By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Garages are a typical problem in older Salt Lake neighborhoods. You’ll find garages too small for modern vehicles; garages built for one car when the family has two; garages with ceilings too low for today’s cars; garages that are structurally unsound and deteriorating; and garages placed too close to the house, making changes difficult (or impossible).
The rickety old garage above was too small for modern vehicles, barely functioned as a storage shed and did little to add to the attractiveness or to the value of the Salt Lake home in the background.
One of our client families had most of these problems with their detached garage. Craig and Carolyn Wallin had a small one-car garage that barely functioned as a storage shed, let alone as the garage they wanted. In designing their new garage, we considered several points important for any new garage.
First, we considered the placement of the garage and its relationship to the house and the street. The Wallins anticipate a future addition to the rear of their home, so enlarging their garage had to be planned carefully with the future project in mind.
We also deliberately designed the look of the garage to complement their 1917 Craftsman bungalow. The style of any garage should blend with the home and contribute, not detract, from its curb appeal. The Wallins’ garage is clearly visible from inside their house, so we opted for a garden cottage look to enhance their back yard. We also caution that bigger is not necessarily better. A garage should dwarf neither your main dwelling nor that of the neighbors.
Most garages are unfinished on the interior with the studs and wood sheathing exposed, making it easy to hang things. Finishing the interior with insulation and wallboard will make the interior space more comfortable to work in and tempered for storage. Floors are typically unfinished concrete, but products like concrete paints, rubber membranes or rubber mats can improve a garage’s appearance and comfort.
The new garage that was constructed on the site has room for two cars and extra storage and blends in with the home and the neighborhood. Two doors were used to make the building look smaller.
For a two-car garage, you can choose one large door or two small ones. We designed the Wallins’ garage to have two small doors, which gives the appearance of a smaller building. They chose doors with a boxy pattern and a row of windows for an old-fashioned look. Garage doors are most commonly made of metal with a pattern pressed into them, but the new rage is doors made of wood. They look fabulous, but they are more expensive and higher maintenance.
Garages are a major part of your property and a substantial financial investment. We recommend using a design professional to make sure the garage functions well and blends with your home. Construction will cost about $80 per square foot for an unfinished interior. Add a finished interior and you are up to about $100 per square foot. (Compare this to a premanufactured storage shed, which will cost about $40 per square foot.)
Finally, it is important to check with local zoning officials. Each jurisdiction has many regulations concerning garage placement, size and uses. Learn what the restrictions are for an accessory structure so you can design the garage you want and build the garage you design. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.