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Garages                                                                          Back to Main FAQs

Do I need to finish my attached garage?

There is no requirement to finish the whole garage, but the walls that connect to the house must have a “finished” layer of drywall that keeps the poor quality air in the garage separate from the house as well as provide fire separation. Ceilings in garages must also have a fire rated layer of drywall if there is finished space like a bedroom over the garage.

Are smoke detectors required in a garage?

Current building codes do not require placing  a smoke detector in the garage and it’s not recommended due to the likely false readings you may get from a “hostile environment” that’s in the garage from cars, tools, temperature change , chemicals and dust. Some security companies will instead install a high heat detector that is more resistant to the challenging garage environment.

Will my furnace heat my attached garage?

Some people like the idea that they might be able to partially heat (temper) their attached garage space.  First of all, the area will actually self-temper or derive a fair amount of heat off the attached house if the garage space is insulted and air sealed well including the garage door. This is especially true if there is living space above the garage. If additional heat is desired, some building codes may allow for a “spill-off” duct or two to be directed into the garage space but no code will allow a return air to the furnace to be installed in a garage space. That could introduce many unwanted fumes and even combustion byproducts into the living space. When in doubt, always check with the local code authority on what is permitted in your locale. 

Why are garage floors always sloped?

If you are lucky enough to live in climate where the winters can bring it on, then you know the value of sloped floor to drain melting ice and snow away from the items stored in the garage as well as the attached living space, if applicable.  Additionally, if in the rare event that a leak might develop from a vehicle, the liquid would find its way away from the living space and/or stored items, thus avoiding a real hazardous situation.  It is important to note that few, if any codes require a step into a home from the garage.  With a properly detailed design and a code compliant sloped floor, this is a perfect place to include a handy step-less entry into the living space, perfect for rolling in that luggage or stroller.

How close to my house can I build a detached garage?

On smaller and especially narrower lots, this is a conversation that isn’t uncommon.  While detached garages can be great, they also offer some unique design challenges on tighter lots.  A good rule of thumb is approximately five feet of minimum separation between buildings to meet minimum fire separation requirements.  When you think about it, five feet may be a minimum code separation but it also has a practicality to it when it comes to access to the rest of the lot.  Smaller mowers, most outdoor furniture and people can negotiate an area at 5’ or less but what about that occasional need to move something larger through that space?  Then you might wish you had just a few more inches or even feet.  If that is of little or no concern due to the lot configuration, then consider attaching the garage to the home, either directly or by a breezeway.  Most people prefer and enjoy the convenience of a covered approach, both to and from the garage area.  It will require a bit more work on the fire separation issue but it will be well worth the money for both you and those who are considering your house at resale.

What is the smallest footprint of a usable two car garage?

The smallest practical garage is somewhere in the range of 20’ x 20’ for a usable two car.  That is pretty tight and larger cars will take up all of that 20’.  A typical double wide door is 16’, so you would have a couple of feet on each side of the door which isn’t much. Also, be aware that the newer wall bracing codes restrict how narrow this area can be on each side of the overhead door.  A more common 2 car dimension would be somewhere around 24’ x 24’.  This gives you adequate maneuverability around parked vehicles as well as the option of 2 single doors instead of one double door.  It should also be noted that the maneuvering space for the vehicles outside of the garage is an important planning component as well.  Careful consideration of this area will insure that vehicles can move about efficiently without lots of jockeying.  It is always surprising to people how much space this actually consumes to be effective.  If in doubt, lay out the proposed areas with paint or string and physically try what you are thinking of doing. It’s a lot easier to do now than to regret installing an improperly planned and design garage and court area adjacent.  This is especially important if a turnaround is part of the proposal. 

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