Renovations in PoPville – New Garage


The following renovation – actually completely new structure – was sent by Chris who lives in Petworth. You can read all about the process on his blog here.

If you have a renovation you’d be willing to share please send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com.

Chris writes:

“A few of the details:

16′ wide x 26′ long x 14′ tall, even though our lot is 20′ wide.

We wanted a 3′-6″ pathway on the side to allow access to the backyard and english basement without needing to go through the garage. We currently don’t rent out the basement, but the future home owner may want that option.

Also, if the garage was on the property line, then the walls would need to be constructed differently to meet fire rating. One wall is 3′-6″ away, and the other is 0′-6” away from the property line.

Accessory structures in our zone cannot be taller than 15′, so I wasn’t able to add a small room above the garage.

The garage matches the style of our house, with a slate gable roof in the front, low sloped roof in the back and parapets on the sides.

Dormer window facing south for natural light.

French doors facing the house for better aesthetics and also to allow easier access to the backyard with equipment, tools, furniture, etc…

Space in the back of the garage for a small workshop.

Hardiplank cement siding which looks like wood siding, but last quite a bit longer.

Rain barrel on the back side for our future herb garden.

50A electrical service from the house to power a few tools, lights, kegerator, TV, and other mancave accessories.

I am contracting out the excavation, foundation, and slab, and plan on doing the framing, doors and windows, and siding myself (with some help from friends of course).

As a responsible resident, I did get permits for all of the work. I only needed a structural engineer to stamp the structural and architectural drawings, and I was able to do the electrical, environmental, and plat layout drawings myself. I’ll need to have a licensed electrician do the electrical, as the city won’t accept my electrical engineering degree as justification for allowing me to do the work. It’s probably safer that way.

Getting the permit was a pain though. I didn’t know the homeowner’s center could handle large projects like garages until a month after I submitted the drawings. I also didn’t know the homeowner’s center was a separate office in the DCRA. I thought it was all the same, and that the home owner went through some special flow in the permitting process. I didn’t know what it actually was. The DCRA failed to mention this to me the several times I was in there asking for advice before I actually submitted for the permit. Because of this, my permit took almost 2 months, instead of 2 weeks. I’ll definitely use them for other future projects, and advise all DC homeowners to try there first. I blame it on naivety on my side, and miscommunication on both sides. Having gone through the process, I’ll know next time, but I don’t like that the only reason I know the correct process is because I had problems with it the first time.

To help address this, it would be nice if the first question the person behind the DCRA service desk should ask is, “Are you the homeowner? If so, please try our homeowner’s center (back there) which will help you through the permitting process. If not, here’s your number. Next!” 😉

From various DC blogs, I see that a lot of people don’t know about the homeowner’s center, so it doesn’t seem to be advertised as well as it could be. It wasn’t clear to me, and I spent a lot of time on the DCRA website before I even went to their office. Maybe it’s just me, but if more than a few people have the same issue, then it’s most likely a systematic issue. (Yes, I do speak engineer from time to time.) That’s just my two cents…”

Finished alley view

Finished backyard view

Progress photos after the jump.


garage rafters


24 Comment

  • Awesome!!!!!

  • Very nice design! Well done.

  • Looks awesome. Wish I has space to build a garage!

  • This is amazing. I want to do something similar with my long backyard– did you have to adhere to the total land coverage rules? Where did you find the contractors for the slab? How big of a pain was it to run the electric through the yard? And of course… ballpark cost?

    Well done!

    • I live in zone 3, which has a lot coverage limitation of 60%, so staying below that was not a big deal, seeing that our lot is 140′ long and our house only covers 45′ including front and back porch. The total coverage area came in just over 50%. Finding concrete contractors was difficult, maybe since I was acting as the GC. I did get 3 quotes, and all were pretty close in price. Running the electrical line wasn’t that bad. The worst part was pulling the copper from the front of our house through the finished basement, where the main panel is, to the garage. Digging the trench wasn’t too bad. A trenching shovel helps and finding a quick technique allowed me to dig the 60′ x 14″ deep run in a couple of hours.
      Overall costs… The slab was the most expensive – $9500. Lumber, doors, windows, siding – $4500. Roof – $3000. Drywall, insulation, electrical and other misc materials – $2000. And I can’t forget the HH drinks, dozens of oysters, pizza, cases of beer and other food as payment to my friends for helping me. – $?? I think I’ll be on the hook for that for a while… I have a kegerator in there now, so I’ve been told that I’m expected to keep that stocked.
      If you have any questions or need advice about the process, feel free to email me. I love doing this type of stuff.

      • So in all, about $20K
        Anyone have any idea what this would run if you used a GC to handle everything?

          • 50 is high. I’m in the process of having a GC to a much larger (3 car) garage with electricity, but no HVAC or plumbing. It’s pretty basic (not finished on the inside) and the two quotes I got were 27K and 38K.

            So you could definitely spend 50K, but that’s certainly a low ball estimate, especially for a garage this size.

          • It’s actually more like $30k for a 1 car and $50k for a 2 car.

          • Or as I just mentioned, $30K for a 3 car….this isn’t ballpark. I have a contract.

      • I could have saved ~$2000 by choosing a simple A-Frame roof and installing the asphalt shingles myself, but A-frame roofs typically require eaves and gutters, which would have reduced the width of the garage. The gable, dormer, parapets, torch down, and faux slate definitely added some complexity and cost, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

  • Amazing! Well done … such a beautiful addition!

  • Chris,

    I sincerely apologize that we failed to provide you with excellent and competent customer service which is our goal. Cetainly the intake employee should have queried you to get enough information to point you in the right direction; in this case it would have been the Homeowner’s Center. I have directed DCRA’s Chief Building Official, who oversees the permit and inspections divisions, to investigate this matter to determine exactly what we did wrong. Perhaps the intake employee was not properly trained or asleep at the wheel
    Please call me at 202-442-8935 if you would like to discuss this matter further and or to offer suggestions on how we can improve our process.
    By the way, the construction looks first rate.


    Nick Majett
    Director, DCRA

      • Yeah, wow. Awesome. I had the same issue Chris is talking about where I could have gotten something done in the Homeowner’s center but learned the hard way. Makes me feel a lot better to see Mr. Majett being responsive about it @ 10pm.

    • Lol. Wut?!?

    • I was able to speak to Mr. Majett today, and we had a great conversation. He listened to my observations and told me of some of the changes they have already implemented along with a few of their future ideas and plans to improve customer communication and advertisement of the Homeowner’s Center. I was really pleased that he followed up with me.
      On a personal note…
      I was told that the Homeowner’s Center is fairly new, so as DC residents, we can also help in getting the word out about that resource. It may not be able to provide 100% of the support we need, but it can be a valuable resource.

  • While the french doors look great, I’d be concerned about security.

    • +1 Those type of doors can be jimmied open and the glass can be broken easily.

      • When designing the garage, I did consider the security risk of using french doors, but hopefully I adequately accounted for that risk with the final build and added security measures. Only time will tell.

  • saf

    Don’t assume the homeowner center can help you. While the gentleman was very nice to us, he was unable to explain why our permit applications were rejected or how we could revised the plans to bring them into compliance.

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