After my last home building experience I could see, in hindsight, that building the garage first (by at least a year) would have been a better strategy. Having that structure to store salvaged building materials in and to be a “staging area” for the home building would have helped greatly. It could even have been a temporary shelter in case I needed a place to live between my old place and the new (secretly, of course, wink wink).
Such is hindsight, right?
The main problem with doing that, at least around here, is getting permission from the building department to build an accessory structure before the main house. If a parcel is zoned residential than you might have a really tough time convincing the town board to grant you a variance to do this. Most of the time variances are granted on the basis of “hardship”. In other words, you have to show there’s an economic or physical hardship related to your dilemma.
Gail, one of my favorite readers has some specific questions about doing the ‘build the garage first’ strategy. I thought it would be instructive to share my responses with everyone…
Gail: “How did you build your garage? Did you build it yourself or was a prefab or something?”
Anne: After being the general contractor for the house construction I decided to turn the garage building project over to a “real” general contractor. I was thinking this would save me a lot of headache in keeping the project organized and timely. Not so much.
The overall construction of the garage was “stick built”, which in construction parlance means it was built with standard dimensional lumber and modern framing techniques on a concrete slab. The only thing prefab about it was the trusses for the roof. They were constructed in a room-in-attic design in order to give a large storage space above the parking area. This turned out to produce a really superb space above the garage.
Gail: “What does the loft look like? Do you have any pictures?”
Anne: Here’s a few pictures I could dig up from my archives…
Gail: “How much did it cost you?”
Anne: About $30,000. It turned out to be a very well built, solid structure that will have decades of use ahead of it. I’m very glad I put the metal roofing on it, even though it was about 10% more expensive than asphalt shingles. It will far outlast a shingle roof!
Gail: “I may not know all the tricks with how to make a house small and comfortable for the winter. Any advice?”
Anne: No problem! If you build to modern building codes you’re house should turn out adequately insulated. Your building inspector should help with that, too, hopefully guiding you in the right direction to get your home tight and snug from the elements. If you want to go beyond local building codes for insulation and weatherization standards then check out the Energy Star program. Here are the features of an Energy Star home. It may all seem like Greek right now, but the more you educate yourself about these features and benefits and how to get there the more money you’ll save in the long run on energy bills, not to mention being a whole lot cozier in your new home.
If anyone else has a story about building a garage or accessory structure before the main house please share your story!