Let's Talk About Garages

Of course, what we really want are basically small warehouses with lifts, paint booths, etc. But what about residential garages? If you could just start from scratch, how big should a garage be, without drifting off into “ultimate dream garage” territory?

I didn’t mean to hijack mazda616's post, but shop-teacher got me thinking about garage dimensions and I felt the need to make a new post for my ranting.


Many houses come with either a 1- or 2- car garage. But it seems that a lot of those garages barely qualify, and we’re left squeezing out of our cars after parking them in the same place that we store our tools, garden implements, storage tubs, etc.

Everybody’s needs are different, so given enough room on the property, how would you design a standard 1-, 2-, or 3- car garage to accommodate changing cars and changing owners over the years?

Let’s start with the car itself. Instead of building it around, say, a Miata, let’s build it around what might replace that Miata someday. Generally speaking, cars average 5-6 feet in width. Your bigger trucks with towing mirrors and/or large flatbeds are more like 8-9 feet wide, but those well exceed the residential average, and are more likely to be parked outside or in a barn anyway. So let’s say 6' for a minimum width.


Of course, having room for the car doesn’t cut it. You need to be able to open the doors, duh. Why not have all doors accessible? 3' on both sides should do it (unless you want to get into handicap requirements). Besides, don’t you want this aisle to be wide enough to carry a box or an armful of whatever?


Another reason for a nice 3' aisle is, how much precision are you going to require of yourself for everyday parking? On days when you’re feeling lazy or in a hurry, you still want to be able to manage, so that if you do park a few inches off-center, it won’t screw things up for you.

So we’ve got 6'+3'+3' for one car width. If this is to be a two-car garage, one of those walkways will serve double-duty, so the second car only needs to add another 6'+3'.


But that’s only if the walls are left bare. Which is great if you can dedicate a garage to car storage only, but for our imaginary multipurpose garage space, we have to anticipate putting stuff along those walls. Maybe shelving, maybe ladders and garden tools, maybe toys or crates or whatever...


Most shelving units are either 18" or 24" deep. 18" is a decent size, but 24" would be good for, say, storing a push-mower sideways (they generally max out at 22" cutting width).

So our proposed standard two-car garage’s width consists of 2'+3'+6'+3'+6'+3'+2'. That’s 25' wide! (or 16' for a one-car version) And we haven’t even gotten into length...


Length between vehicles varies even more than width. Some cars can be 15' or less, but today’s Suburban is nearly 19' long. For the sake of discussion I’m just going to throw 20' out there as a round number.

Now, how much room do you need to walk around it? You won’t have big doors opening into the aisle (actually, scratch that; I forgot about hatches), but you still want room to open the hood & trunk.


For the sake of discussion, I’m going to throw 3' out there, just like the aisle measurement.

And before we reach the back wall, we have to leave some extra room there, say for a workbench and other stuff. But I don’t think 24" is quite enough. Workbenches tend to be closer to 30" deep. 36" makes for a nice big work space, but it’s a bit of a reach when you’re standing there.


In the interest of using round numbers, though, let’s call it 36" anyway (and put a 30" bench there later). That brings our total garage length/depth to 29' (3'+20'+3'+3'), be it a 1- or 2- car setup.

What compromises does your garage force you to make? How do you make it work, and what changes would you have made if you had been there to oversee construction?

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