Perfect garage unites function, aesthetics

by Toby Welch 

In the ’90s, homeowners wanted a large cozy kitchen and a gigantic master bedroom. When the millennium rolled through, houses came equipped with wine cellars, super-sized bathrooms and laundry rooms rivaling the luxury of five-star hotels. These days, the garage reigns supreme. It is no longer just a place to park your car or store your junk ... er ... I mean valuables.

So what do modern garages have that your grandmother never imagined? In our chilly country, garages with radiant floor heating keep our cars toasty. And the heated floors are covered with better paint than the walls inside the home. Cabinets that rival those in Emeril Lagasse’s kitchen house tools. Flat-screened televisions hang above pool tables with saunas nestled alongside. Garages now have kitchens and offices. Car lifts that fit even a standard-size garage allow you to store items above a vehicle. Fridges and bar areas or lofts are a common sight. The garage has become an extension of the home — a haven to retreat to. 

A homeowner’s interests often transfer into the garage. A fisherman may use an entire wall for rod holders and tackle organizers. Gardeners fill the space with their tool bins and workbenches. Golfers have racks for their clubs and balls. Car buffs have checker-board floors and multiple lifts to hold all their four-wheel treasures. Fitness buffs have their home gym beside their SUV. But don’t be fooled into thinking the garage is a male dominated area as women have been found lingering in the garage as well. 

It’s not just the inside of the garage that’s getting all the attention. In recent years, garage architecture has become a priority. People are tired of cookie-cutter communities that are a succession of boring and bland garage doors. Sellers of custom garage doors report sales in recent years have tripled and even quadrupled as homeowners try to distinguish from their neighbors. 

There is a movement toward incorporating the garage as a part of the house and not allowing it to become the home’s focal point. A perfect example of this trend is a development called McLean Landing in Merrickville, Ontario. Ottawa architect Barry Hobin designed a group of homes that ensured the garage was not the dominant feature of the house. 

While two-car garages were adequate in the ’70s and ’80s, buyers now want three- or four-car garages. They don’t necessarily have four cars; they want the extra space for their ATVs, boats tractors, motorbikes, bicycles, trailers and gear for hobbies. 

And what’s with all the stuff? It’s not unusual to see garages filled to the rafters with rickety furniture and dozens of boxes. A Royal LePage poll found that 43 per cent of Canadian homes have so much stuff in their garage that there is no room for a car. And when a garage is full of junk, it’s hard for potential buyers to visualize the space or imagine their car parked inside it. 

As Robert Irwin points out in his book, Improve the Value of Your Home Up to $100,000: 50 Surefire Techniques and Strategies, “one thing you don’t want to do is fill up the garage. Buyers like to see plenty of space in the garage. It tells them that your house has adequate storage area as well as room to park car(s).”

Savvy REALTORS® know the garage is a significant chunk of real estate and are staging the garage along with the rest of the home. They’ve learned that an impressive garage can make a listing sell better and potentially for a higher price. 

A survey from the U.S. National Association REALTORS®’ National Center for Real Estate Research found that a regular garage  can add 12.9 per cent to the selling price of a home and an oversized garage with two or more spaces ads 13.8 per cent. 

So you aren’t ready to run cable into the garage or cover the floor with gold-flecked epoxy? Here are some suggestions for a garage makeover:

Declutter the garage. Make the elusive dream of an orderly garage a 


• Use heavy-duty hooks to hang stuff up; this will tidy the garage’s appearance.

Get everything off the floor. 

Clean the floor. There are a lot of great products on the market to make this an easy job. If possible, coat the garage floor with paint, interlocking floor tiles, or another option.

• Clean the walls. Remove the spider webs and scrub the gunk out of the corners. 

Tune up the garage door opener. 

Don’t forget the garage exterior; give it a thorough scrub and a fresh coat of paint if it needs it. If the door is shoddy, replacing the garage door will increase the home’s curb appeal and value. 

If necessary, consult a professional garage organizer or designer.  And organized and tidy garage lets potential buyers know the entire home has been well-maintained. 

While the garage usually isn’t a deal breaker in a sale, sprucing it up us a great idea.  

(Excerpted with permission from REM, October 2008.)