Q:I’ve noticed that more car collectors are building incredible garages to showcase their collections. Now, I’m an average guy who makes a decent living, but I can’t afford an extreme building like [Barrett-Jackson’s] Craig Jackson. Is there any way to build a cool “car castle” without breaking the bank?
I should note that I live in Florida, which is hurricane country, and having a detached building to protect my cars during a storm is a primary concern. My collection only consists of a couple of C2 Corvettes at this time, but I plan to add to it in the future.
Any ideas or guidance you can provide on this project will be appreciated.
A:When you consider value of your collection—whether it’s two vehicles or 200—the need for a safe environment becomes paramount. Virtually all of us live in an area with some kind of inclement weather, and the right structure can offer significant protection.
The garage traditionally hasn’t been a place where one aspired to spend time, but that’s starting to change. Over the past decade, a trend has emerged in which the garage has become a veritable trophy room for the car enthusiast. (I have to admit I am one of those enthusiasts, so much so that my wife thinks our garage is nicer than our house.)
There’s a certain level of artistry involved in building the perfect garage. Everyone has a different vision of his ideal setting, and that’s what makes each individual interpretation interesting. While on photo shoots, I’ve sometimes found myself more impressed with the way the vehicles are presented than with the cars themselves.
To begin with, you’ll need to check the bylaws of your homeowners’ association (if applicable), as well as the appropriate city and county ordinances governing construction. Once that’s done, you can start the planning process. Ask yourself how much space you need, and how you plan to display your collection. Do you need electrical outlets and windows, and do you want an upstairs for storage? Put your plan on paper and envision your final result. Just remember: You don’t want your costs to exceed the value of your collection or your property.
The most important factor to consider is construction, since you want a building that will keep your collection safe. Use quality products and make sure they’re up to code. In my case, I did my homework to determine what products were best suited to the region where I live. I also contacted a contractor who understood car collectors and specialized in these types of structures. Don Human is that guy, and he will help guide us through this process.
Human turned me on to a product called Nudura, which is an Insulated Concrete Form, or ICF. Nudura allows you to build a much stronger, more energy-efficient structure, and as a bonus, it is also environmentally friendly. While Nudura costs 5 to 8 percent more than a finished concrete-block structure, its superior efficiency (more on that shortly) will allow you to eventually recoup that premium through reduced utility bills.
Once your plans have been approved by the appropriate agency(ies), you can begin building. These projects tend to run anywhere from four months to a year from concept to completion. That might seem like a long time, but as anyone who’s restored a car will tell you, it’s best not to rush the process.
The structure begins with a level lot, a moisture barrier, and 6 inches of concrete slab. Human recommends a full 12 inches of concrete with rebar reinforcements to accommodate any lifts, noting that while it’s overkill in most cases, the minimal cost difference makes it worthwhile.
Nudura goes up quickly, like large building blocks (Image A, pg 20). The ICFs have 25⁄8 inches of built-in foam insulation on each side of the form, with 6 inches of solid, down-poured concrete core. They’re reinforced with rebar every three feet vertically and every 18 inches horizontally.
Benefits of an ICF building include an energy savings of 40 to 70 percent over a traditional frame-based structure. While the one I built (shown under construction in Image B, pg 20) measures approximately 50x50 feet and is air conditioned, it has added less than $20 a month to our home electric bill. ICF can also withstand winds of up to 250 mph and 115-mph debris impacts; it even provides four hours of fire protection.
The trusses are connected to the concrete wall by HG20 straps imbedded into the concrete and attached to every truss, effectively making the structure one unit. A solid-concrete roof deck from a manufacturer such as Lite Deck may be installed at an additional cost.
Human recommends installing a 5⁄8-inch plywood roof deck and completely decking the attic ceiling for added strength (Image C, pg 20). Placing plywood walls in the center of the attic further improves structural integrity while also providing extra storage space. By following these steps with our building, Human notes that we have 138,375 pounds of uplift protection—“not bad.” (He also states that, regardless of where he’s working, all the products he uses meet the Miami-Dade County code—one of the toughest in the nation.)
Impact windows are recommended, since they can withstand repeated blows by heavy objects during a storm or even deter a potential thief. Some—such as the ones produced by Simonton—also reduce harmful ultraviolet rays, absorb sound, and meet the Miami-Dade County code.
The garage doors should be insulated. While there are many styles and materials to choose from, we went with Clopay units, due to their durability and energy efficiency. These impact garage doors are rated for up to 150-mph winds without any additional reinforcements. Human notes that with extra support, that rating can go as high as 250 mph.
The exterior doors are the weakest point of the outer shell of your building. One way to minimize this weakness is to install them so they swing outward. This not only helps prevent them from blowing inward during a storm, it can thwart forced entry as well.
There are a plethora of exterior finishes that can be applied to an ICF building, including stucco, brick, and Hardie board, among others. We wanted our building to match the exterior of our home, so we chose a similar brick-and-siding treatment (Image D).
While the job of constructing your dream garage may seem daunting at first, keep in mind that you can always proceed in stages, building the structure to safe, usable condition and then finishing the interior as money allows. Remember, your primary goal should be to create a safe haven for your cars.
Don Human Construction
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