What Are the Pros and Cons of Attached and Detached Garages?

Whether they prefer an attached or detached garage is a difficult decision for many home buyers, builders and renovators. Attached garages are exactly as they sound, a built-on part of your home. Detached garages, by contrast, comprise an entirely separate building.

For some, this decision is pre-determined. Often the size and layout of the lot determines which sort of garage is best, but on large suburban or rural lots, the homeowner has more leeway and must make the final decision unaided. The truth is, each has advantages and disadvantages in several areas. The homeowner hoping to solve this dilemma must ask himself several questions.

Which is more convenient?

Attached garages are generally connected to the rest of the house by a door. This makes accessing them as easy as opening that door. This may be especially important to the elderly and those with physical limitations. By contrast, detached garages expose one to the elements, meaning that in times of inclement weather, you will be rained, or snowed, or hailed upon. It is possible to add a covered or enclosed path, but at added expense.

What do I prefer aesthetically?

This question does not have a simple answer. Attached garages are built at the exact same time and of the exact same materials as the house. As a result, they can always be expected to match it thematically. With detached garages, there are no guarantees. Some are built at the same time, some a great deal later. An attached garage will always look like what it is: a part of the house.

On the other hand, if you have a small house, the attached garage can quickly become the dominant feature. Some homeowners may find this irksome. One advantage of the detached garage is that it can be set back from, at an angle to, or even behind the home, out of sight for those who prefer a less garage-dominated facade. The space freed up by an unattached garage might make room for an extension, an outdoor room, or a garden.

Which offers better security and safety?

If you have expensive cars or other equipment stored in your garage, a detached garage can mean the expense of a second security system. Most attached garages are incorporated into the household security system.

What is my garage for; and what will it be for in the future?

If you mean for your garage to double as a hobby area, a detached garage may prove advantageous, particularly if your hobby is sound-intensive like music, and you don’t wish to disturb the rest of your family. Some hobbies (i.e. woodworking), create byproducts such as dust. This is much less of a problem in a detached garage.

It would be difficult to use an attached garage as a hobby shop without disturbing the rest of your family. Soundproofing would be a necessity. Any dust particles could easily enter the home, definitely creating a nuisance and potentially creating a health risk as well.

If you expect to make future changes to your garage, to allow it to serve further functions, again the decision is dependent upon what you expect to change. Detached garages are generally easier to expand if you’re adding an additional vehicle, but attached garages are usually easier to convert into living space if you need to suddenly add an extra room.

How concerned am I about general health issues?

In addition to dust and noise, carbon monoxide and other car-related fumes can make their way into the home from attached garages. According to Iowa State University, warming up your car for only two minutes – even with the garage door open – increases carbon monoxide concentration in the home to 500 parts per million (the normal concentration is 0.2 ppm.) During their study, ten hours after the car had left, there was still a measurable elevation of carbon monoxide levels in the garage.

This is especially problematic in the winter, when in the typical house, air flows in from attached garages. The amount varies from house to house, but a Minnesota study found between five to 85 per cent of the air leaking into the house came from the garage.

Detached garages greatly reduce these issues and are better for the storage of paints, fuels, and other hazardous materials.

How important is my household’s energy consumption?

If you place a high priority on reduced energy consumption, the attached garage has some distinct disadvantages. If there is minimal insulation between the house and garage spaces or if your family habitually leaves the door separating the two spaces ajar, your energy bills can be expected to increase as a result.

Decision time

With aesthetics being so subjective, the outcome of your decision between an attached or detached garage will be mostly dependent upon your answers to the rest of the above questions. If convenience and security are your primary concerns, you’re most likely better off with an attached garage. If health, energy consumption, or hobbying are your priorities, a detached garage is probably better.