Building Advice: What type of garage should I opt for?

Gone are the days when people bring their cars indoors at night
Building Advice: What type of garage should I opt for?

Many people used to bring their cars indoors to protect them from the weather, or for self-servicing.

Hi Kieran. We are building a new house on our land and we feel we need a garage. I have heard different opinions on what is the best thing to do here but would really value your advice. It's basically for storage (lawnmowers, kids bikes etc). Thanks very much. Michael McCarthy, East Cork.

Hi Michael. Thank you for your question. This is certainly something that crops up in most new build projects and there is much to consider here.

In the past (I grew up in the 80’s) cars were very different to what they are now for two main reasons. Firstly, they used to rust (paint technology is actually a remarkably complex science) so many people used to bring their cars indoors when parked-up to protect them from the prevailing acid rain of the era. Secondly, car engines were much simpler, so many car owners would service their own car and in fact this may have spawned a further spin-off industry of garage hobbyists for crafts such as woodwork and the like.

Kieran McCarthy: 'Gone are the days when people bring their cars indoors at night.'
Kieran McCarthy: 'Gone are the days when people bring their cars indoors at night.'

Today however things are very different. Gone are the days when people bring their cars indoors at night and, unless you own an old car, it is unlikely that you have the tools or diagnostic kits to service your car at home. (Also, perhaps the advent of social media and working late has brought an end to the era of the garage hobbyist, regrettably) So when you look at a garage today it is likely a large store for garden furniture, lawnmowers, and bikes but occasionally people will ask if it could be designed to be turned into a granny flat or home office at some later stage. This really is the key consideration.

When you build a traditional garage (concrete foundations, blockwork walls, slated roof, one or two windows, and a large roller shutter door) you are basically building a small house. The only real difference is that you may opt not to put in insulation or plaster to the building internally so the issue most people have is the cost. Garages tend to cost tens of thousands of euros so do they really offer value, or indeed, what are the alternatives?

This wall in a standard garage is an example of immaculate organisation.
This wall in a standard garage is an example of immaculate organisation.

Typically there are a number of factors to consider here;

A block built (permanent) garage will often require planning permission so best to include it in the planning application for your new home. There are exemptions available for a garage of a certain size at the rear of your home but this may limit what you can actually build. In most lightweight sheds are temporary structures and therefore don't require planning.

If you feel you need a certain size garage for home-office/potential future accommodation then it may very well be that a concrete block garage structure can efficiently accommodate these elements as well as a long-term, sturdy outdoor store.

If you feel that the only real location for your garage/store is adjacent to your front driveway or a high-profile location near your rear garden then (if you have the budget available) it may very well be that a block-build garage will work for you.

If however, as is often the case, that your garage will only be an occasional store for garden equipment, and you are happy that you can locate it in a sufficiently low profile area, then I would certainly suggest that you look at some of the more lightweight options available today. These tend to be a lightweight metal structure clad in aluminium and they sit on a concrete base. They cost a fraction of the price of a block-build shed but you will need to ask your builder to build a concrete base and supply a duct for electrics and perhaps a water pipe and tap nearby. Though not really designed for the home hobbyist, at least you will have somewhere to store the deckchairs for those long sultry summer evenings.

  • Civil engineer Kieran McCarthy is founder and Design & Build Director with KMC Homes. He is a co-presenter of the popular RTÉ show Cheap Irish Houses.

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