Should You Build a Garage Yourself?

Building your own garage can be a rewarding do-it-yourself project that allows you to save money and customize the structure to your exact needs. However, it also requires a major time commitment and construction know-how. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to build a garage yourself or hire a professional.

What are the Benefits of Building Your Own Garage?

There are several potential advantages to constructing your own garage:

Cost Savings

One of the biggest motivators for DIY garage construction is the potential for significant cost savings compared to hiring a contractor. You avoid paying labor costs when you act as your own general contractor and do much of the work yourself or with family and friends. You can save 30% or more overall on the total project cost.


Building the garage yourself allows for complete customization. You can choose the exact location, size, height, materials, layout and features that you want. A contractor may limit your options or charge more for custom requests.

Sense of Accomplishment

Successfully planning and constructing your garage provides a major sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction. You gain valuable hands-on building experience that can boost confidence for future DIY projects.

Potential to Learn New Skills

Building a garage requires developing various construction skills such as:

  • Framing
  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Concrete work
  • Drywall hanging

Gaining these abilities can enable you to tackle more DIY projects down the road and potentially pursue a career in the trades.

What are the Challenges of Building Your Own Garage?

Constructing your own garage also comes with some significant hurdles to consider:

Time Commitment

Building a garage yourself requires a massive time investment. Completing all the steps from start to finish typically takes many months with nearly daily work required. Pouring concrete alone can be multiple full weekends. This may not be feasible if you have a busy job.

Physical Labor

Constructing a garage involves strenuous physical tasks like digging, lifting heavy materials and working off ladders. If you have existing health issues or physical limitations, this labor could be challenging or impossible. Proper safety precautions are essential.

Construction Knowledge

Successfully building a garage requires extensive knowledge of construction practices, building codes and proper techniques. If you lack this expertise, the learning curve may be quite steep and you risk making costly errors. Poor structural work could compromise safety.

Permitting and Inspections

Like all construction projects, building a garage yourself requires obtaining permits and passing inspections. This involves things like submitting detailed plans, scheduling inspectors to check work at various stages, and making any corrections required. Not fully understanding these processes can cause major delays.

Tools and Equipment

Constructing a garage from the ground up necessitates owning or renting an array of specialized tools and equipment such as concrete forms, a mixer, jackhammers, a generator, air compressors and more. These costs can add up quickly if you do not already own the required gear. Renting certain equipment also involves coordinating availability.

Subcontracting Certain Tasks

While it’s possible for one motivated person to build a basic garage alone, you’ll likely need to hire subcontractors to handle certain elements like the concrete slab, electrical, and overhead door installation. You assume a project management role.

Risk of Injury

Construction work involves inherent safety risks. Lack of experience increases the chances of accidents and injuries from falls, heavy materials, power tools, trenches, ladders, dust and more. Proper precautions are mandatory, but risks remain.

Weather Delays

Outdoor construction means your schedule may get delayed by stretch of bad weather. Work such as pouring concrete and roofing must occur during dry periods. Winter in colder climates essentially halts progress for months.

What Type of Skills Do You Need to Build a Garage?

Constructing your own stand-alone garage is far more complex than building a basic shed. To successfully complete the project, you need a diverse range of skills:


Framing garage walls, roof rafters, and installing siding and trim requires advanced carpentry abilities. You must cut various framing members to length, install them level and plumb, and connect them securely.


One of the most labor-intensive parts of garage construction is preparing and pouring a concrete slab foundation. This requires grading, forming, rebar tying, and finishing fresh concrete.


Installing garage roof sheathing and shingles involves proper cutting, fastening, and overlapping techniques. Most garage roofs are simple gable styles but still require roofing know-how.


Running power to a garage involves installing a subpanel, wiring circuits, adding receptacles and switches, and meeting code requirements. Previous electrical experience is strongly advised.


If you want water in the garage for an attached shop or bathroom, some plumbing abilities are needed. This includes piping, drains, fixtures and linking to the main home’s water supply lines.


Hanging garage interior drywall on ceilings and walls means cutting sheets to fit, fastening with screws, and taping seams. Mudding and finishing skills are also useful.


Quality preparation work and applying primer and paint or stain to the garage’s interior and exterior surfaces helps protect the structure from the elements.

General Construction Knowledge

Building a garage from start to finish requires broad construction knowledge, familiarity with local building codes, and experience using various tools and materials properly and safely.

As you can see, building a garage has far more complexities than a basic wood shed. Unless you have previous experience with major construction projects, there will likely be a substantial learning curve. Be realistic about your current skill level before committing to build an entire garage solo.

How Much Does Building Your Own Garage Typically Cost?

Garage construction costs can vary tremendously based on the size, features, materials and site prep work needed. However, you can expect the total price for the do-it-yourself project to typically range anywhere from:

  • Basic Single-Car Garage – $20,000 to $35,000
  • Average 2-3 Car Garage – $35,000 to $60,000
  • High-End Oversized Garage with Apartment – $100,000+

These costs include all necessary materials, rental equipment, and subcontractor fees. However, your sweat equity and labor are free. For comparison, hiring a general contractor often adds $15,000 or more. Significant cost factors include:

  • Garage size and number of bays
  • Whether the foundation is concrete slab vs. piers
  • Asphalt vs. concrete driveway
  • Type of roofing and siding materials
  • Number of windows and doors
  • Electrical and plumbing details
  • Any additional living space above garage
  • Grading, excavation and site prep work needed

Material prices also continue to rise due to inflation and supply chain issues. And cost overruns are common if complications occur during the build. Creating a detailed budget and adding 10-15% contingency is wise.

What Permits and Inspections Are Required?

Like any major construction undertaking, building your own garage requires obtaining the proper permits and passing mandatory inspections. Exact requirements vary by local jurisdiction but typically include:

Site Plan Approval

Submitting a site plan showing the garage size and location on your property relative to property lines and existing structures. Setbacks from the street are also checked.

Building Permits

Acquiring overall building permits for the garage itself including the foundation, structural framing, electrical, plumbing, mechanical and energy code compliance.

Concrete Inspection

Having the forms and reinforcement steel checked by an inspector before the concrete slab is poured. Another inspection occurs after the pour to check proper coverage and curing procedures.

Framing Inspection

An extensive framing inspection checks that the roof and wall structures are built safely with proper materials, fasteners, spans and load paths.

Electrical Inspection

Electricians handle garage wiring, but an inspector verifies proper circuit sizes, conduit, boxes, grounding and separation from gas lines.

Plumbing Inspection

If adding water service to the garage, inspectors check piping, drainage, venting, anti-siphon valves, and pressure regulators.

Insulation and Drywall

Before hanging drywall, an inspector often checks that insulation meets code for R-value and proper installation without gaps or compression.

Final Inspection

A final inspection occurs after all work is complete. The inspector checks for safety issues, code compliance and clean completed work ready for a certificate of occupancy.

It’s critical that you fully understand your jurisdiction’s building permit and inspection demands in advance to avoid delays or having to redo non-compliant work. Expect each inspection to take a half day or more out of your schedule.

What is the Ideal Timeline for a DIY Garage Build?

Garage construction generally takes 4-6 months for most do-it-yourselfers allowing for planning, permitting, the build, inspections, and finishing. However, projects often take more like 8-12 months working mostly weekends. Here is a typical recommended timeline:

1-2 Months Before Building

  • Research design ideas and draft detailed plans
  • Meet with permit office to learn requirements
  • Clear and level the site if needed
  • Organize tools, materials and equipment

Month 1 Construction

  • Complete permit process
  • Excavate and grade site
  • Pour thickened edge of concrete slab
  • Install electrical conduit in slab

Months 2-3 Construction

  • Form, reinforce and pour main slab
  • Construct foundation stem walls if applicable
  • Begin garage framing and sheathing

Months 4-5 Construction

  • Roof framing and sheathing
  • Roofing installation
  • Siding, windows and exterior doors
  • Rough electrical and plumbing

Months 6-7 Construction

  • Insulation, drywall and taping
  • Paint interior
  • Install lighting fixtures
  • Cabinets and finished plumbing
  • Pour driveway

Month 8 Finishing Touches

  • Install gutters and downspouts
  • Caulk and touch up paint
  • Landscaping and site cleanup
  • Final inspections

Building inspectors’ schedules also impact the timeline. Bad weather can cause delays as well. Be conservative in your time estimates, especially if this is your first garage project.

What Size Garage is Best?

Choosing the ideal garage size depends on your specific needs. Important factors include:

  • Number and size of vehicles
  • Desired storage space for tools, materials, equipment
  • If you plan living space above the garage
  • Available space on your property

For just parking vehicles, allow 20 feet deep by 10 feet wide per car, plus an extra few feet all around for entry/exit room. Common garage sizes include:

1-Car – Approximately 12 feet wide by 20 feet deep or 240 sq. feet

2-Car – 24 feet wide by 20 feet deep or 480 sq. feet

3-Car – 36 feet wide by 20 feet deep or 720 sq. feet

For lots of storage space or a workshop, go bigger. High-end custom garages are often 48-50 feet wide with 25 foot depth or more. Think about your long-term needs as well, since expanding the garage later is difficult.

Taller wall heights like 10 feet provide ample overhead storage space. Consider possible living space above when determining the height. Garage door height must accommodate your tallest vehicle too.

While large garages are great, also consider other factors like appearance from the street, blocking sunlight or views, and higher construction costs.

Should You Build an Attached or Detached Garage?

One of the first big decisions is whether to build a detached garage separate from your home or attach it directly. Here are pros and cons of each option:

Attached Garage


  • Easier access between house and garage
  • More protected entry to vehicles in bad weather
  • Feels like part of the main home


  • Noise and fumes from garage enter the home
  • Potential safety risk if fire spreads from garage
  • Limited flexibility if garage entrance needs relocated
  • Difficult to extend house without moving garage

Detached Garage


  • Does not affect home’s appearance or resale value
  • Reduces vehicle noise and fumes
  • Lower risk if fire occurs
  • More flexible if you later expand home
  • Can feel like a separate building to “get away”


  • Requires walking outside between garage and house
  • No protected entry from elements
  • Often costs more for longer utilities and driveway
  • Can feel distant from home at night

If reselling the home, detached garages hold value better for curb appeal. But attached garages are much more convenient day-to-day.

What Foundation Options Exist for DIY Garages?

The garage foundation must safely support the structure while keeping floors level. Main options are:

Concrete Slab

A slab foundation integrates the garage floor and foundation into one solid, thick concrete slab typically 6 inches deep. Slabs are the most common choice because they provide continuity and level surfaces ideal for parking vehicles and workshops. They also simplify construction. However, the extensive concrete forming, rebar and finishing work requires skill. And the slab must be poured all in one session before walls go up.

Concrete Footings and Stem Walls

With this traditional foundation style, concrete footings and stem walls extend below ground level to support wood or masonry perimeter walls atop them. Interior support piers may also be incorporated. Footings and stem walls involve less concrete work than a slab and can be poured gradually versus all at once. But the system is more complex and costly than a slab.

Concrete Pier Blocks

For very basic garages, concrete piers spaced under key points along the perimeter can support wood framing above. While cheaper and easier than a slab or stem walls, the pier system provides less stability and is more prone to settling. Frost heaving of piers is also a concern in colder climates.

Unless experienced with structural foundations, the typical DIYer is best off choosing a simple concrete slab suitable for their soils and climate. This provides the strongest, most stable and cost-effective base for your garage.

What Building Materials are Best for Garage Construction?

Choosing the ideal primary building materials for your garage involves balancing cost, durability, appearance and maintenance needs. Common options include:

Wood Framing

Using dimensional lumber for the wall framing, roof rafters and internal supports is a budget-friendly choice. However, moisture can cause wood framing to eventually rot or attract pests unless properly protected. Periodic painting is required.

Steel Framing

Framing the garage structure with galvanized steel studs and trusses is more durable than wood and resistant to rot and bugs. But steel framing costs significantly more upfront and requires special tools. The finishes look industrial rather than wood.

Concrete Masonry Units

Block walls constructed from CMUs (concrete masonry units) or poured concrete provide an extremely sturdy, fireproof garage. But concrete masonry is higher cost, requires special expertise to build, and lacks the warmth of wood finishes.

Structural Insulated Panels

SIPs are an emerging construction method where two layers of oriented strand board sandwich an inner foam insulation core. The prefab panels install quickly and provide both structure and insulation. Costs can be competitive with stick framing.

For most DIY garage projects, traditional wood framing and plywood sheathing offer the best balance of affordability, appearance and construction practicality. Properly maintaining the wood and using termite barriers are key.

What Garage Flooring is Best?

Choosing the right garage flooring depends on your needs such as:

  • Parking vehicles vs. workshop space
  • Durability for heavy usage
  • Moisture and slip resistance
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance
  • Appearance

Here are top garage flooring options:

Bare Concrete

The simplest and most affordable choice is leaving the smooth concrete slab exposed. But standing water, deicer chemicals, and heavy impacts can damage bare concrete over time. Stains and tire marks also show up clearly unless sealed. Bare concrete works best in drier climates. Adding a clear densifier sealer is recommended.

Epoxy Coating

Applying a thin epoxy coating over the concrete slab gives an attractive glossy appearance that’s easy to clean. Chips or color flakes can be added for interest. However, hot tires may stain light colors. Epoxy coatings cost around $3-6 per square foot. They last 5-10 years before reapplying.


Concrete paint provides an economical way to add color and seal the slab. Quality garage floor enamels resist chemicals, impacts and wear. However, paint can chip or peel and requires reapplication every 2-4 years. Cost is less than $1 per square foot.


Porcelain or ceramic garage tiles offer attractive options that are extremely durable for heavy usage. Tiles elevate the flooring’s appearance. Large format tiles simplify installation. Drawbacks include higher cost at $5-10 per square foot and increased chance of cracking from vehicle loads or ground movement.

Interlocking Tiles

Durable PVC, polypropylene or rubber tiles snap together over the concrete to provide a modular, cushioned surface. These garage floor tiles allow for custom patterns and colors. They’re easier to install than ceramic tile. However, the plastic material feels cheaper underfoot. Costs run $2-5 per square foot.

Consider how you plan to utilize the garage space when selecting flooring. For frequent vehicle parking, lean towards highly durable epoxy, tile or painted concrete. For workshops and storage, interlocking tiles add comfort underfoot.

What are the Best Garage Door Options?

Choosing the right garage door involves factors like:

  • Appearance
  • Durability
  • Insulation value
  • Cost