Please help us get the garage details right

OaktownJuly 21, 2013

We're trying to finalize the design of our garage and would appreciate comments/input. Our detached garage is in front of the house in an entry forecourt, so we really want it to look nice. The house/garage relationship is something more or less like in these pictures:

Eclectic Exterior by Seattle Architects & Designers Dan Nelson, Designs Northwest Architects

Traditional Exterior by Greenville Interior Designers & Decorators Linda McDougald Design : Postcard from Paris Home

Traditional Exterior by Norwich Architects & Designers Smith & Vansant Architects PC

Our house will be a "farmhouse style" end gable with shed dormers over a porch roof. White board and batten, metal roof. The 2-car detached garage is connected to the porch by an open breezeway. The garage has a low-pitched hip roof (3.5/12, same as porch and breezeway) to try to keep it from looking too big, but it still is fairly tall due to the breezeway connection. It's roughly 11.5' from grade to the plate(?), so there's a pretty big space between the top of the garage doors and where the roof begins.

3 ideas from the architect -- which would you pick (or do you have any other suggestions)?

1. Budget option. Use same board and batten look as on main house. Put gooseneck barn lights over each of the two garage doors to try to fill up some of the space between the top of the doors and the roof.

2. Window option. Add transoms over the garage doors to echo the transoms on the main house. These would be the same size and height as the house transoms. If we went this route we could either (a) use the same windows as we are using on the house (these are a bit pricey) or (b) use the same size but cheaper window and try to match or not match. Lighting would go on the sides of the doors.

3. Stone veneer option. I'm pretty much ready to rule this out -- sounds like a budget-buster, and I am thinking it also might look out of place? We are in California and because of earthquakes don't have many stone or brick buildings. But, I found a photo that looked pretty nice.


Traditional Exterior by Richmond Architects & Designers Watershed Architects

Thanks for any opinions!

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I would avoid such a low sloped roof.

You should design the buildings and show us the drawings before choosing the details.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 7:27AM
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Thanks -- I'll try to get some time this week to figure out how to take screenshots and post those (don't laugh but I don't even know how to "text").

Buildings are designed and permitted. I forgot to also mention that another reason for the low-sloped roof is that the garage is SE of the house and we didn't want to block too much of the light. We had a lot of constraints with setbacks and trees.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:24AM
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Ok, here goes:

1. Sketchup screen shot from early design development. Ignore the trellis/screen on the left, and we are having a 2-car rather than a 3-car garage to get better spacing with the house and trees:

2: Front elevation in plan set:

3: Garage elevation with transoms:

(easier than texting!)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:06PM
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IMO, the garage would be much more complementary to the house, and a better design, using a gable roof, with a shed dormer over the garage door side.

That's the roof profile of the house--gable roof punctuated by shed dormers.

The design idea behind the low-pitched shed roof on the garage may have been to mimic the shed roof on the lower projection of the house. The result, however, is a very utilitarian profile suggesting a rather unimportant building. Might be fine if located out of view of the house and any other structures.

You're spending a lot of money for a well-designed and interesting house, only to have a rather insignificant, utilitarian building in the front for initial view and impression.

The problem with the low hip profile is that the upper profile of any structure (that part against the sky) is what is noticed and remembered. That's why the garage would be better designed using the vocabulary of the upper roof of the house.

Clearstory windows and light fixtures do not affect the garage profile.

Just a thought and constructive suggestion. Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:35PM
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virgilcarter, thanks for the thoughts.

If we were to change to a steeper-pitched gable roof on the garage, do you think it would look strange for the pitch to be different from that of both the porch and the main roof? There is a height limit for accessory buildings so I *think* about 6:12 would be the most we could do on the garage unless we change the plate height too.

("Utilitarian" and "unimportant" are both words that I probably used to describe to the architect what I wanted in a garage! I know I've used "utilitarian" several times to describe the house. I wanted the garage to be more like a shed than a carriage house. I just don't want it to look like a dump :-))

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Virgil is so awesome. Reno8, you ain't no slouch, either!
You guys are fantastic resources 'round here.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 7:07PM
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Renovator8, virgilcarter, and all you other design gurus,

What do you think about dropping the plate to 8' from the floor and using an 8:12 gable roof? Would you do one dormer with two windows the size of the transoms in the current elevation? Or something else?

We're meeting with the architect this week, so any input is appreciated!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 8:19PM
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If it was mine, I'd set the plate at +8', get the gable roof pitch as steep as allowable (12:12 being ideal), with the ridge line parallel to the garage doors and I'd mimic the shed gables on the house with one centered above the garage doors, glazed compatibly.

Since the garage form is considerably smaller than the house form, a garage shed dormer with two windows might work. Will need some design study to find the best proportions for height and width.

No need for clearstory glazing above the garage doors, but three appropriate wall mounted light fixtures on each side of a garage door and in the center would be handsome, IMO.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:10PM
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FWIW, I wouldn't do stone for the garage because it will make it stand out too much. You want the house to be the highlight, not the garage

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:27PM
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virgilcarter, that is extremely helpful. Unfortunately I think with an 8' plate height the steepest we could do and stay within the height restriction is 9:12. Would it make a difference that there will be a small guest cottage in back with an 8:12 roof? I don't think anyone would ever be able to see both the cottage and garage at the same time, though. If you have any ideas on how to resolve the breezeway roof, I'd love to hear those, otherwise I will have to leave it to the architect who is getting paid ;-)

zone4newby, thanks, I think our wallet will like the Hardie siding better, too!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:21PM
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Can you possible get the garage designation changed from accessory building to part of the house since it is attached to the house via a covered breezeway? That might allow the roof pitch to be higher.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:44PM
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dekeoboe, that is a very creative idea! I will mention it to the architect, but I am pretty sure we will want to keep it as an accessory building due to zoning rules (there is some room for interpretation and we could argue about it if the garage were part of the house, but as an accessory building I think it's pretty clear it's allowed to be where it is).

(Also, I misread the roof pitch on the guest area, it is 11:12, same as the main roof on the house.)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Does this massing look better? This is slightly taller than allowed, I think we would have to go with the lower pitch shown in the lines on the streetside gable. (I'm not very good with Sketchup)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 12:41AM
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IMO, a 8:12 or 9:12 will look fine. In all likelihood, few people will be able to tell that this is greatly different than the roof pitch on the house, since they are separate structures and at right angles to one another. The same applies to the roof of the guest cottage at the rear of the property.

I think the study above is much more harmonious than the hipped-roof version. Don't you?

Good luck on your project!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 9:50AM
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Much better! It now looks more like the fourth picture in your original posting.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 2:53PM
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The architect is suggesting a gable-over-hip roof (no dormer) that would mimic the roof shape of the main house (3.5:12/11:12). I'll try to post a sketch or revised Sketchup later, but if there are any immediate reactions, we'd love to hear them.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 3:10PM
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It's hard to visualize without any images, but, in my mind, it sounds similar to one of the South's old tobacco-drying barns, where the gable over hip allowed drying breezes to flow through the barn and dry the hanging tobacco leaves.

The architect must have a reason for making such a recommendation, but I see no relationship to the house at all, if that's indeed the recommended change. Can you post an image?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Everyone, thank you for all of your help!

The architect is working on some options for our review, we hope to have those soon. The biggest challenge will be resolving the breezeway.

In the meantime, here are my extremely crude Sketchup attempts. (The colors went all wonky when I tried to paint.)

1. Gable (MOL 9:12) with shed dormer

2. Dutch gable (MOL 3.5:12, 11:12)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 12:24AM
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In order to address the issues of massing, overall height, and the plate height needed to avoid an awkward connection to the breezeway at the rear of the garage, what if we use a shed and gable combo similar to what is shown in the link below?

Virgilcarter, do you think that would look right? We are so very thankful for all of your help with this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garage plan

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 8:48AM
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Oaktown, I now see (for the first time) that your house does have a vocabulary of a shed roof over first floor elements and a gable at each end of the house, containing second floor occupied space. For some reason this wasn't as clear to me on your first illustration.

The effect on the garage, however, seems to be too small and "toy-like" to my eye, based on what I can see in the last illustration. Just my take on the last illustration. What do you think, based on all three illustrated alternatives for the garage?

I do like Ramsey's work and her garage, on your link above, may work fine to resolve all of the design issues as best as possible.

I understand your concern for the connecting breezeway. Could you rotate your illustration and show us a view of it, as it connects house and garage. It would help to actually see it, rather than trying to visualize it.

Your design is progressing nicely and you will soon have a wonderful plan to build--congratulations!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 9:04AM
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virgilcarter -- absolutely. Thanks again. This is showing the earlier 3-car garage but you'll get the idea.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Oops, I didn't answer your other question -- right now we are leaning towards a massing like the Ramsey plan. In the abstract I prefer the simple gable, but the breezeway is important to my spouse (and kids), who originally were advocating for an attached garage.

Also just to clarify, the shed roof on the main house only covers porch, except for a small portion not visible from the front that we "bumped out" under the porch roof.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 11:06AM
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Thanks for the view showing the breeze way. As long as the breeze way roof is a shallow gable, as shown, I think you are free to have almost any design for the garage.

After all this, I'd say simply pick the garage design you like best and go with it. Your house is well done and I'm sure you will enjoy it. Best wishes.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 11:46AM
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I wish we could do the simple gable with the lowered plate height and shed dormer that you first suggested! Unfortunately it would be too tall to get a decent pitch with the existing plate height (shown in the hip roof Sketchup) and if the plate height is lowered, then the breezeway "overshoots" the roof of the garage. So we'll probably end up with the gable+shed combo to get the higher plate height at the back. I'll post a picture when we're all done. Can't thank you enough, and also Renovator8, who motivated me to post the sketches in the first place.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 1:44PM
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