Most people think of garages as utility space – either a space to store your car, or, more likely, a space to put stuff that can’t go anywhere else. But a well designed garage can be both a place to keep your vehicle and organize your belongings.
The first task in garage design is to identify what items need to fit in the garage. Obviously cars need to fit, but we’ve also designed garages for boats, RV’s, and other larger vehicles that require special doors and large, column free interiors. Along with cars, people generally need a place to store gardening equipment, tools, and sporting equipment. With your list of vehicles and items to fit into the garage, you can then begin to figure out how large the garage should be.
Add another garage bay for storage?
If you have the space, you may decide to accommodate extra storage by adding another garage bay. So instead of a two-car garage, you may decide to construct a three-car garage. The advantage to this strategy is that when you sell your home, you can list it as having a three-car garage. However, this is not the most efficient way of creating more storage space, because nothing can be stored easily on the garage door wall. If you are interested in storage space rather than another parking space, it is often better to add additional space to the back of the garage, making the garage deeper to allow for storage in front of the vehicles, or to add space on the side of the garage that is dedicated to storing tools or other belongings without another garage door.
Try to make the garage space column free
Often, garages are constructed with columns in the center or between each car. We try to avoid this when possible, because columns get in the way and reduce the flexibility of the use of the area. It is often worth either upsizing ceiling joists, using trusses, or adding beams in order to get rid of columns. A clear span garage will be a much more useful space.
Garage door and security
For garage access, consider the doors that vehicles enter as well as the doors that people enter. If a person-size door is not necessary, we tend to recommend the installation of an electronic key pad near the exterior of the garage door to open the door for access. This generally makes the garage more secure, because the vast majority of break-ins are through person-sized doors, which are often left unlocked. If security is an issue, consider installing a steel door with no windows in the garage (if you want light, install skylights instead, which are much less likely to be broken to gain access).
Garage door sizes and materials
When choosing garage doors, choose a size large enough to park a car easily. If you can enter your garage straight forward, the minimum width for a single car door is 8’-0”. However, if you have to turn into the garage door, a 9’-0” wide door is much easier to confidently maneuver into. For materials, consider maintenance requirements and longevity. A steel or aluminum door will last a long time, is often insulated, and won’t require painting, but the color choices can be limited. Some wood doors are beautiful, and often don’t cost more than a well-made metal door, but require periodic refinishing to be sure they don’t rot. If you want a wood door, consider deeper roof overhangs to shield the door from rain and sun, as well as using high quality exterior grade wood finish to protect the wood.
Garage Addition Tips
- A 9 foot wide garage door is the minimum width that is easy to drive a car through. If you cannot approach the garage door straight on, a 9 foot wide door is wide enough to allow some space to avoid hitting the car against the door jambs.
- Any livable space above a garage will likely require the installation of drywall to fire rate the ceiling of the garage.
- A garage’s floor should sloped gently towards the exterior to allow water to drain. Alternatively, floor drains can be installed inside the garage.
- The garage should be insulated if you are planning to heat it to use it as a shop or workspace.
- Do not convert your garage to living space without knowing if it’s allowed in your area! Many jurisdictions require each house to have a certain number of legal parking spaces. Often, those required spaces cannot be located in your front yard.