Dear PoPville – Building a garage and need a couple contractors

Dear PoPville,

My winter project is to plan the building of our garage, which I’ll be starting this spring. I already have a pretty good idea on how I want my garage to look, but I need contractors to do some of the work, specifically the concrete and electrical. I already have a good roofer, and your recent post on architects ( was very helpful, as I’ll need several sets of plans stamped for the city. I’ll be contacting a few of them over the next week, or if anyone sees this post, and wants to contact me, that would be great also.

PS And if you or anyone else is interested, attached are a couple of Google Sketchup notional drawings, along with some of the details on my project.

Step 1… Will the city even let me build a garage on our property??
YES. I have a 20′ x 140′ lot with alley access, so I have plenty of room in the back to build the garage. I made a trip down to the DCRA office and spoke with them about the limitations on a garage / accessory structure in our zone. Building structures total area including house, porch, deck and garage cannot exceed 60%. Accessory structure cannot be taller than 15′. Setback from alley centerline is 12′, and no side setback limitation. Etc.
I am pulling the DC survey plot next week, as my bank supplied survey will not suffice.

What should my garage look like?
The lot is 20′ wide, so a 16′ wide garage should be good. I want to leave a sidewalk next to the garage for easy access to our backyard and english basement. Length will be 24′ or 26′ to allow for our car, tools, and other storage.

The design should fit with our house. This is not only aesthetically pleasing by functional as well. Having a “Petworth style” garage would give us a shed style roof with no side eaves (like most A-Frame roofs), which take up valuable space on a narrow lot. The garage is south facing, so a dormer window would allow more natural light. I would love to make it brick, but that’s too much $$. Hardie plank siding to mimic wood siding should match the period well enough, not cost too much, and last a lot longer than vinyl siding. The double door on the house side will allow more light, ventilation, and room for furniture or in case I need to get some other equipment into the backyard to fix something.

What else should it have?
Simple ductless HVAC unit so I can work on our car and furniture in some level of comfort. There are cheaper models that heat and cool adequately, but not to the extent a house needs. The 55F – 85F range is enough.
Dehumidifier – for my tools.
Rain collection – to water my wife’s future english garden. (which I know I’ll get roped into helping)
Kegerator, TV,… – to complete my man cave…

Get plans approved by city.

Pour concrete footer and slab. Recommendations please..
Excavation will be a pain.

Frame garage, install window and doors
Thank god for friends who still accept beer and pizza as payment.

Install roof, electrical, HVAC.

17 Comment

  • You may have a zoning problem with an “illegal court.” If you need an architect, I could help you out. Garrett [email protected] dot com

  • It sounds like you have covered your bases, but I was thinking about it and just wanted to make sure.

    Your lot is 2800 sq/ft. 60% coverage is 1680 sq/ft.

    Your new garage is going to take up 384 sq/ft leaving 1296 sq/ft.

    Assuming your house is the full width of your lot (20′), that means your house and any porches can only be a max of 65′ in total length from front to back.

    What is the total sq/footage of the foot print covered by both your house/porches (if you have them)?

    Lastly, I don’t know how your back yard currently drains, if it is currently grass or concrete but you are going to want to slope your roof towards the alley, rather than your house, or at the very least make sure the roof drain, drains away from the house.

    • ah

      I would think about having the garage 1 foot from one lot line and 3 from the other, so that at least one side is easily walkable.

  • You’re going to spend a bit of money on an electrician, unless you can settle for a single circuit for door and heat. That would mean no tools that run w/o batteries in the winter.

    If it were me, I’d just have the electrician fish out two lines, and dig the trench myself. If your house hasn’t been updated in awhile, it may be problematic to find two circuits that aren’t already in high use. You’d have to bring it out the heavy up, through or around the house. At that point, you might as well outfit it for potential future use as a bachelor’s studio. I mean, a garage is nice, but so is $1000/month.

    • I was thinking along the same lines … I don’t know about a full bachelor’s studio, as that implies plumbing and gets expensive, but what about lofting that puppy if you can? 70% additional storage space for not much additional expense.

    • ah

      Better to fish one line and install a 60A (or 40A) subpanel. Although you’re not fishing it–you’re trenching it. If you’re excavating for footers with a bobcat, have them make a trench as well. I doubt that will cost you much more–couple hours of digging when they’re there anyway.

      • Fishing would be the cheap-o, roughly code compliant version — if there are indeed two usable lines near the back of the house. He could get by with one, but I think he’s clamoring for two. Electrician fishes out two lines, and leaves them at a box near the back of his house. His friends run the lines and bury them.

        I’m imagining it’s a fully-attached rowhouse, and you can’t a) trench it from the front and b) don’t want to spend the money pulling 60 amps through the house. Maybe he does. Ideally, I’d spend the money getting 60 amps out there on another meter. He can do that work now, and come back in 5 or 20 years and put the plumbing in if greater cashflow is desired down the line. Ideally, you rough in some plumbing now.

  • Not sure if you have a buddy doing the HVAC for beer and pizza or not but I can help you out if you want to shoot me an email. I work for one of the largest HVAC/Plumbing/Security Co’s in the metro area. I entered my work email on the reply field if you want PoP to get it for you.

  • 12-foot set back from alley center line seems crazy generous. Nearly every alley i’ve been through has garages right up to the edge of the alley. That’s probably, what, a 4′ or 5′ set back?

    • ah

      Alleys are supposed to be 14′ wide (minimum). Anything older nominally doesn’t conform with zoning, and the city is trying to make things better by not allowing the old approach.

  • I know an electrician you can contact. Maxwell Garnett – 240-593-7908 or maxwellgarnett at He is very reasonable.

  • I’m trying to do the same thing! Is there anyway to get in touch with the OP?

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