Building a Carriage House: What You Need to Know | Schuetz Insurance
Jun 2022

What You Need to Know About Building a Carriage House


Old time carriage house

In the past, a carriage house was a historic building that typically housed horses and a carriage on the first floor, with room for grooms or the carriage driver in a small apartment above. In the northeastern U.S., carriage houses were a common sight as early as the 1800s and were located adjacent to the main structure on the property. 

Historic carriage houses would have a large, open space on the first floor, with ceilings high enough to accommodate a carriage. On the second floor or in a loft space, would be a small living area for grooms, horsemen, or drivers. Most carriage houses were built as outbuildings and were completely separate from the main house, although the design would echo the architecture present in the larger structure.  

As times have changed, old carriage houses are being renovated and repurposed as garages, rental apartments, guest homes, and space for multigenerational living. And more homeowners are considering building a carriage house on the property for its versatility and to expand the functional use of their land. 

The Ins and Outs of Building a Carriage House

Building a carriage house can be a great way to improve your property and add not only value but also functionality. This kind of build gives you the opportunity to think outside of the box, both with design and architecture. However, there are some things that you must consider when deciding to build a carriage house. 

Carriage House versus Carriage Home 

Although people often interchange the words “house” and “home,” in this case it will change the entire structure. A carriage house is just what we’ve described — a freestanding structure with a garage area below and a small, self-contained living area above. A carriage home, on the other hand, is a home that is built on a very small lot and typically share a wall with another dwelling, similar to patio homes.  

Know Your Existing Site 

Proper preparation of the existing site is critical to the proper build of a new carriage house. Depending on site orientation and existing structure placement, there may be work to be done in advance of the actual build. Old foundations or pads may need to be removed and property surveys completed to ensure you are not encroaching on adjacent properties or rights-of-way. Fencing, detritus, and other elements may have to be moved or modified to provide proper access. 

Understand the Design/Build Process  

Working with a construction contractor that can provide a design/build experience is a plus. With a design/build, the person designing the project is also the builder, so they are more able to create a structure that targets efficiency and cost-effectiveness during the build process. In addition, they can work with clients to produce a design that takes specific needs into consideration. For example, if you want the guest area above the garage to function both as a space for visiting family members and friends and also as a vacation rental, you can create a shared wall that gives both renters and family visitors their autonomy.  

Make Sure You Have Insurance 

you are planning to add a carriage house to your property, be sure you have the proper insurance in place to protect your investment. For a new home build, consider builder’s risk insurance. This type of insurance covers general contractors, property owners, and even do-it-yourselfers when constructing, renovating, or repairing structures. They don’t cover losses before or after construction — that will be covered by your homeowner’s policy. But anything that happens during the construction of the carriage house should be covered by builder’s risk. 

Some general contractors carry their own builder’s risk policies, but you should read your contract carefully to determine what your insurance obligations are. Ask to see the details of their insurance policy, if they have it, and supplement any deficiencies with a builder’s risk policy of your own. Also, make sure the contractor you choose it up to date with their liability insurance, and that they have a robust workers’ compensation package in place. Any gaps you note should be addressed with your insurance agent.  

If you’re renovating an existing carriage house, consider getting construction endorsements added to your homeowner’s policy. These are considered nonstandard coverage, but they protect you against injuries and accidents related to the renovation.  

Importantly, make sure you have all your insurance in place in advance of the project start date. The last thing you need in the middle of a build or renovation is to experience an accident or loss and find out that you are not financially protected.  

Let’s Make Your Carriage House a Joy for Years to Come 

Whether you are renovating an old carriage house or adding a modern structure to your property, you expect to get years of use and value from your investment. That all starts by teaming up with a competent contractor and ensuring that you are financially protected against accidents and loss during the process. 

At M.J. Schuetz Insurance, our insurance experts can assist you with ensuring that your current homeowner’s policy is robust, and in choosing additional insurance products or add-on coverage that will minimize your financial risk should something go wrong during the project process.  

Our focus is your security, so we will explore all the available options to help you choose the most cost-effective and comprehensive coverage available.  Contact us today to learn more about insurance coverage for your next construction or remodeling project!


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