People today just take it for granted that the garage is going to be part of the house, but it wasn’t always so. The practice of incorporating the garage into the house first gained widespread acceptance in the post-World War II years. Prior to that garages still typically emulated the carriage houses of old and were set apart from the main house. They often had apartments over them that were rented out as well. After about 1950 though, with the rise of the suburbs and commuter culture, architects brought the car home and that’s where it’s (mostly) stayed ever since. In this post we’re going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of making the garage part of the house.

The Pros and Cons of Attached Garages

The carriage house was a separate structure where the well-to-do stored their hand-crafted, horse drawn carriage, related tack and often the horses themselves. Early automobile garages emulated the separate carriage house concept but today garages are all about being part of the house. So what are the pros and cons of having the garage built right into the house and should you consider a detached garage?

Pros of an Attached Garage

  • It Saves Space - You know why the well-to-do had separate carriage houses? Because they could. They had huge houses on acres and acres of land so spreading things out wasn’t an issue. The typical lot size today is considerably smaller than 200 years ago, meaning there just isn’t room for a detached garage.
  • It Shelters You from the Elements - Those aristocrats of old with their carriage houses also had servants which means they got dropped nice and dry at the front door and their coachman then took the carriage to the carriage house through the wind and rain. We don’t know about you but we’re fresh out of servants and have to drive ourselves. As such the idea of hoofing it through a blizzard to the main house is not a very appealing one.
  • It Costs Less - It’s cheaper to maintain one building than two. With a separate garage you also have a second roof, second foundation, second set of windows and second alarm system. You’ll need to paint it separately and light it separately. You’ll also have to maintain a well-lit pathway between the detached garage and the main house which brings us to our next point:
  • It’s More Secure - In colonial times there was crime, certainly. But not of the intensity and frequency we see today. Today there are more nasty people trolling around looking for trouble than ever before and to ignore that reality simply isn’t very smart. When the door closes behind you in your attached garage that’s it, you’re home. Go through a single door and you’re in the kitchen. Hard to beat that as far as security is concerned.

Now let’s look at some cons of having an attached garage.

  • Aesthetics - Look, people can say what they want but there’s just no way to convince us that a house looks better with a built in garage. Take a classic Victorian house. You know why people go nuts about the way they look? No? Well, look closer. Do you see a garage door anywhere? Of course not. Such is the way homes were intended to be.
  • Noise and Fumes - Garage door openers can be pretty loud and when a big ol’ SUV pulls into a garage next to the kitchen everyone there is going to know it. Also, should you leave your motor running in the garage for any length of time you risk carbon monoxide poisoning not just for yourself but for others in the house as well.
  • More Space for Other Things - Garages take up lots of square footage. If your home doesn’t have a built in garage you have more space for other things like an extra bedroom, a larger kitchen, an outdoor kitchen, a patio or even a garden to enjoy out the kitchen window.
  • Energy Efficiency - Unless you do a bang-up job insulating the garage it’s going to act as a heat vacuum. Any rooms that share a wall with the garage will cost more to keep warm and if you have a bedroom over the garage it’s like heating a room resting on an enormous ice cube.

So, have we convinced you to build a detached garage yet? Well, realistically we didn’t think so if only because nobody who’s used to getting out of their car and walking directly into the kitchen is going to want to walk through nasty weather from the detached garage to the house. Security is also a very real issue. Still, a detached garage does have some real advantages (mostly aesthetic) that can’t be ignored so don’t just dismiss the idea outright if you’re designing your dream house.