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City of Madison Development Services Center
Image: 1 & 2 Family Residential

New Garage: 1 & 2 Family Residential

Contact: Email Building Inspection Phone Number (608) 266-4551
You need a permit to build any garage, whether attached to or detached from the house. At any time during the planning or construction of your garage, you can call Building Inspection if you have questions. They are happy to answer your questions and suggest solutions to your problems.


  1. Determine Zoning

    Before planning your new garage, you will need to determine if the zoning restrictions on your lot allow for a garage and where it may fit on your lot. Zoning staff will be able to tell you the zoning of your property and if there are any special conditions which may affect your project. If your project requires special handling, our staff will inform you of the requirements and next steps.

    Find out the zoning for your property

    Who to contact:
    Zoning at Building Permits, (608) 266-4551.

  2. Find out if your proposed garage meets the size, placement and driveway requirements

    • A detached garage must be smaller than your house. The maximum size of a detached garage is 576 square feet in the TR districts and 800 square feet in all other districts. Exceptions can be requested through a process that requires review and approval by the City’s Plan Commission. Ask staff for information and advice on this process.
    • Garages cannot cover more than 50% of your required rear yard.
    • The maximum height that your garage can be is fifteen (15) feet, measured from the ground to a point midway between the eave and top of the roof.

    • Driveways must be at least eight (8) feet wide at the sidewalk.
    • If you want a new driveway opening or to expand an existing driveway opening, check with Zoning staff at 266-4551 and the Engineering Division at 266-4751 to find out the specific driveway opening requirements in your area.

    • A detached garage must be at least three (3) feet away from your house or other structures.
    • A garage should be at least three (3) feet from the rear or side lot lines of your yard.
    • A garage located in the rear forty (40) feet of your lot most likely meets zoning requirements in your neighborhood.
    • A garage located along the side of your house requires a setback greater than three (3) feet from the side lot line. Check with Zoning staff for this setback distance.

    If your lot is on a corner or is irregularly shaped, the setbacks may be different than described. Show your site plan to city Zoning staff to find out quickly and accurately where you can build your garage and the size it can be.

    With these requirements in mind, make a drawing (site plan) of your entire lot showing all existing and proposed structures and the driveway. Show the dimensions of the lot, the garage, the house, and any other structures. Also show the distances from the garage to the lot lines and the distances to all other structures. The site plan must be drawn to scale. Using a scale of 1 inch = 20 feet usually works best.

  3. Apply for a building permit

    Where to go:
    Building Inspection Permit Counter
    Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
    Madison Municipal Building
    215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Suite LL 100
    Madison, WI  53703   

    What to include:
    • Bring two (2) copies of the 8 1/2 x 11 inch drawing (site plan) you made in Step 2.
    • You also need two (2) sets of the construction plans drawn to scale.

    For simple projects, staff will review your plans for structural and zoning compliance while you wait, and a permit can be issued immediately. More complex projects may take up to five (5) working days for review.

  4. Pay the fee and receive your permit

    The City charges for building permits to cover the cost of plan review and on-site inspections.

    The fee for each project is based on the type of project, square footage or value of the project. Staff will calculate your project’s exact fee once they have approved your plans. A fee schedule is available at the Permit Counter.

  5. Start the work

    Be sure to display the permit where it can be seen from the street during construction.

  6. Call for an inspection

    When your permit is issued, Permit Counter staff will tell you when inspections are required and the name and phone number of the Building Inspector for your area. View required inspections.

    It is your responsibility to schedule all required inspections during and after construction.

    If your project requires several permits (electrical, heating or plumbing), a different inspector may come out to check each type of work.

    If any work does not pass inspection, it must be corrected.

  7. Completion

    After your final inspection, your project will be considered complete.

Related Forms & Handouts

Have Questions?

Contact Building Inspection - (608) 266-4551