Are garages today big enough? If you drive around many suburban neighborhoods lined with cars on the street, you will find the answer is no. This is especially true of homes built 10 or more years ago, but even new construction suffers from garage shrinkage. In an age where the SUV is king and large trucks are only growing in size and popularity, this presents a complex problem.
How Many Cars?
It used to be totally acceptable to design houses with two car garages. Then our kids started getting cars at 16 so they could drive themselves to school and all their countless after-school activities. This was a big deal for working parents who couldn’t take time off to chauffeur their kids to practice. Already, we’re looking at three cars.
Given that most first cars are older used cars meant for withstanding the inevitable fender bender, these cars often end up parked on the street or in the driveway. This drives the HOA absolutely bonkers! Is a three-car garage big enough? What if you have three kids like I do? A five-car garage? That’s an aesthetic nightmare. In fact, we’re dealing with HOA that won’t let us have a three car, front-loaded garage. Something has got to give!
Not Just Cars We’re Dealing With!
Let’s be honest, garages are also used as storage units, especially for markets without basements. I’ve seen two car garages that can’t even fit one car! Even if you are not a hoarder, it’s easy to fill the space with things that aren't cars. There’s all our outdoor activity paraphernalia like bikes, golf bags, even kayaks. Then there’s yard equipment that could include a lawn tractor, edger, trimmer and general gardening supplies.
How about the second refrigerator? (Raise your hand if you have a second refrigerator in your garage...) Should these really be in the garage? No - but most homes don’t have room inside for these bulky appliances. Factor in the water heater/softener, and those cars are getting more and more pinched for space…
What about trash cans? In Jacksonville, we have weekly trash pickup and bi-weekly recycling and therefore giant trash receptacles. Initially, we kept them in the side yard until clever raccoons figured out how to tip them over, help themselves to a free meal and make a giant mess! So, in my case, those goes in the garage as well.
The Land Problem
So why, you may ask, aren’t builders and designers planning garages that are large enough? On the land side, lots are shrinking in size and growing in cost. An extra-large garage means less interior square footage and thus, builders can’t provide enough house for the lot’s cost. After all, buyers might be turned off if your house is all garage and no yard.
To add, HOAs include restrictions about garage placement and buffering the garages from view. It’s not just about the garages themselves but also providing adequate access and backing from the garage.
Bottom line - providing adequate garage space is downright challenging, but it cannot be ignored. While we are in the business of designing houses for people, we find that we must solve for the automobile and the garage first.
So How Big?
Garages should always be at least 20’ deep in the clear for two cars. The third bay can have less depth, but no less than 18’. There needs to be space carved out for the water heater, softener, and two oversized garbage cans. For our outdoor toys, consider garage storage organizers from brands like Monkey Bars. Lastly, give your garage some breathing room by providing more storage inside the house. This could mean convenient attic access. Then maybe we can actually park our cars in the garage – what a concept!