Squaring up a crooked garage?

spaceshipJune 6, 2009

Hi all,

I've got an old garage behind our old house. It's in really rough shape - rotten board and batten siding, and the sill on one side has completely rotten out.

I'd like to replace the sill and any other studs that are rotten, put new siding on it and replace the roof.

The problem is that the garage has gotten quite crooked over the years, with a 4" lean on one side.

Before I add a new sill and replace the studs, I'd like to straighten it up. Any ideas on how I can do this?

I realize that a garage in this rough shape, it's probably easiest to knock it down completely and rebuild, but because it's situated on the property line, I've been advised that if I did knock it down I'd have to move it 4' into the property as it no longer complies with city regulations. If I put new siding and a roof on it however I can leave it where it is.

Any tips much appreciated!



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It sounds like knock-down to me. But we face the same zoning problems here too. What others have done is, in effect, rebuild the supporting structure of the garage within the current footprint and call it a repair, so they can keep the same setbacks.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 12:01PM
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The problem is that the very act of straightening the structure out may cause it to collapse.

You might try a temporary wall inside the garage to old the roof up, then repair the damaged side wall, and then try to pull it back into square.

A pair of temporary walls to remove all loading from the existing walls and allow the roof structure to be moved slightly might also be needed.

Just be prepared for old rusted nails simply snapping when you try to square the building.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 3:06PM
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Our garage used to lean north, around the door. I was able to straighten the opening with a car jack and a 2x4 beam, set on the diagonal, across the door opening. But, how to hold the correct geometry? I fitted and nailed some 5/8 plywood over the studs, on the inside of the garage. I lost a bit of interior storage space, but now the garage stands straight. We have the same issue with regard to zoning. When the garage was put up, it was apparently legal to locate it within one foot of the property line. Not so today.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 4:14PM
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Must agree with brickeyee and worthy on this one - it may not be salvageable. Since it needs a new roof and siding anyway, you might try stripping it nearly down to the framing and straightening that, then if it keels over half your work is already done. ;-)

If you can replace the garage on the existing footprint with no change in size or orientation, you may be able to appeal to the code enforcement office of your municipality to have your new garage grandfathered. We had that option when we tore down our disintegrating ~1915 garage last summer, we could have used the old footprint even though it was right on the property line as long as the new structure was exactly the same size as the old. It had been built directly on dirt with no foundation, and as a result the sills, joists, and a few inches up the walls were so punky you could stick a finger through them, it had developed a distinct list to one side, and the roof had begun to dip rather badly with the huge snow loads of the previous winter being the last straw for the poor thing - it would have cost in the area of $15k to have the thing jacked up, a foundation dug and either a slab poured or cinderblock foundation built, squared up, sills replaced, roof completely rebuilt and wall structures patched, while it cost about $1k to have it demolished, debris hauled off, and the area regraded. Since you could just about have fit a Mini Cooper in there with a crowbar and about 5 gallons of grease and the whole thing was saturated with critter pee and more than a bit of skunk we didn't think that was a worthwhile investment. We replaced it with a somewhat smaller shed that was a fantastic match to our 1900 "Victorian Lite", even better than the original garage had been, and were granted an exemption to place it within the footprint of the original structure. Codes in my city require a 10' setback for any permanent structure (meaning anything more substantial than one of those little metal sheds-from-a-box), but we have an extremely narrow lot that made that impractical to say the least.

I have also heard of people doing much what worthy mentioned, replacing one wall at a time of an old garage or barn under the guise of "repairs" until eventually the whole thing was new! Not what I would do, karma would probably bite me in the butt for dishonesty, but it does happen.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 4:34PM
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There is a way to do it cause I've seen it done several times on garages I would have sworn needed to be torn down.It involves squaring up the corners with the 2x4's and then adding horizontal supports to between the vertical supports to help keep it from returning to a fallen shape. I think if you ask on the building or repair forum you might get better info on this particular project.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:46PM
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If it needs a new roof then remove the old roof and you will be able to square the building up quite easily. Once the walls are square and level temporarily brace them and replace the roof.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 6:52PM
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"There is a way to do it cause I've seen it done several times on garages I would have sworn needed to be torn down."

I have done it a number of times, with only one failure (badly rotted wood and corroded nails).

You need to investigate how much the AHJ and zoning folks will allow.

There are a number of tricks depending on exactly what is wrong and needs replacement.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:26PM
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