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The Complete Guide to Buying a Detached Garage

The Complete Guide to Buying a Detached Garage

A detached garage can be a major asset for any homeowner. Providing protected vehicle storage, space for projects and hobbies, and even extra living areas, detached garages offer flexibility and convenience. However, buying a new detached garage is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning and decision-making to get it right.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the key factors to weigh when planning, designing, and constructing a detached garage. Whether you want a basic two-car garage or are looking to build your dream garage workshop, use this as your ultimate resource for your detached garage building project.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose between attached and detached based on convenience, noise, appearance, customization, efficiency, and cost. A detached garage allows more flexibility.
  • Budget $15,000-$60,000 for a typical 2 car shed. Size, foundation, materials, features, and finishes impact cost.
  • Proper placement optimizes functionality and aesthetics. Conform to zoning setbacks and facilitate access.
  • Select durable, low-maintenance materials like concrete foundations, steel or wood framing, composite roofing, and fiber cement siding.
  • Get permits to ensure legal compliance. Follow codes for size, placement, and construction standards to avoid violations.
Duramax Imperial Metal Garage Light Gray w/Off White 12x26 with garage door half-open

    What is a Detached Garage?

    A detached garage is a fully standalone building, not sharing any walls or roofing with the main home. It connects to the house only via the driveway, walkways, or utility lines running underground between the structures. Detached garages stand apart from the main living spaces of a home.

    There are many advantages to choosing a detached garage rather than opting for an attached alternative:

    • Greater flexibility in design, size, and placement of the structure.
    • Ability to customize features best suited to vehicle parking needs.
    • Reduced noise, fumes, and other auto-related nuisance entering household living areas.
    • Lower risk to the home if the fire originates in the garage area.

    For these reasons and more, detached garages are a popular choice for many homeowners. The separate structure can serve as anything from basic vehicle parking to luxurious workshops and garage apartments.

    Factors to Consider When Buying a Detached Garage

    Here are the things you have to look for in a detached garage when buying it:

    1. Attached vs. Detached - Which One Do You Need?

    Deciding between a detached garage vs an attached garage is a pivotal early decision. Here are the things that can help you make the decision:

    • Convenience - The attached garages allow the easiest direct indoor access to the house. Detached garages typically involve a short outdoor walk.
    • Noise - Attached garages risk more vehicle noise transferring inside. Detached garages provide acoustic separation.
    • Appearance - Detached structures afford flexibility but can obstruct sightlines. The attached garages integrate with home design.
    • Customization - Detached garages can be tailored independently in size and features. The attached dimensions are limited.
    • HVAC Efficiency - Attached garages gain some climate control benefits from an adjacent insulated wall. Detached requires full standalone systems.
    • Cost - Attached vs detached garage costs differ a lot. The attached garages share one wall to lower materials expense. Detached requires construction on all sides.

    Carefully weigh all factors including home layout, budget, personal preferences and return on investment potential before deciding on an attached or detached garage.

    2. Consider the Average Cost to Build a Garage

    A major component in planning a new detached garage is determining anticipated costs for construction. Materials, size, features, and other factors cause pricing to vary significantly. However, most detached garages fall into the range of $15,000 to $60,000 to construct, with many homeowners spending $30,000 to $50,000 for an average-sized two-car detached garage.

    Elements influencing the total cost of building and buying a detached garage include:

    • Overall dimensions including the number of car bays
    • Foundation type from basic slab to engineered piers or crawlspace
    • Framing materials such as dimensional lumber, light gauge steel, or concrete masonry
    • Exterior treatments like asphalt, metal or composite roofing, and basic vinyl or upgraded natural wood siding
    • Number of windows, standard personnel doors, or upgraded garage doors
    • Basic insulation and gypsum walls vs. high-performance insulated garage assemblies
    • Interior finish level from bare, unfinished walls to fully encapsulated insulated space
    • HVAC systems ranging from space heaters to mini-split units or ducted systems
    • Electrical scope including lighting, receptacles, EV chargers, and other wiring needs
    • Plumbing and drainage considerations potentially include water lines, sewer, trench drains, etc.
    • Any additional features like loft storage, cabinetry, or workshop amenities

    Get quotes from multiple detached garage contractors to find competitive construction costs per square foot in your region. Being an informed owner when selecting building components that best meet needs within budget results in the most cost-effective outcome.

    3. Assess the Impact on the Resale Value of Homes

    While a detached garage involves considerable upfront investment, it also adds value to the overall property that can be recaptured when selling the home. So make sure you evaluate how much this garage will increase the home value when buying it.

    The exact resale value increase depends on factors like:

    • Overall quality of garage construction
    • Number of parking bays
    • Comparable values of other homes in the neighborhood
    • Total value of the home

    However, a professionally built detached garage adds approximately 15% to 20% of construction cost to the overall resale value of most homes. So a $50,000 detached garage could potentially increase home value by $7,500 to $10,000 when selling.

    Return on investment for attached garages is marginally better. But either garage type proves wise for improving functionality and long-term property value.

    4. Evaluate the Garage Size You Need

    One of the biggest variables impacting detached garage cost is determining the appropriate size to build. 

    Typical sizing dimensions:

    • Single-car detached - 12 x 20 feet (240 SF)
    • Two-car detached - 20 x 20 feet (400 SF)
    • Three-car detached - 30 x 30 feet (900 SF)

    Consider the following when planning detached garage dimensions:

    • Allow 20 linear feet per vehicle bay
    • Consider 8-10 feet of additional depth for storage, workbenches, circulation
    • Include adequate alley area behind parked vehicles (8 feet minimum)
    • Enable space between support posts or walls (2 feet typical)
    • Accommodate entry and exit door swing clearance (3-foot minimum)
    • Account for HVAC equipment, electrical panels, water heaters
    • Provide shelving, cabinetry, and loft space as needed
    • Size slightly larger than immediate needs to allow flexibility for future expansion

    Additionally factor in wall and ceiling height, with 10-foot ceilings minimum recommended, or 12 to 16-foot heights if planning hoists or RV access. Confirm the maximum detached garage size allowed per local building codes.

    5. Select the Ideal Placement for the Detached Garage

    Finding the optimal location for your detached garage on your property is an important planning decision. Consider the following factors when selecting an ideal placement:

    • Conforming to any setback minimums per local zoning laws
    • Minimizing the length of driveway required for access
    • Avoiding obstructing desirable sightlines from home
    • Selecting a relatively flat, well-draining area of the site
    • Facilitating access to utilities like electrical and water
    • Preserving privacy from neighbors
    • Receiving some natural shade from trees
    • Leaving open space for other structures when possible

    With good placement of your detached garage, you can maximize functionality for vehicles while enhancing the surrounding landscape.

    6. Evaluate the Detached Garage Foundation

    The foundation plays a key role in the structural integrity and performance of your detached garage. Make sure you choose the best foundation for your garage by evaluating the pros and cons we have given below:

    Concrete Slab

    Concrete slab foundations are the most popular choice:


    • The most economical foundation option
    • Faster and simpler construction
    • A highly durable permanent base


    • Requires drainage slope away from the slab edge
    • Difficult to modify later
    • Orientation matters for optimal solar gain

    Slabs cost from $4 to $8 per SF based on thickness, reinforcement, and perimeter insulation.

    Pier and Beam

    Elevated foundations using piers and beams offer ventilation advantages:


    • Allows insulation under the entire floor
    • Improves ventilation
    • Easier to modify utilities later


    • Added cost for materials and build complexity
    • Vulnerable to poor sealing

    Pier and beam averages $7 to $11 per SF depending on height and materials.

    Crawl Space

    Crawl space foundations provide moderate height void space:


    • Facilitates insulation, moisture control, and ventilation
    • Allows access to utilities and drainage
    • Provides storage potential


    • Excavation, footings, and added costs
    • Must be properly sealed

    The cost for crawl space foundations ranges from $6 to $18 per SF on average.

    Floating Slab

    Floating slabs use gravel and void forms underneath:


    • Relatively affordable
    • Allows slab edge insulation
    • Accommodates minor ground movement


    • Limited insulation ability
    • Drainage system required
    • Potential for uneven settling

    Floating slabs run $7 to $12 per SF installed.

    Evaluate soils, drainage, and local conditions when selecting the best foundation type for your detached garage project.

    Foundation Type Pros Cons Cost per Square Foot
    Concrete Slab Economical, durable Drainage, hard to modify $4-$8
    Pier and Beam Insulation, ventilation Higher cost, vulnerable $7-$11
    Crawl Space Utilities, storage Excavation, sealing $6-$18
    Floating Slab Affordable Limited insulation, settling $7-$12

    7. Check Out the Material

    The structural framing must provide adequate strength to support vehicular loads as well as wind, snow, and other forces. Wood, light gauge steel, and concrete masonry are common options:

    Wood Framing

    Wood stud walls and trusses or rafters provide an economical tried-and-true method:


    • Widely available and familiar
    • Relatively lightweight
    • Easy to modify


    • Requires protection from moisture damage
    • Periodic maintenance to check for rot

    Treated wood lasts longer but still requires regular inspection and upkeep.

    Light Gauge Steel

    Formed light gauge steel structural members create a uniform, resilient framing:


    • Consistent dimensionally stable steel
    • High strength-to-weight ratio
    • Termite and rot-resistant
    • Noncombustible fire protection


    • Higher material cost than wood
    • Cannot modify post-construction
    • Requires careful moisture sealing

    Well suited for durable prefabricated detached garage kits.

    Concrete Masonry

    Concrete block construction results in heavy, robust structures:


    • Extremely strong and durable
    • Masonry finish provides integrated cladding
    • Adaptable to creative layouts


    • Heavy resulting in higher construction time and cost
    • Masonry skills required
    • Difficult to alter later

    Best for high thermal mass garages valuing durability over insulation. An affordable option for concrete foundation walls.

    8. Don't forget Roofing Materials

    Quality roofing designed for durability and water protection is a high priority for detached garages. Common material options include:

    Asphalt Shingles - Most affordable roofing but with the shortest lifespan of 15-20 years. Withstand hail better than metal or tile roofs.

    Standing Seam Metal - Long-lasting, resilient, low-maintenance metal roofing. Higher upfront cost but lifetime durability.

    Composite Shingles - Made from recycled materials like plastic, rubber, and wood fiber. Green choice with good affordability.

    Concrete or Clay Tiles - Highly durable in warm climates but heavy and costly. Vulnerable to wind uplift and breakage.

    Compare insulation factors as well - a well-insulated garage roof prevents temperature extremes and moisture accumulation.

    9. Choose the Best Siding Choices

    Common detached garage siding options include:

    Vinyl - Affordable, low-maintenance cladding. Wide range of styles, textures, and colors available.

    Fiber Cement - Wood-like look without maintenance. Superior durability and moisture resistance.

    Wood - Appealing traditional look but requires regular sealing and paint in harsh climates.

    Brick or Stone - Matches many existing home exteriors with added aesthetic appeal and durability. Higher installed cost.

    Metal - Dent and damage-resistant but industrial appearance. Best for accent uses unless painted.

    Choose siding able to withstand regional weather patterns. Select a color palette matching or contrasting the existing home per aesthetic preferences.

    10. Keep the Doors, Windows, and Electrical Requirements in Mind

    While vehicles may be stored inside, natural lighting is still desirable in a detached garage. Strategically placed windows and skylights brighten interior workspaces. Rollup doors conveniently retract fully overhead versus swing-out doors for standard-width bays.

    Plan electrical needs early - basic requirements include:

    • Dedicated 100 amp to 200 amp breaker panel and receptacles
    • Overhead LED light fixtures at entries, bays, and workbenches
    • GFCI outlets within 6 feet of plumbing fixtures
    • Associated trenching from the main house for running power to the detached garage

    Generous lighting and ample 240V outlets facilitate workspace flexibility and possible EV charging capabilities.

    11. Heating, Cooling, and Ventilating Detached Garages

    Maintaining a comfortable environment for parked vehicles as well as work zones may involve supplemental heating or cooling along with proper ventilation.

    Heating Options

    The best ways to heat a detached garage are:

    • Electric wall heaters - Most affordable to install but have higher operational costs. Quick to heat up.
    • Natural gas wall furnaces - Provide steady, economical ambient warmth. Require gas line connection.
    • Propane space heaters - Offer portable flexibility but at a higher cost per BTU than natural gas.
    • Wood stoves - Provide classic ambiance if able to store dry wood fuel supply.
    • Radiant tube heaters - Mounted overhead to direct warmth downward to occupied space.
    • Electric radiant systems - Efficiently heat surfaces but with high purchase and operating expenses.

    Check out our guide on the best garage heaters to find the best ones. And ensure to follow the codes for required heater clearances and ventilation needs.

    Cooling Approaches

    Full air conditioning is rarely needed in garages, but possible cooling techniques include:

    • Ceiling fans - Improve air movement for added comfort.
    • Roof exhaust fans - Release hot air upward and improve ventilation.
    • Window AC units - Provide targeted spot cooling as needed. Size based on square footage.
    • Ductless mini-split systems - Energy-efficient cooling from wall-mounted units.
    • Extending existing home HVAC - Link with short duct runs and supply registers.

    Insulation Best Practices

    Properly insulating garage envelope assemblies reduces heating and cooling loads. Recommended minimum R-values:

    • Garage walls: R13 to R20 batts or rigid insulation
    • Garage ceiling: R30 to R49 insulation
    • Garage floor slab edges: R10 to R20 rigid perimeter insulation
    • Garage access doors: R8+ foam or fiberglass core

    Seal all gaps and joints thoroughly before insulating. Protect insulation from compression or moisture intrusion. Include vapor retarders on appropriate wall orientations.

    breezeway connecting house to detached garage

    Can You Link the Detached Garage to Home?

    Yes, the good thing is that you can also connect the detached garage to your house if you want to. How? Here's the complete process:

    Electrical and Data Lines

    Bury conduit with sufficient volume for all current and future electrical feeders, CAT5 data lines, and possibly coax cable for WiFi, computers, cameras, etc.

    Water Supply Lines

    Consider extending water lines for hose bibs or utility sinks. Use heated trace lines and insulate to prevent freezing where required.

    Driveway Access

    Build a driveway early in the process for equipment access. Match paving materials and slope driveway for drainage.

    Covered Walkways

    A covered breezeway provides shelter for accessing the garage in inclement weather. Use materials complementing the home.

    Creative Touches

    Landscaping walls, lighting, pergolas, and other design details can further unify the buildings into a cohesive whole. Maintain appealing sight lines between structures.

    Consider the Permits Required for Detached Garages

    Most jurisdictions require permitting and inspections to legally construct a detached garage:

    • Submit proper permit application documents including site plan, drawings, etc.
    • Attend initial planning reviews and public comment periods if required
    • Provide contractor licensing and insurance documentation
    • Schedule all required foundation, framing, electrical, and plumbing inspections
    • Install garage precisely meeting approved plans or risk removal
    • Pay permit fees, often $50 to $500 range depending on specifics
    • Conform with setbacks, height limits, and lot coverage ratio standards
    • You also require a permit for making big changes in your garage like when converting a garage into a living space.

    Perform due diligence confirming local detached garage codes to avoid issues during approvals. Being an educated and engaged owner facilitates smooth permitting.

    detached garage converted to living space

    Final Words

    Buying a high-quality detached garage tailored to your needs takes research, planning, and smart decision-making along the way. Following this comprehensive guide will help you successfully navigate garage design, material selection, costs, permits, and everything.

    Take time to analyze how you plan to use your garage now and into the future. Determine the right size, features, placement, and architectural style. Though an investment, a custom detached garage adds value by providing protected storage, workshop space, increased resale value, and expanded living area potential.

    With strategic planning guided by this detached garage building overview, you can create a durable, flexible garage space improving your property for years to come.


    What are the benefits of a detached garage compared to an attached garage?

    A detached garage provides additional privacy and reduces noise transfer to your home. Plus, it allows for greater flexibility in design, it's often regarded as safer in case of fire, and there could be fewer municipality regulations for construction.

    Are there different types of detached garages?

    Absolutely! You might decide to construct a standard garage, a custom garage, a metal garage, or even a four-car garage. The type of garage that fits your needs will depend on your available space, budget, and storage needs.

    How does the garage door impact the detached garage cost?

    The choice of a garage door can significantly impact your overall cost. Options like a garage door opener or a custom-style door can raise the price. Make sure to consider this in your garage buying guide.

    Is it less expensive to build a detached or an attached garage?

    Costs vary greatly depending on factors like size, materials, and location. However, a detached garage might be less expensive to build because it has fewer requirements in terms of matching the existing home's design.

    How can I find the right garage builders?

    Finding the right garage builders involves checking their experience, portfolio, insurance, testimonials, and cost. Interview a few different garage builders before making your decision.

    What is the cost per square foot to build a detached garage?

    The cost per square foot to construct a detached garage ranges from $35 to $60 on average. However, the type of garage and additional features will significantly change this average.

    Previous article 7 Best Garage Heaters of 2023 - Find the Best Heater for a Detached Garage
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    About The Author

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

    As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

    His main focus is on sheds and generators!

    In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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