residential part of the property – you don’t want it to overwhelm the main house. Many timber and oak frame providers specialise in the development of standalone buildings like this, and can offer design advice based on your unique requirements.

4. How big should my garage be?

In the UK, the recommended size of a standard parking bay is 2.4m x 4.8m. “A typical two-bay garage would be about 5.65m wide and 5.3m deep,” says Matt Lyward from The Oak Design Company.

However, if you are the owner of a modern 4×4 vehicle or a large family car, this might end up feeling a little cramped. And if you’re keen to establish a multi-purpose space, either for storage or other uses, you may prefer to create a more commodious zone – as far as the dimensions of your plot allow.

5. What are the design options?

The garage typically forms a large part of the facade and can have a big impact on first impressions. Therefore, it’s important to plan this element early on to ensure it delivers maximum kerb appeal.

Helena Chugay and Crawford Currie decided to convert an old mill into a characterful family home
Accessible by footbridge, a garage and work area to the rear of the property adds extra space

Read more: Characterful Mill Conversion and Extension

There’s an array of options when it comes to creating a standalone structure, from traditional brick and block solutions to characterful oak frame. “A lot depends on the surroundings, as you may want a building that stays true to the feel of nearby dwellings,” says Zoe.

“Many of our clients prefer designs that fit in seamlessly with the look and style of the main house. The benefit of this is that your garage will complement the existing architecture
rather than appearing disjointed.” This can often be achieved by specifying roof tiles, bricks and cladding that coordinate with the residential building.

6. Will I need planning permission?

If you’re creating a garage as part of your self-build, the proposed design should be included within the planning application for the main house. If you’re building it as an addition to an existing home, you may be able to complete it under permitted development (PD) rights.

The full criteria for PD are on the Planning Portal website, but fundamentally to be eligible a new garage must not be positioned further forward than the principal elevation.

It must also be single-storey, with a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and a ridge height of no greater than 4m for dual-pitched roofs (or 3m for other types of roof). If it’s to be within 2m of a boundary, then it can’t be taller than 2.5m.

If your home is listed or within a designated zone, such as an area of outstanding natural beauty or a conservation area, PD entitlements may not apply, so double check with the council.

“In terms of design, many planners will be pleased to see a proposal that mimics the main house – though some will encourage a contrast in styles, too,” says Matt.

7. What if I want to convert my garage into living space?

If this is a project you’re considering tackling in the future, it can be helpful to make some provisions when the structure is initially built in order to facilitate any future alterations you might want to implement.

“One of our suggestions would be to not include internal load-bearing walls within an attached garage,” says Zoe from Scotts of Thrapston. “Using non-structural partitions will mean that reconfiguring the space in the future will be easier.”

Read more: Beginner’s Guide to Garage Conversions

You should also make provisions for drainage, water and electricity supplies. It’s worth insulating the structure to the same standard as the rest of the house, too, to stop warmth from escaping, in addition to damp proofing the floor.

If the work is all internal, it may not require formal planning consent – but it’s worth double-checking with your council. Building Regs will always apply.

8. What kind of garage door should I get?

Aesthetic appearance is usually the top priority when it comes to specifying your new garage door, followed closely by thermal performance and the level of upkeep required. There is a range of configurations and materials available to suit pretty much any project.

“The four main solutions are roller, side-sectional, sectional and up-and-over,” says Ian Chubb, managing director of Deuren. The latter two versions are operated via a track mechanism that is fixed to the ceiling of the garage. Up-and-over products tend to be the cheapest design, with easy-to-operate retractable versions from B&Q starting from about £400 each.

“In terms of materials, the cheapest and most popular options are steel and PVCu,” says Ian. “For homeowners who are after a more premium product, timber is a smart solution thanks to its sleek appearance and durability.”

Aluminium is also a sought-after choice, and glass-reinforced polyester is popular with people who want to recreate the look of timber without the same level of maintenance.

9. How can I be sure the door that I choose is secure?

There are two main security accreditations to look out for when shopping for garage doors. Look out for ENV 1627 and Secured By Design. Both of these endorsements mean that the product has been thoroughly tested to resist break-ins.

“Doors made to this standard have a higher quality locking mechanism, in addition to stronger panels that will help prevent forced access,” says Ian.

10. How much will my garage cost?

The sum you pay will vary significantly, depending on the size, design and building materials you specify.

“Our garages start from £3,000 for a single-bay unit, on a supply-only basis. A full turnkey package might be as little as £10,000, depending on the specification. However, we’ve had some high-spec schemes where the overall budget has exceeded £200,000,” says Matt from the Oak Design Company.

Top image: This multi-purpose oak frame complex by English Heritage Buildings features a sunroom, separate living space, garage and log store

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