the Big-Forehead Garage (and how to avoid it)

We’ve all seen them. They are everywhere! Like a bad car crash, you just can’t look away from that giant space over the garage door that slightly resembles Quentin Tarantino’s forehead. Doesn’t matter how good the rest of the house looks, all you see – and all your potential home buyer will remember - is the bulging garage.  

If you’re a production builder building anywhere there has topography or floodplain issues, you’ve had to deal with this regularly. You didn’t intend to build an awkward looking house. In fact, you may have thought you were building a good-looking house based upon the “standard” condition elevations. Then you get the finish floor elevations needed to make the house work on the lot and suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Dropping a garage 5’ below the finish floor of the house creates a whole host of issues ranging from finding room for steps in the garage to having to change the framing because you’ve ended up with a 12’ tall garage. Adding insult to injury, the resulting awkward looking house costs more to build and won’t sell. Ouch.   

Dropping a garage 5’ below the finish floor of the house warrants a revised set of elevations – especially when there is a room above the garage that can’t drop with the garage. But in a time-crunched world, days lost bringing a plan to market means dollars lost in interest carry. Of course, you could try to anticipate every lot condition and create an unwieldy set of construction documents that needs to be maintained and updated every time there is a change in a code or supplier. Again, time-to-market kills its viability.  

There's a Better Way!

So, how do you go about solving this issue if you don’t draw every condition in advance? This is why many builders are choosing to do Lot Specific sets of plans. This includes drawing the front elevation as it will be in real life and giving everyone a chance to look at the house before something awkward gets built.  

Some tips and tricks to avoid the large forehead: 


•    Use an 8’ tall garage door
•    Add an arch over the garage door


•    Add a shed roof over the garage door

This Dan Ryan Builders' house is an excellent example of using an 8' garage door, varied materials, and a trellis to enhance the front elevation. 

•   Add a trellis over the garage door
•    Vary the materials on the entire surface of the garage 

Getting Ahead of the Problem

These are great tools to have pre-drawn so they can be implemented on each house for each condition. This will also allow the estimating department to better understand the cost of each solution and, therefore, how much more that “deep-discounted’ sloping lot really costs. Of course, not all solutions will work with all styles. If you have your own tools for this condition, please send them to me! Also, feel free to send photos of big forehead garages you've seen – I do love a good laugh!