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How to Build Your Dream Garage

Book Review

by Ryan King

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It's January, and if you're like me and have no place to work on your project(s), it's a perfect time to fantasize about doing so in your very own garage.

After all, for most of the country, it's bloody cold out and the weather in many of those cold places isn't the kind you want to be caught dead in.

Those are the precise reasons the garage was invented.

Those are also the reasons How to Build Your Dream Garage was written.

Think about how much better your life would be if, instead of sitting at your computer, on your phone, or tablet reading this article, you were out in your pleasant garage, whiling away the hours tinkering on your favorite hot rod or Muscle Car.

The author, Lee Klancher, sure understands that yearning.

He also understands the value of doing more with less — which is a constant condition for many of us. While he wrote How to Build Your Dream Garage for everyone, he spent a considerable amount of time researching how to build your dream garage while keeping a careful eye on the bottom line. He didn't just consider the cost of building the structure, but outfitting it, as well — and even provides lots of ideas to spark your imagination.

Follow along as I breakdown each chapter and provide you with a glimpse at what you'll find between the pages of Motorbook's How to Build Your Dream Garage:

The Book

Building a garage is an involved undertaking — even if you hire someone else to do the actual building.

In How to Build Your Dream Garage, author Lee Klancher does an excellent job of laying out just exactly why it's such an involved endeavor — and he does so in plain English and with very clear, practical examples.

The book is well organized, using each of its seven chapters to cut down the subject of how to build a garage into its most distinct parts. Most importantly, though, it's written in a manner that focuses on each section from the perspective of an automotive enthusiast. That approach makes it both easier to see how to build a garage for your automotive interests and addresses the unique problems you face as an enthusiast.

There are a number of books out there that focus on building a garage for your home — whether as an attached addition or a separate building — but they don't address the special needs of the gearhead.

As gearheads, we have to concern ourselves with special power needs like 240V outlets and compressed air lines, making space for machines and equipment like professional-grade hardwired air compressors, and fitting our automotive passions into the confines of a residential neighborhood with the accompanying rules and restrictions that come along with them.

This book does a great job of laying it all out there for you while providing excellent ways to do those things for less if your situation requires it.

Chapter 1: The Structure

I'm going to throw you a curve ball here:

This book doesn't explain how to build a garage. I mean the nuts and bolts — or, rather, the nails and framing studs. And it says so right in this chapter. In fact, it goes so far as to caution you away from it.

For instructions on how to construct a garage, you're going to need to find other resource material.

What this chapter does do, is ease you into the building process. Don't knock the idea. If you've never built or outfitted a garage before, this information is far more eye-opening than you might imagine.

Being armed with the foreknowledge of how to build, outfit, and use a garage for your hobby needs will help down the road should you decide that building it yourself is the way to go.

Now that you've made contact with that curve ball, let's look at the other things Chapter 1 provides.

It introduces you to the four main concerns when deciding to start a garage project: figuring out how much space you have available to build on, finding your local building regulations, working out the budget you'll need for your project, and creating a space to fit your needs.

Once you're familiar with those concepts, it goes into a little more depth to help you choose a design, source detailed drawings for your plan, and how to go about finishing your garage.

Lastly, it looks into the best approach for you to take to build your building based on your needs and abilities: contractor, kit, or DIY.

Chapter 2: The Floor Plan

Now, you'd think that with a title like "the Floor Plan," this chapter would be about how to create a floor plan for a garage — specifically one for auto enthusiasts.

It is...sort of.

Chapter 2's short introduction section covers the concept of floor planning, after that though, it goes straight into interior finishing and doesn't look back. This is one area that I felt this book is lacking in. Floor planning is a complicated subject matter — trust me, I've dabbled in industrial engineering and you could fill books on the subject. I may not be anything resembling an expert on it, but I do have some expertise in research and there is a lot of information out there on the subject in professional texts. That said, How to Build Your Dream Garage does cover all the basics, even if it doesn't go into much depth, which will give you an understanding of what to go look for to get an idea of how to approach the process of laying out a floor plan.

That brings me to the final section, Dealing with Inspections and Permits. This section seemed out of place to me. Based on the subject matter covered in Chapter 1, it seems like it would fit better there and round out the information in that chapter well. I'm sure the author and/or editor had a reason for putting it here, but I don't see it. That said, the information is solid and gives you a good idea of what you'll deal with during the inspection and permitting processes.

Chapter 3: Power, Light, and Heat

The name of the game for this chapter is utilities. Auto enthusiasts have needs that are a bit different than the average homeowner and making sure any facility has what we need before we start trying to use it is critical. In fact, the author notes in this chapter, it's best to make darn certain whatever garage you build has sufficient utility service when its being built — not to try to add it later because the cost to do so increases dramatically.

In Chapter 3, he covers not only power, light and heat, but plumbing, cooling, in-floor radiant heat, drainage, toilets, and more — and he does so from the perspective of the needs of a hobbiest. And trust me, we're special like that.

Chapter 4: Workspaces

When I picked up How to Build Your Dream Garage, I had hoped that this chapter would focus on how to set up different types of workspaces for specific kinds of work.

It doesn't.

Instead, it spends a short introduction lightly touching on the topic once again, but in less detail than chapter 2, before heading into the subject of workbenches — which, incidentally, would have been a better title for this chapter.

With that out of the way, let me say that the subject of workbenches is covered well, here. It looks over different types of workbenches, how to light a workbench, how to computerize a workbench, and how to power a workbench. It even discusses ways to store tools in, on, and around a workbench. It doesn't provide any details on how to set up a workbench for maximum productivity on any specific task, however.

If you don't know a great deal about workbenches, this chapter will give you everything you need to know to get you started on the subject so you can do a better job of picking them out — or building them, as the case may be.

Chapter 5: Storage Options

Wall storage, overhead storage, fridge, and attic space — that's what this chapter covers. Most of the subjects are covered very generally, but the advice is solid.

Klancher doesn't go into any depth about part, vehicle, or tool storage, opting to cover life stuff like bicycles, camping supplies, and fishing gear instead — which does little for me since my sole interest is cars — but if the garage you are building or renovating is just a normal every day garage and you'd store that kind of stuff in there, he's got some great ideas for you.

Even though it doesn't cover things like crankshaft racks or parking lifts, Chapter 5 does give you a broad overview of the basic kinds of storage options available for your garage.

Thankfully, many of the ideas in this chapter are adaptable in some way to part and tool storage, as well.

Chapter 6: Gearhead Tools

Remember when I said that Chapter 5 didn't cover parking lifts? Chapter 6 does, it just doesn't say much beyond a few paragraphs about lifts in general, and it only briefly mentions the idea of a parking lift.

This chapter is by no means a thorough look at tools and equipment, but it does provide a brief look at tools and tool chests, air compressors and air tools, lifting equipment, and welders.

The area it covers most thoroughly, though, is waste disposal — not a bad thing to be aware of for an avid car enthusiast.

If you're looking for a serious gear guide, you're going to have to find it someplace else, but this chapter does mention some of the more important high points to consider when designing, constructing, and outfitting your own shop.

Chapter 7: Making the Most of Garage Space

Need some ideas for your garage? The last chapter is a gallery of various spaces showing a broad range of uses from clean, well-appointed hang outs replete with huge collections to grungy workspaces used to build hot rods and customs.


Not technically a chapter, the resources section is still an important part of this book.

Finding resources for building a garage can be a daunting task and How to Build Your Dream Garage supplies you with 55, spanning 15 different areas including: garage floor heating, consumer information, recycling, general retailers, overhead storage, benches and small-parts drawers, garage refrigerators, floor coatings, garage kits, garage design and contracting, garage plan sources, work bench stuff, lifts, garage doors and accessories, and garage forums.


How to Build Your Dream Garage by author Lee Klancher is a book focused on the garage, but from the perspective of the automotive enthusiast, not the average homeowner. Its focus isn't directed toward any specific activity, instead it covers a lot of ground, looking at every aspect with a bent toward the garage as a multi-use space.

Based on the mixed review I gave above, you may be tempted to think this book isn't worth your time, but if that were the case, I wouldn't have bothered with a review. This book is a fantastic introduction to building your dream garage because it covers every major aspect from planning to outfitting to usage. What it isn't is a how to guide for building a garage. It doesn't go into a great deal of depth, either, but it does give you a great overview of what's in-store for you before you run headlong into it.

If you approach this book from that angle, it will do an excellent job of priming your pump to go forth and figure out how to build your dream garage because you'll have a solid understanding of what you need to consider when building one to satisfy your automotive-related needs — and from my extensive research on the subject, that isn't something you're going to find with garage books focused on construction, remodeling, or organizing for the average homeowner.

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For more information contact Motorbooks on the web at www.motorbooks.com, by phone 1.800.826.6600, or by email at customerservice@motorbooks.com.

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