The Garage Project
Home The Way It Was Excavation Construction 1 Construction 2

    Once upon a time, some time ago, Jane and I decided our little house needed a garage. Well, it was mostly me.  And it was mostly after a hail storm put a dimple in my (then) new Z28.

    Thus began "The Garage Project." 

    I started by asking for bids from some local contractors. The costs were way more than we could afford. So I went shopping at the local hardware stores and lumber yards for plans and kits.  I found the best plans at 84-Lumber.  They had 24' x 24' and 24' x 32' garage plans in both gable- and eve-entrance models.  The plans looked thorough enough.  Certainly complete enough to meet the permit requirements of the county planning folks.  As I studied the plans I 'built' the garage in my head over and over. As I did one thing became clear: this would be a great opportunity to buy a bunch of new tools. First on my list would be a compressor and pneumatic nailer; one of the big, framing nailers (faint whiff of testosterone in the air...).


    The neighbors got used to seeing me in the back yard measuring, driving stakes, surveying the grade.  I would stand at the fence with my neighbor and describe where the garage would be sited and how it would look.  I really wanted them to understand what I was going to do so they could have some input if I had something objectionable planned. They all wished us well, but I don't think they really believed we would ever build the thing.


    When I went to get the permit the county forced a couple of changes.   First, I could only build a 24' x 28' garage, not the 3-car, 24' x 32' one that I wanted.  There was some rule about the size of the out-buildings on a lot being no more than 30% the floor space of the main house or something like that.  The local 84-Lumber yard didn't have plans for an eve-entrance garage of that size.  So I modified the 24' x 24' gabel-entrance set.  The biggest difference was with the headers over the door.  They would have to be much larger to carry the increased loads of the eve-entrances.


    The second change was based on the freeze depth for northern Virginia. We had to go at least 24" down to meet code. So the 12"-thick edge of the slab as shown in the plans had to be increased to 24".  At this point we could have switched from a monolithic pad to a floating pad with separate footer.  But we didn't change the plans and that was one of several mistakes that would make it's way into the "lessons learned" file.


    Finally, on the side of the lot where the driveway would go, there were buried power and phone cables across the path.  Our house was built on an artificial hill that allowed a walk-out basement/family room. So to drive from the front of the house to the rear means going over that hill. I had planned on cutting the hill down to a gentle grade from front to back. But the presence of those cables meant that I couldn't cut the driveway very deep.  I would only be able go down about 18" from the current grade.  That would leave a pretty big hill to climb over from the back to the front.  I was concerned for two reasons: First it snows here and I could end up stuck in the back yard.   Second, the plans called for a curved driveway. That would mean a 'blind' area where one would be cresting the hill and having the driveway out of sight below the hood.   [The snow did turn out to be a problem, but only for a couple of days a year.  The blind curve has proven no problem at all.]