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  1. #1
    Administrator Cebby's Avatar
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    My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    Help me decide which direction to go.

    I've got a 21' x 21' two story all block garage, circa 1950's that is in need of some TLC. The roof is shot, the previous owner moved the steps to the 2nd floor - previously outside - to the inside and cut a load bearing beam which is now suported with house jacks. The two narrow garage doors make swinging anything sizable into the garage a challenge due to the narrow alley it opens to. My lot is 50' wide, this 21' (22'6 or so outside dim) is setback maybe a foot or so from the lot line on one side.

    Plans:
    I need a number of things to change to make this garage more user friendly for me.

    • More length - I'd like to expand the length (depth) to roughly 32' or so long.
    • One wide garage door - I'd like to install one 12' - 16' door instead of the two single 8's.
    • More height - I'd really like to have a lift, the 8' ceiling won't cut it, so I'd like to either remove the 2nd Floor altogether, or lift the roof and second floor level to give me about 14' of height in the garage. This will require some demo on the 2nd floor since it is 90% done to be a large office space and has a bathroom framed (not plumbed though).
    • Slab - is currently sloped pretty severely to floor drains and also cracked. I'd like to figure a way to smooth it out and eliminate the drains. I don't wash anything in there.
    • Unheated - kerosene hot dog heats the space in winter. We all know this is less than ideal - especially when woodworking (open flame and all)


    Unrelated to the garage, but notable - I plan to pave the area next to the garage for parking/hoops for the kids. This will be roughly 27'x 38'.

    So, what makes more sense (I've yet to run the numbers on each):

    Make all the changes to the existing block garage?

    OR

    Knock this building down and start from scratch and build it the way I want it?

    I'll post up pics of it's current sad condition in the next day or two.

  2. #2
    Administrator Cebby's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    reserved...

  3. #3
    Contributing Member MXtras's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    Tough situation.

    I guess it boils down to two or three things:
    What is your budget?
    What time frame are you constrained to?
    What will your City allow?

    Demo and rebuild can get you exactly what you want but you need to see if the City and wallet will let you.

    Retrofitting what you have might save you some cash and maybe some time but the results will likely be a comprimise. When it comes to your kingdom, comprimises can really suck.

    Perhaps you could shell out what you have, enlarge it and go from there. Block is great for structure so it would be a waste to tear down what you have IF you will put something very similar back in place. Perhaps shelling it out, going up and going longer would be a better option?

    Scott
    If it wasn't for the last minute I wouldn't get anything done

  4. #4
    Registered User Neuswede's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    I tend to spend ALOT of time with graph paper. I may draw something so many times that the measurements are imprinted on my subconscious. My reasoning is that graph paper is relatively cheap, and lumber isn't. These types of projects are going to be with us for some time, so I'd like to get it right the first time.

    I think Scott hit the primary points relative to the project, but some of the other considerations are in how you will use the space, and how much will it cost to maintain a reasonable amount of comfort. I heard you loud and clear about heating in the winter. Your winters are much like mine, and as I am getting older, I hate to be cold in the shop. This ties into the concrete slab replacement, too. Is it over the top and over budget to consider radiant heat in a new slab? Another question is what type of lift is right for your needs? Do you need a dual post that requires up to a 14 foot ceiling, or would a mid-rise work? Having had a shop with a 16 foot ceiling, in a concrete block building, I never could get it warm enough. I first felt I needed the height for a larger lift, but opted for the mid-rise realizing that it met my needs, and I didn't want a space solely dedicated to a lift. I don't replace trannys or exhaust, so the mid-rise met my needs for body work, tire changing, suspension and brake work, oil changes, etc. You are also spot on with the door sizing. I have (2) 12 foot doors, and they make things much easier to move around, particularly when backing a trailer in. My alley may be much wider than yours, so this may not be an option for you, but race cars are LOUD and I tend to load them either very early and unload them very late (or again very early), so neighbor relations is important...even though the neighbors swear that they LOVE race cars. Wide doors are a HUGE plus.

    Will you keep the upstairs? Do you need a dedicated staircase? Why I ask is that I helped a friend build out a garage this summer, and he opted to go with a 12 foot ceiling, and a pull-down staircase. Saves alot of space, and if you are only using the second level for infrequent storage, it may free up so space on your floor plan.

    Grab some graph paper and start sketching out the 21x32 space, relative to your alley, and the additional parking/play area. Try it by keeping some of your existing structure, including placement of any existing windows, doors, etc. You can also use vellum paper (opaque, to layer any changes over the existing structure) so you can reference current and proposed structures. Once you have it down on paper, you can better study your options and it will likely begin to point you in the right direction.

    Marc

  5. #5
    Administrator Cebby's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    I've had this drawn up in AutoCad for a long time (I should probably post up).

    Part of my fear with drastic alterations to the building is that as I remove portions of the block to have the structure meet my needs, that will compromise the integrity of the structure (speculation). Basically, the removal of the 2 doors to make one (and related work to add a beam for support of the block above the 12' door) and also the removal of the entire back wall to allow for the addition (I had hoped I would be able to frame the addition in wood and dryvit the outside to make everything match (I can frame and finish it, but haven't laid block - nor do I really want to)

    I'm 6' 2"+ in shoes and have been under vehicle lifts that didn't get up enough for my liking (read I smacked my head repeatedly). My game is 4x4's (Jeeps/Toyotas) and will include things like engine/trans/tcase swaps, custom suspension work, axle housing swaps, etc. I'd love to have the ability to not have the lift in the way all the time, so I've come up with using an in-ground lift system. It's really a budget breaker, so I'd like to save elsewhere to make it possible.

    The existing second floor would be removed to make way for vehicles up in the lift (current ht. is only 8') - in at least the original 21' x21' footprint. The ceiling height upstairs is only 7 feet or so, so overall, I'll have a touch under 16' total height to work with (after removing the second floor). I had planned a loft in the new part over the front end of the floor space - say 8 - 9' out of the 32' in depth. I don't think I need a dedicated staircase - certainly not inside anyway. I had toyed with ladder access inside - mainly because I'll be taking away some yard to build the addition. With 3 boys (10,8,7), that won't be too popular if I add steps to the outside also.

    In addition to the automotive work, there will be general metalworking and general woodworking (no fine furniture or anything). I have a number of woodworking machines now - some haven't had much use at all, so the machine count will likely remain the same, but transition to more metal working than wood eventually.

    I guess I need to see where all this wish list is taking me for my budget - if it need to happen in phases, I'm not opposed to that. Historically, I've done the work on my house myself (except for roofing since I'm a chicken, and furnace/AC install) Add concrete work to that exception list also (I've not needed any yet, but am sure I won't want to tackle it since I don't have any of the "stuff" to do the work)

    Time frame is open - when it gets done, it gets done. I'll set some kind of limits so it doesn't drag on forever though.

    Since the existing structure is pretty much on the lot line, as long as I leave the foundation, I can continue along that line. I had originally checked on the structure size restrictions and found that I'd be within the allowable size using my proposed dims. I'll be re-verifying to make sure before I head down this road too far.
    Last edited by Cebby; 12-03-2008 at 03:01 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User Neuswede's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    In making these changes, you'll need to build in enough support so that the building can carry the different load you will create for the proposed changes. The weight of the second floor creates side load on the walls, so they need to be tied together. The existing floor joists accomplish this, so removing the back wall will require that enough strength be retained or added to accomplish this. The same for the addition of the wider doors...adding in enough header support to carry the load over the openings. Do your current ceiling joists span the entire 21' space, or do you have jack posts supporting them? If you are intending to lift the ceiling, you'll need to tie in the roof rafters at the lowest possible point. The higher you go on the rafter with cross support, the more weight is transfered to the rafter, and the less stable the structure will be. The idea is that the ceiling joists carry load of holding the walls in place, and the upstairs floor load.

    You probably know someone who can do the concrete and block work, but for what you are proposing, I don't think you really need much block work. You'll need to remove the back wall and cut in the locations for the header supports. Some municipalities in PA still are easy to deal with on these type of renovations. Check with your local planning commission. These guys can be a wealth of good info, and hopefully can steer you clear of any potential pitfalls. Of course, we all have heard the horror stories about some planning offices being complete idiots ( I can recall several blatant ones) but for the most part, they tend to be very helpful. Our town is still like Mayberry...lots of garage/polebarn projects going up all over town.

    You're not the only roofing "chicken". I'll set roof rafters, but after that, someone else can sheet them over....like you, it's not a job I'm comfortable doing. It's not the fear of falling....it's the sudden stop at the end of the trip I really don't like.

    You didn't mention an air compressor. I put mine in my parts room, so I can close the door and have some reduction in noise level. With the footprint you have outlined, sounds like it will need to remain inside rather than in a small outside structure attached to the outside wall? Rather than run hard line, I have a 50 ft. retractable reel that can reach anywhere in my shop (28'x31').

    Marc

  7. #7
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    The problem with retrofitting is the added labor. If you can do all or most of the labor yourself you can save a bit of money. If you have to hire others to do most of the work then it may very well be cheaper to demo and start from scratch.

    I built the majority of my garage myself. I do have friends in the construction business so that helps. However, it took WAY longer than expected. You can get pretty burned out if you work 5-6 days a week and then work nights and weekends at home. I had a friend's dad do the excavation, a form company pour the walls and some framers frame and plywood the structure. I helped with the framing since I knew the guys. I did most of the electrical, the siding, roof, windows, sheet rock, insulation, painting, all myself with some help from friends and family. It's still an ongoing project after three years but I saved a lot of money.

    If I had to do it again, I would seriously consider getting it done by contractors. Sometimes the extra time and energy isn't worth the money saved.
    In my family, goodness is just badness that hasn't had a drink yet. -Christopher Titus

  8. #8
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    Hey Ceb,

    It's been a while since we've talked, I hope all is well!

    It seems you and I may be in the same boat here; well, similar to say the least. Over the years I've slowly out grown my limits in my single 16'x21' garage. I have made it cozy over the years to accommodate my projects. I added insulation and plywood the wall to give it a more finished feel. My garage was originally a kit garage and was assembled in the early 50's, completely assembled with staples. I've also added electric heat which hardly costs me anything to run over the winter plus it's intrinsically safe. I've also added a 200amp service to power all my equipment. Unfortunately here is where I run in to problems, with all my equipment I have no room for vehicles and I'm tired of working on my back with a vehicle balanced on several jack stands that normally aren't high enough... I knew that day would come when I'd get to this point so I've started doing my home work several months ago with plans/hopes of breaking ground in approximately two years.

    Well... That time was quickly shortened when my wonderful wife, being the helpful person that she is, took on the task of maneuvering our vehicles around in our small driveway to prepare for an upcoming snow storm, making it easier for me to plow in the morning. In the mean time I was in bed suffering from one of the worst cases of the flu Iíve had in years. As she managed to turn our tow rig around with the trailer attached and back it back in to the drive way she couldnít judge the tail end of the trailer since Iíd removed the ramps a while back giving her no point of reference, she backed into the front of the garage, pushing it back about 3Ē and tweaking the garage out of shape.

    Here are a few helpful sites that Iíve been using for guides/planning.

    http://www.blocklayer.com/ConcreteCalculator.aspx

    http://ubuildit.com/

    http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/index.php

    http://www.cadsmith.com/

    https://www.autobodytoolmart.com/p-11538-14233.aspx

    I have much more stuff but it's all either on paper in a large binder I've started or it's in Visio drawings that I've been doing so I can present it all to my township.

    What ever you decide keep it posted!

    Good luck!!

    Pete

  9. #9
    Administrator Cebby's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    Thanks Pete. If I was fortunate enough for my wife to back into my garage, I'd need a new trailer and tow vehicle most likely. My building is a tank.

    I'm very comfortable doing wood framing - not so much with concrete and block, I think that's the hesitation for me.

    I guess my first order of business is to see how much to tear down the existing structure. The second issue is how many of those "pod" type storage units I'll need for all my crap.

  10. #10
    Registered User VegasBruce's Avatar
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    Re: My garage build - project: "make it usable"

    How are you doing this? Is it all working out well for you?
    Bruce

    A craftsman is someone who does a better job than anyone thinks is necessary.

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