What is a Garage?

Brendan McGuigan

A garage is a section of a house, or an independent building, originally designed to protect a vehicle. Although traditionally, this area would house a car or truck, in recent years, it has become for many people a storage space for household items, a workshop, or simply a less-finished rumpus room. A garage is usually differentiated from a carport by its complete enclosure, although some people may use the terms interchangeably.

A garage door is often controlled by an inside switch that can be activated with a remote control.
A garage door is often controlled by an inside switch that can be activated with a remote control.

In the United Kingdom, the garage is usually much smaller than in the United States, as a result of traditional one-car households, somewhat smaller cars in recent years, and a historical difference in the desire to physically express wealth through everyday house construction. As a result, those in older houses aren’t really able to fit larger modern cars, and so have become storage overflow spaces more than car storage facilities.

Most garages have extra space to hold things like lawn mowers and other tools.
Most garages have extra space to hold things like lawn mowers and other tools.

Traditionally in the United States, the garage was a separate building from the main house, usually referred to as a detached garage. A smaller one was scarcely different than a large shed, although the large door differentiated it somewhat. Some might include a small living unit above them, adding an apartment to the house, often for members of the extended family to stay when visiting, or for older relatives such as grandparents to retire to.

As owning a car became more and more common, the garage increasingly became attached directly to the main house. This allowed residents to move from the house to the car without ever passing outside, which proved a boon in inclement weather. These included garages are usually part of the main footprint of the house, with an interior door often leading to a laundry room or hall. The entrance to the attic portion of the house is often in the same space in such houses, as both spaces often have less insulation, and often serve as storage spaces.

A typical garage in the United States is built to house two cars comfortably, with plenty of room for storing things like lawn mowers or power tools as well. The floors are usually concrete, as the cars will drive and park there, and often light construction or mechanical work is done there. Insulation is often fairly minimal against the outside, although more modern ones may be fully insulated and include heating systems that keep it as warm and cozy as the main house itself.

A single large door — or, in some cases, two or more doors — connects the garage to the outside world. In an older garage, this door might be worked via a large manual chain, pulling the door up into the ceiling. In a modern garage, the door is usually operated by an electric chain drive, which is controlled by an inside switch, as well as a remote control that can be kept in the car so the door can be opened from the outside as the car approaches.

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Discussion Comments

As far back as the 1970s, garages have been as much extensions of homes as places to park cars. They often house ping pong tables, workbenches full of tools and can get insulated, heated and closed in to serve as family rooms or dens. The days when people simply used them as a place to park cars have come and gone in a lot of homes.

That has been particularly true over the past few years. With he housing market so awful and people finding it difficult to either get mortgages or sell the homes they have, the humble garage has become a place to make a new room for families that need more living space. It is, after all, cheaper to remodel a garage as a bedroom, office for a home based business, etc., than it is to buy a whole new house.

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