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Garage House Cabin Plans

How to purchase a plan to build a garage for storing vehicles, workshop, or bonus living space.

Before you can purchase a set of plans you need to define the building.

Much time and expense can be saved by properly planning the location, acceptability, cost, and usability of your proposed garage, or storage building. The planning should be complete or nearly complete before you purchase construction drawings. The steps are zoning, costing, and layout.

Zoning – You may desire a storage building of a certain size but may not be allowed to build it because of local zoning restrictions. There are required set-back distances for most properties. Residential areas have side front and rear set-backs that must be maintained. You may apply for a variance but there may be difficulties and it is possible that even after spending money on a variance proposal it may be declined and your money is gone. There are also maximum height restrictions to check. You may have to reduce the height of your proposed building to comply with the restriction. Check with your city or county planning department for set-backs, maximum height, snow load, and footing depth. Talk to a city or county inspector to assure that you can build the building of your choice in the location that you have chosen. Some neighborhoods have a “Home Owners Association” that adds another layer of restrictions pertaining to accessory buildings. Before you spend any money on materials, excavation, or permits, investigates the association rules. Talk to your neighbors about your proposed building. They may have some tips that will improve your projects success. Discussing your plans with the neighbors will bring them on board in the beginning and they will not be surprised by the noise and clutter while you build your garage.

Costing – It is a good idea to determine the maximum allowable total cost of your new storage building. You may have limited available funds or funding. The cost will determine the size and features of the proposed building. We use a cost of between $35 and $65 per square foot of garage space. . The total cost includes labor and materials and the actual cost is determined by how well you shop for materials and labor and the quality of materials and finishes that you choose. Living space will add $50 to $150 per square foot of living space. The cost for labor is usually half the total cost. If you plan on providing your labor for free, then the estimated cost range for materials alone will be $18 to $37 per square foot. You can determine the cost of materials by presenting a set of plans or materials list to your local lumber yard. There may be a charge for the cost estimate.

A costing example

Suppose you are planning a garage that is 24 feet x 24 feet with a small bathroom and a shower. You are planning to select low to medium grade materials and finishes, no insulation and you are going to do all the labor yourself except the grading and foundation. To calculate an approximate cost, determine square feet by multiplying the length and width (24 X 24’ = 576 SF). Determine the bathroom size (toilet, sink, and shower will be about 5’ X 8’ = 40 SF). The material cost for the bathroom is 40SF X $50 = $2000. The minimum material cost for the garage is 576SF X $18 = $10,560. The grading, foundation and floor labor will cost a minimum $4,000 unless you have a friend with concrete equipment and experience. The total estimated cost to construct a 24’ x24’ garage with small bath should be a minimum of $18,560. The labor of friends and free materials will reduce the cost. Upgrading the surfaces, increasing the size, adding insulation, adding a stair or unplanned problems will increase the cost.

Suppose you build the same garage but you have no “do it yourself experience” and you will be hiring a contractor to perform the work. Then the minimum total cost will be 576SF X $35 = $20,160. The bathroom will add another 40 SF X $100 per SF or $4000 or a total estimated garage cost of $24,160. High end finishes such as cedar lap siding, tile roof, or special ornamental garage doors will increase the cost of the building. A sloping lot, heavy snow load, fully insulated and finished interior, or hurricane zone will increase the cost of construction. Other additional costs are the permit costs, drive-way, storm drains, electrical, sewer connection, and property survey.

The best way to determine the actual cost is to obtain bids from several local contractors. You can present a set of plans or a materials list to a contractor for a bid. We offer a free material lists for all of our garage plans.

Layout – You have determined that you can afford the building that you desire, that it will fit your available location on your property, and that it complies with all local and neighborhood restrictions. Now it is time to lay out the building outline on your property. This will give you the opportunity to see if it fits like you imagined. There may be other restrictions like a tree that you would like to keep, or a drain field, or some other existing feature that might require an adjustment of size of the building or location. Start by driving a stake in the ground at one corner of the building. It doesn’t matter what corner you choose. I would suggest you start with the most restrictive corner or a corner that you know will not change. With a measuring tape measure out one of the wall lengths and locate another stake there. The next stake is more difficult because you need a right angle between the two lines created by the positions of the stakes. Don’t worry too much about accuracy during this layout. It is likely that the stakes will move several times before the building is completely and finally positioned. There are many tools to use to obtain an approximate right angle. You can use a carpenter square, trigonometry with a third measurement, or a surveyor’s sextant. When the entire building is laid out and it appears to be close within a couple of inches then mark the door and window locations. Evaluate each door and window for correct positioning in reference to other existing features. These may be a door to the house, an existing driveway, a tree that interferes, or the neighbor’s window. Evaluate the slope of the lot by tying a string to the stakes and leveling the string with a carpenter’s level.

Choose a plan

The defining of the building is complete so that you can search for a set of construction drawings. First determine the level of work you intend to provide. Are you going to do most work yourself, hire a contractor, or hire an architect.

Stock plans, Designer, Engineer, or Architect – It is time to locate a construction plan package for the building. Your options are books, local purchased plans, internet purchased plans, a local engineering company, or a local architect. The determining factor is how much work you are willing to do yourself and what are you willing to pay for the design.   The least expensive solution is to locate a plan that is pre-designed and competitively Priced. There are many companies listed on the internet that sell excellent plans.

Some local lumber yards have a collection of “how to” books. Some have garage, workshop, or shed plans. This can be an inexpensive source for construction drawings. Some magazines have building plans that are free or inexpensive. There are thousands of building plans available on the internet. Some are free, most are very inexpensive. Some local engineers and architects will have or will create building plans.  The reason for the varying prices is because the services are different.

There are thousands of stock "pre-designed" garage plans available to contractors or "do it yourselfers". Most are detailed and complete and their use will result in a finished garage that is of the same quality as a garage designed by an architect or engineer. Many stock garage plans are designed by an architects or engineers. It is likely that the building you have in mind was designed previously by some one and is available for a very reasonable cost. Simple changes like moving a door or window are easy to accomplish to a stock plan and will not impair the quality of the building. Additional engineering may be required but not always.  

A custom design from a designer will create a blueprint for the proposed garage from the customer's input. They can specify most structural components and use the codes to detail prescriptive bracing.  The designer can put any feature on the plans that the customer desires. The customer can act as the general contractor or hire a contractor to manage the construction. The designer will be available for questions and revisions.

An engineer is more expensive than a designer but not as expensive as an architect.  An engineer will focus on the structure of the building. They will provide the calculations for all vertical and lateral loads for wind and seismic that is needed for the permit. They will oversee the drafting and stamp the plans with their seal for easy permit acceptability. They will leave the finish details to the customer or their contractor.  An  engineer will provide calculations and a professional stamp.  Usually a contractor or the owner will manage the construction of the garage.

An architect is the most expensive method. They will focus on the aesthetic design and will specify the exterior and possibly the interior architectural features. They may choose custom window features, special light fixtures, custom moldings, and surface finishes. They may farm out the calculations to an engineer and the drawings to a draftsman. Many architects will manage the project until its completion and the garage is finished. This full service justifies the cost and is perfect for buildings that have a lot of finish detail or the customer desires that a professional make all the decisions.

Construction plans  A high quality plan set will allow permits to be obtained, cost bids from contractors to be obtained, and to allow the construction of the building. Quality indicators are the amount of information provided, the understandability of the information, the guarantee provided, and the inclusion of engineering or not, the scale of the views on the plans, and the number of copies provided. A high quality plan set will include the elevation views of all four sides at ¼” = 1’-0” scale, a floor plan, foundation plan, roof plan, and a cross section, all at ¼” = 1’-0” scale, a typical wall detail, details, notes, a materials list, and specifications. You will need several copies of the plans. Your planning department may want two sets, and each contractor will want one set. Other valuable components to indicate a quality plan set are braced wall details, beam calculations, and engineering. Very few plan sets will have engineering or bracing details. Engineering is not always required.


Now you can begin looking for construction plans that will allow a building permit, obtaining bids from contractors, shopping for materials, and the construction of the building. There are a few differences between them that may not be instantly apparent by scanning their plans.

Here is a list of things to look for when evaluating a garage plan provider.
1. Look for a money back guarantee.
2. How many sets of plans are included?
3. Does the plan package include a materials list?
4. Does the plan package include beam calculations?
5. Are the plans drawn to an acceptable scale?
6. Are the plans on an acceptable sheet size?
7. Are PDF files available?
8. Are CAD files available?
9. Are braced walls included?
10. Can you talk to the designer?
11. Can they modify the plans?
12. Do they offer mirrored image plans that are readable?
13. Can you see the quality of the plans before you purchase?
14. Do they send paper plans or just files that you print yourself?

14 Reasons to buy our Building Plans

You will gain these advantages by purchasing one of our plans.

Garage Plans

To Order, Contact: CADNW at
(503) 625-6330
Monday thru Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time

Email cadnw@zzz.com

Cad Northwest Custom Home Design
22685 SW Conifer Dr.
Sherwood OR 97140

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