Steve Jobs in front of his parents garage where he started Apple
Garages can wear many hats- they can be an incubator space for a startup company, or a rehearsal space for a band, a wood-shop, storage unit, or just about anything else you can think of.
From a construction standpoint, having a garage is pretty much the same as building the exterior shell of a house, except there are no finishes inside. Like with any new construction project, make sure you permit it with the building department.
After the kitchen, the garage is the second room in the house with the highest fire risk. Building codes have specific provisions for fire prevention in garage construction. Most garage fires can be avoided by using some common sense, like safety storing flammable liquids like gasoline away from flames, upgrading dangerous electric panels, and not overloading power outlets.
One Story/Two Story Garages
One Story garages are the most common because they are significantly cheaper to build than two story garages. A standard one Story garage costs about $25,000 to build, whereas a two Story garage would cost more than double that, at about $75,000. The reason for the large jump up in cost is because the 2-story garage needs to have a stronger foundation. Many people would love to have a two story garage, but don’t have the budget for it.
If you have a single story house, that pretty much mandates a single story garage. Having a two story garage with a single story house looks strange. The mass of the larger garage would overwhelm the house and look bulky. Two Story garages blend better with two story houses. If the garage happens to be located in the rear yard of the property, instead of the front yard, the garage is not visible from the street, and has much less visual impact, so building a two story garage with a single story house in the backyard is not as jarring. The big advantage of a two story garage is you get double the space, and the extra space you get on the second story can be finished- for a rec room or guest house.
One Car/Two Car Garages
As the city has grown more crowded, and public transportation worse, Los Angeles’ building code has become stricter with parking requirements for new construction. I see a lot of old properties around town that would never be allowed to be built by today’s code because they do not have enough parking. The most poignant example are Bungalow Court Apartments. There are anywhere from 6-10 on a lot with ZERO parking. By today’s code that property would at least need 9 spaces. Owners of properties with no off street parking just park on the street.
I joke around that LA had better public transportation in 1950 than it does today. It’s partially true, because the Pacific Electric railway system was quite amazing. The Metro Subway has been expanding in recent years but it will never offer as many routes as the old electric rails. The bus system in the city is great but underutilized.
Anyway, the year built of a property has a big influence on the garage. If the property was built between 1910 to 1930, it will have a tiny 1 car garage that I like to call a “Model T” garage. During this era, having a car was for the well-to-do, and having two cars was almost unimaginable.