Building Codes were developed as standards of building construction including safety, construction quality and functionality for all users of built facilities. Nearly all jurisdictions in every state have adopted a building code of some type. In most cases, the International-Residential-Code (IRC) is the basis of each state’s building code. Florida is the exception and has developed its own code. Garage plans of professional quality comply with the current building codes. Construction drawings are usually required for even small, garage-sized projects and they must satisfy code in order to get a building permit for the project. There are 2 approaches in complying with the code:

The ‘Prescriptive’ Approach:

When designing and drafting garage plans with conventional wall framing, rafters and/or manufactured trusses the code prescribes certain construction methods, materials, and processes for the construction. Various charts, diagrams, and tables of data allow a designer to choose pre-tested assemblies and materials to use in the design. Wood framing materials are presented by size, species, grade, span, and loads in tables which designers use for sizing structure components. There are many other aspects involved such as planning dimensions, egress, HVAC, electrical, clearances, etc. If the drawings show full compliance with the code then the permit is granted by virtue of that compliance and there is nothing that requires engineering justification. Plans drawn using prescriptive are adaptable because minor changes can usually be made on the job by building inspector approval.

The ‘Engineered’ Approach:

The building code requires that if a structure is not designed/drawn using the ‘prescriptive’ approach or is to be built in a place where the design parameters of seismic, wind and snow exceed the limits allowed in the code for ‘prescriptive’ then the plans must be certified by a professional registered engineer or architect of that state. Calculations must be included and the drawings must be reviewed, approved and stamped with the professional’s ink or embossed seal showing certification.

Most of the building departments in the US accept, even recommend, ‘prescriptive’compliance with garage plans and other conventional, wood-framed structures. But there are limits of dimensions that restrict the size and if there are certain types of structure components involve that can only be sized by engineering that too can be a limitation. Fortunately, most garages are of a size and structure types that can comply as ‘prescriptive. In the areas which are subject to higher than normal environmental factors the ‘prescriptive’ approach is usually not allowed and so requires engineering to get the building permit.

What If Garage Plans Show No Code Compliance?:

In today’s internet market for stock garage plans, there are probably more plans that have no code compliance referenced at all than those that do. They are the ones usually sold without any kind of guarantee and may not be returned for a refund. They cite the usual disclaimer, “drawings may require local engineering” and, indeed, they will. The engineer or architect has to modify/redraw the plans as needed engineering justification must be prepared to certify and get a permit. It takes time and usually cost is significant. This is something I have heard from customers many times if they bought lesser quality (and not necessarily cheap) plans. So, two important parts of searching for your garage plan are:

1) Verify code compliance for where you live

2) Make sure plans are money-back guaranteed if not able to use.