Cars won't fit in garage

sasa12June 3, 2011

Today we noticed that the builder had built the stairs from our house into our garage which is great. The only problem now is that one of our stalls in our two car garage is too short to fit either of our cars (nissan Altima and Buick Rendezvous). On our floor plans our garage is 20x24 which should have been plenty of space to fit our cars. However, no one mentioned that some of this space would be eaten away by 5 feet of stairs. This was not a problem at our pre-drywall meeting since the stairs were not in. Our builder pretty much told us that it was our problem due to building codes. However, I do not want to pay for a house where my standard size cars do not fit in the garage as this was not disclosed or on the blue print. We need about a foot of space. We could change the stairs to come off to the side of the door instead of straight down but this will only give us 6 inches at most.

Has anyone else had this problem? Is this our problem or should the builder have known that a car would not fit and therefore remedy the situation? Do you have any suggestions?

Any comments would be much appreciated.

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Sophie Wheeler

Blueprints frequenly have 20 x 24 garages. The size is a holdover from the last century and is severely outdated. It's always too small to fit in 2 real cars and all of the other junk that accumulates in a garage. It's common knowledge in the construction field that if you want your garage to actually hold two cars, build a two and a half car garage, and build it deeper as well. A two car garage will only hold one car.

If you expressly told your builder that you wanted to park two cars in the garage, he should have told you that you would need to enlarge the garage. If you just saw "two car garage" on the plans and assumed that the size would be adequate, then you didn't do enough research before building. It's useless "blame game" at his point. Either scenario won't help you achieve your goal of parking both cars in the garage. You might take a look at the garage entry and see if part of the stair can be recessed into the home (with a railing) and then after it meets the landing at the door, the rest of the steps can go in the garage.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 2:03PM
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Can you have them turn the stairs to the side so you only have 3ft taken up by the stairs? I assume they built them so they go straight out into the parking area from the front. If they build a 3'x 3' landing by the door and turn the stairs to the side would that get you what you need?

Hard to come up with ideas without knowing what the space looks like. Do you have a picture or could you post the plan so we get an idea of where the door to the house is located inside the garage?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 5:37PM
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This is a problem I have seen in spec houses before and I was very insistent that we didn't have it in ours. The problem is not only the depth of the garage but also how many steps you need to get into your garage. If you need 5 steps that will take up a lot of space however you route the stairs. It can be solved at the early stages with grading (bringing the house down or the garage up so you only need one stair or two at the most). How far along is your house? Has the slab been poured yet? Could you raise the level of the slab up so you don't need as many stairs?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 5:44PM
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My garage is 32 wide with 2 ten foot doors and 27 deep. The space from the house wall to the nearest garage door edge is about 4'. My doors are 10' wide. So I built a landing 36" wide and one step lower than the doorway along the wall with the steps below the landing along the wall. That shortens the steps below the landing by one. The car door opens fully over the lowest step. Stairs generally must be minimum 36" wide. Could you reposition your garage doors to provide this room at the house wall?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:04PM
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What is the required landing size? Step out onto a landing and then have the stairs run along the wall. I can't believe code would require a 5' landing. Our landing is 41" square and starts right below the threshold. There are then 4 steps which run along the side wall.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:39PM
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Architectural plans have the first dimension as the width, the second as the depth. If that's the case, I don't see how your Altima won't fit in. Nineteen feet of depth = 228 ins. The longest Altima, 2010, is 190.7 ins. long. So even leaving a generous foot for any garage door protrusions, you're still clear by two feet.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:48PM
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oooooh-noooo. I am so sorry you got hit with something like this. I'm sure you must be really frustrated and angry.

But, if your builder is building the house according to the plans you approved - and I assume he is since you didn't say he isn't - there really is not much use in blaming him or trying to get him to bear the cost of fixing the problem. Do the plans show steps from the house into the garage? On the plans, how far into the garage do the steps extend?

If the plans show fewer steps then, it is possible that your builder poured the garage slab too low in comparison to the house slab - which would make this his problem to fix. But, if the plans show steps extending 5 feet into the parking bay, then you would have known how much space you would have to park in if you had read the plans carefully enough. (It is easy to make such mistakes when you're a novice at reading house plans so I'm not trying to beat you up. Just telling you the facts.) If the mistake is yours, you're going to have to bear the cost of fixing the problem.

You can't say that your builder should have known that the garage would be too small for two cars. Since cars come in all sorts of sizes, your builder can't really be held responsible for knowing what size your cars are. Much as you may want to blame him, that is counterproductive at this point.

You need to focus NOW on finding a solution you can live with that costs as little as possible to implement. And, the quicker you figure out what your options are, the more of them you're likely to have because the longer you wait, the more "building" is going to be finished and the more it likely to cost to implement whatever solution you can find.

Post your garage plans asap as well as some pictures of the garage so we can see what stage everything is at. I'll be very surprised if the folks on this board can't help you find a solution. But, try to get used to the idea that it is probably going to cost you some money to implement a fix.

If you sweet-talk your builder instead of antagonizing him by blaming him for something that isn't his fault, he might cut you a good deal on whatever work needs to be done to make the garage useable for you. If he has built according to the plans and you've yelled at him when he wasn't at fault, he'll probably get even by jacking up the price of the labor to do whatever needs to be done to fix the problem.

Again, I AM truly sorry you're having to deal with this issue and I do understand your frustration. I do hope you'll post your plans and let the GW community see if we can't help you find a reasonable solution.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:51PM
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Does code even require a landing? I don't recall my uncle's garage having a landing--just 3 steps to the door. My sister has a carport with 4 steps to the door & no landing. Deleting the landing (if you have one) may be a easy way to pull those stairs back and allow space for your car.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 12:02AM
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Who designed it? Where the stairs an afterthought? I'm surprised that no one caught this before the stairs were in. It sounds to me as though the length is 20', and so now you are left with only 15', right? It would help a lot to see a basic sketch of the area involved, but without that, the only options I can think of would be to extend the front of the garage, or eliminate the stairs altogether, neither of which strikes me as practical.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:34AM
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We are so sorry!!! At what stage is your build? We noticed this fiasco before too & avoided it during our build.

TO ANY BUILDER READING THIS THREAD - you could really build a tremendously successful business by simply building larger garages in your spec homes, then promoting this fact. Garage square footage is the cheapest in the home.......

Let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:46AM
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So far it is difficult to see where the problem is. If your car is 16 ft long and you allow a 1 foot space at the door end and a 3 ft at the hood end (for passage), there should be 4 ft left for the stair unless the garage is shorter than 20 ft. If the stair is turned to the side, the landing could be 4 ft x 4 ft.

Also, you say that the 5 ft of stair only needs to be shortened by a foot and that turning the stair to the side will only save 6 inches. Does that mean the new landing needs to be 4-6 deep?

No one can offer a solution without a better description of the existing conditions. We would need the field measured finished inside dimension of the garage, wall to face of door, and the height from the garage floor to the house floor. It would also help to know where the stair is located relative to the cars and the inside corners of the garage.

As for the building code (assuming the '03 IRC), the door from a house into an attached garage cannot be part of an egress path so the rules regarding egress doors and stairs do not apply. Since this is an interior stair, a landing at the top of the run is not required as long as the door does not swing over the stair (ie it swings into the house and away from the stair.) However, if you want a landing for safety and/or convenience, it should be at least 3 ft deep and 3 ft wide and the door could swing in or out.

Although not a permanent benefit, the Buick is about 6 inches shorter than the Nissan so it could be parked on the stair side.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 8:37AM
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In my area is an attached garage that has an addition for length that worked well. Brick exterior originally, the garage faces the public road. The garage is on one end of the house, the roof ridge on the house portion is parallel to the road and on the garage is at right angle to the house portion so the garage roof has a gable. They added about 4 feet to the front of the garage with a neutral color vinyl siding. Now the doors are closer to the road and the addition naturally added to the roof, probably resulting in completer reroof job. Remounting the doors was also involved. But the end result is not bad at all.
And they could have covered the brick with vinyl for a more unified look.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 1:09PM
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