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.

Process Overview

  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, ext. 3.

  2. Review Requirements

    • The maximum height that your garage can be is fifteen (15) feet. Measure height from the ground to a point midway between the eave and top of the roof.
    • The total area of accessory buildings, including sheds and detached garages, may not exceed 1,000 square feet. Measure area at the ground floor. Conditional use approval may allow a larger total building area.
    • 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 (608) 266-4551 and the Engineering Division at (608) 266-4751 to find out the specific 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 lot. The site plan drawing must show:

    • All existing and proposed structures.
    • The driveway.
    • The dimensions of the lot, the shed, the house, and any other structures.
    • The distances from the garage to the lot lines and the distances to all other structures.
    Draw your site plan to scale. A scale of 1 inch = 20 feet works well.
  3. Apply for a Building Permit

    Where to Go

    Building Inspection Permit Counter by appointment only
    Madison Municipal Building
    215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd Suite 017
    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.

    The initial plan review will take 10 – 15 business days.

  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