Podcast Ep 204: Can You Remodel Your Seattle Garage? with Jan Fredrickson and Matt Scully


Welcome back! Today, we delve into the exciting world of garage transformations here in Seattle. Transforming your Seattle garage can be an exciting project, whether you’re looking to expand, convert, or rebuild from scratch. With Seattle’s diverse range of garage types, from small hillside garages to traditional or detached structures, there are plenty of possibilities. During this podcast episode, we explored the ins and outs of remodeling garages in Seattle along with expert insights from CRD Design Build team members Jan Fredrickson and Matt Scully.


Why Remodel Your Garage in Seattle?

As we all know, Seattle is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, camping, and biking. While the city boasts excellent public transportation, it doesn't quite reach the mountains. Hence, many Seattle residents own cars to facilitate outdoor adventures. Street parking, however, can be risky, especially in neighborhoods like Ballard, Wallingford, on Alki, and Capitol Hill, where dings and scratches are common. An off-street parking spot is ideal, but many older homes have garages that are either too small or difficult to access. It’s quite the conundrum.

If your property has an old garage that no longer serves your needs or no garage at all, it might be time to explore your remodeling options. Keep reading as we dive into some garage restrictions, codes, costs, and designs so that you can feel like an expert when you start your garage remodeling project.

Which is Better: Attached or Detached Garage?

Ahhh yes. A question as old as time. Attached or detached garage? Let's first consider the benefits and downsides to each. For more in-depth details about garages, check out our Garages 101 guide that covers budget and location.

Attached Garages

Attached garages are directly connected to your home, providing convenience and ease of access, especially during Seattle’s rainy seasons. They typically conform to specific setback rules: five feet from side yards, 20 feet from the rear and 25 feet from the front.

  • Direct access from the house, ideal for rainy or cold weather.
  • Potential for integration with the main house’s heating and electrical systems.


  • May require extensive modifications to the existing home structure.
  • Can be less visually appealing if the garage door dominates the front facade.

Attached Garages

Detached garages stand alone, separate from the main house. These can be placed in backyards if there’s adequate space and access. Key considerations include driveway placement and adhering to setback regulations.

Detached garages also offer the potential to build a DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit) on top, providing additional living space or rental income. This can be a great investment, but requires planning and adherence to building codes and regulations. Learn more about DADUs here.


  • Greater flexibility in placement, especially if your property backs onto an alley.
  • Reduced noise transmission to the main house, ideal if you plan to use your garage as a workshop.


  • Exposure to weather when moving between the garage and the house.
  • Typically requires more yard space and can impact garden or outdoor living areas.


Common Challenges and Considerations

Access and Placement

One of the first steps in planning a garage remodel is determining access. Does your property have an alley? If so, you’ll likely need to position the garage to be accessible from there. Otherwise, a driveway from the front or side of your property might be necessary.

Size and Setbacks

Regulations regarding size, lot coverage, and setbacks can significantly impact your garage project. For example, you can build a detached garage up to 1,000 square feet, but it must conform to lot coverage limits and distance from property lines and existing structures.

Structural Integrity

Older garages, especially those from the early 1900s, may not meet modern codes and could require significant updates or even demolition. Retrofitting these structures can be complex and costly, often leading homeowners to opt for new construction instead.

Permits and Codes

Permitting is a critical aspect of garage remodeling. The City of Seattle has specific codes regarding garage placement, size and even requirements for EV chargers in new construction. Always consult with a professional to ensure compliance with local regulations.

Note: We make no claims or warranties as to the completeness or accuracy of the information on this page. We encourage you to confirm all information you read here and consult a design professional. Any action you take based on the information on this website is strictly at your own risk.


Costs and Budget Considerations

Factors Affecting Cost

Several factors can impact the cost of building a garage such as:

  • Size and Scope: Larger garages and those with additional features like a second story or integrated workshop will cost more.
  • Materials: The choices you make in terms of materials for things like siding, roofing and doors can vary widely in cost.
  • Site Preparation: Terrain and site conditions can impact excavation and foundation costs.
  • Permitting and Code Compliance: Meeting Seattle’s building codes and obtaining necessary permits can add to the cost.


Design and Functional Considerations

Additional Uses

Many homeowners are looking for multifunctional garages. Beyond vehicle storage, consider adding a workout room, workshop, or even a small apartment (DADU) like we mentioned earlier. Each additional function requires careful planning for plumbing, electrical and heating.

Aesthetic Integration

When adding or remodeling a garage, it’s essential to match the design and architecture of your existing home. Whether it’s maintaining the vintage look of an early 20th-century house or blending seamlessly with a modern design, attention to detail is key.


Consider future needs, like installing an EV charger or adding solar panels. With Seattle’s push towards green energy, incorporating these elements during the remodel can save time and money later.


Expert Tips from CRD Design Build

Planning and Consultation

Before breaking ground, consult with professionals to evaluate your space, understand the codes and plan the project thoroughly. The CRD team emphasizes the importance of initial assessments to determine feasibility and align with your vision. We’ve found this minimizes stress and helps remodel projects to go a lot more smoothly. 

Realistic Timelines

On a related topic, setting a timeline is just as important. A basic garage remodel can take about 12 weeks, but this timeline can extend with additional features like a second story, complex electrical systems, or customized finishes. Your design-build team can help you better understand just how long the project will take.

Budget Considerations

As with any renovation, cost can vary widely depending on the complexity of the project. It’s crucial to budget for unexpected expenses, especially when dealing with older structures or unique design requests.

Trees and Landscaping

Seattle’s strict regulations on tree removal and proximity can affect your garage plans. Our pros have found that an arborist’s consultation might be necessary to navigate these rules and ensure your project moves forward without a hitch.

Storage Solutions

Incorporate built-in cabinetry, open shelving, and bike racks to maximize storage space. Attic storage above the parking pad can also be a great way to keep seasonal items out of sight. It’s the perfect opportunity to organize all of your outdoor gear!

The Final Word on Seattle Garages

Remodeling your Seattle garage offers a fantastic opportunity to enhance your home’s functionality and value. With careful planning, adherence to local regulations, and professional guidance, your garage transformation can become a seamless extension of your living space.

Got questions about remodeling your Seattle garage? DM us on social media @CRDDesignBuild or email us at concierge@crddesignbuild.com and we'll address your queries in our next episode.

Until then, remember, when it comes to your home, don't live with it, love it!

Article Categories: Interior Design, Design Tips And Trends, Remodeling, Backyard Cottages And Adus, Garages

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