I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our garage at home recently, the forlorn junk room that sits aside our house, built to store a car and yet, not since we have lived here, has it ever seen a car inside there.
In fact we knew the people who lived here for several years previously and THEY never stored their car there, in fact I did a quick straw poll of colleagues and family and it seems the same story from them too, so does ANYONE still keep their car in the garage?
A house with a garage is quite normal to see on any street and any any town, but behind those freshly painted up and over doors, it seems you would be hard pushed to find anyone storing their motor vehicle, more often than not, it is a place to store your junk but isn’t that a terrible waste of potentially a really useful extra room?
I decided to do some online research and even as far back as 2006, the BBC were reporting that the RAC foundation noted at least 53% of homes in the UK had a garage but only 24% actually used them to put their car in.
Why aren’t cars being kept in garages?
The report claimed that garage were “not being used for their proper purpose”. Their director noted also that they had been turned into storage rooms or were used to extend the property, in fact, they added one very important point that cars today are fatter and wider than cars from the 50’s.
This meant that when, for example, the house may have been built with a garage to fit a 1950’s car, modern cars just won’t actually fit inside the garage!
This was also coupled with the fact that people don’t think about keeping their pride-and-joy in a locked room as cars have better anti theft devices as standard, (which is true), car paintwork is better quality so it doesn’t need weather protection, and what’s more, they said the biggest reason, they suggested at least, was people are now just too lazy to put their car away at night!
They noted that a typical garage contained DIY tools, Decorating stuff, gardening equipment, sports equipment, bikes and scooters but rarely a motor vehicle!
The Daily Mail did an article in 2013 about a couple from Huddersfield who bought a new house only to find they couldn’t fit their car in, potentially rendering the extra room useless and knocking some considerable value off the house as a result.
The image below, copyright Daily Mail and Ross Parry photo agency, shows the problem only too well.
But is it all just down the size of the garage?
Just to check that this was not just a British problem, over in the USA, where everything is BIG, a recent report by a well known DIY magazine found that 82% of homes have two-car garages or larger, but only 15% use them to park the car inside!
So are we all just plan lazy?
The average cost of a car in the UK is around £14,000, but the average amount of possessions in people’s garages is around 2 -3,000 pounds, surely we should be looking after what is a valuable asset?
Only when the car is vandalised, or at worst, stolen, do people seriously consider putting their car safely to bed at night. If the thought of using your garage for what it was intended for just bores you senseless, what else can you do with your garage that doesn’t involve just filling it with junk?
Here are a few ideas for you.
Some practical ideas to make use of your redundant garage.
1. A home extension to create a new, large room.
Extending your home into the garage can bring enormous benefits and if done properly, can substantially raise the value of the house, especially with the addition of an extra bedroom.
Of course it can be used to create extra space by opening up onto an existing room such as a lounge or a kitchen but be aware that in most cases the conversion is not cheap and often you will have to hire a builder to get the job done. Lighting and insulation must also be fitted when planning the work.
2. Operating a business from your garage.
With office rents at an all time high, many self employed business owners can make use of the redundant space to create a new office or workshop for their business, but be aware that you may need planning permission for change of use, plus in some cases, your neighbours may object to you running a business there so if this is what you are planning, be sure to consult them before work goes ahead.
Some business would not be suitable to be run from a converted garage, such as a food business or a business with a high amount of customers calling in, so think carefully.
3. Demolishing free standing garages and what to do next
If your house has a free-standing garage, that is one that is a separate building and not joined onto the house, knocking it down can open up a lot more room in the garden, although many people do this for extra car parking space, like extending the driveway to cater for multi car households.
Doing it this way is relatively cheap but the big difference is you get more outside space rather than making the house itself bigger.
4. Create a new room devoted to fun and free time.
We all like a bit of fun and if you have a hobby or a passion, you can convert the garage to all sorts of things, but more importantly, to give you a dedicated space for your hobby or your dream.
You can also turn it into a games room, your own bar or pub (!), a display space for your collectibles, or even a room especially for the teens to get them out of your way!
5. If you don’t want to go all the way, how about a partial conversion?
Sometimes converting a garage can be more work or more room that is actually needed, so why not go halfway and convert half of it, leaving the front door intact, and adding a partition wall.
This means you still have the front of the garage for storage and the rear, albeit smaller than a full conversion, can be made into any one of the ideas above, and more! This also means as you don’t alter the appearance of the house in any way, you can often get away with not having to get planning consent, which can save you a small fortune too.
Whatever you want to do with your garage, if you have decided it’s no place for the car any more, there’s nothing to stop you making it into a brilliant new space, which, let’s face it, has to be better than opening that door and starring at what looks like a car boot sale that’s been hit by a bomb!