Why Do Houses Have Front-Loading Garages?

Lee's question (from allexperts.com):

Growing up in the 50's, the garage to our house was detached and in the back of the house, where you couldn't even see it.

To me, there's nothing nice looking about a garage, so why are so many houses that have attached double garages built with the front of the garage as the most prominent feature?

Some are flush with the front of the house, which doesn't look that bad, but so many are built to stick out several yards in front of the actual house, making the garage door the most prominent feature of the house instead of the house itself.

Is there a reason for this?

Answer:

Lee - thanks for your question!

Yep, there's a reason - with the garage out in front, a room can be put behind it (often a family room). That means the house can be narrower...which means the lot can be narrower. Narrower lots means more lots per development.

As land gets more expensive, lots get smaller. The front-loading garage is one way to make houses narrower and lots more affordable.

You're right, garages don't usually look so good out in front on most homes. That's because garage doors are so much bigger than any other openings in the house - they're out of scale. And garage doors often have very little in the way of detailing, so they're usually big bland holes in the wall.

Some homes, however, have better-looking doors, and detailing to match. Fortunately, most garage door manufacturers have added "carriage" style and "craftsman" style garage doors to their catalogs. That helps a lot.

In many "new urbanism" developments the front-loading garage has been banned in favor of the old alley-loaded garage - like the one you grew up with. That's a great trend - and a big improvement to a community plan. But it costs more - you're not going to see much of this in starter-home developments. And since the detached garage is a non-starter in inclement weather, you won't see it much in temperate and cold climates.

Lastly, alley-loading and rear-loading garages eat up backyard space...in communities without common green space, that's a tall hurdle to get over.

Like you, I hope to see fewer front-loading garages. It's happening, but not as frequently as many of us would like. Development of neighborhood plans that have common green space, and that will accommodate alleys is a pretty big deal and usually involves changing local zoning codes. But it's happening here and there, and that's a start.

Great question, thanks!