Friday, February 15, 2008

Building a New House with a Detached Garage

We have our own ice rink right outside our mudroom door. Lucky Us! It starts at the bottom step of our stoop and stretches all the way to the barn where we park our cars. Every morning we carefully pick our way across the frozen landscape trying to find a brave lonely patch of mud or grass to step on, as the traction keeps you upright far better than the ice does. Every member of our family has fallen at least once on this ice rink,and myself and the "groundskeeper" have fallen several times. Visits from our parents and other slightly older adults sets our teeth on edge as we watch them cross the frozen path.

This has been a very harsh winter for our part of the country. The harshest in several years, maybe even a decade. If had known that the potential for an outdoor ice rink existed, I may have planned things a bit differently, but I was lulled into the belief that I was living in a temperate climate with mild winters. That has all changed. I am sure a few people wonder why we did not attach our garage to our new house. And trust me - MANY MANY mornings I have wondered the exact same thing. So in an attempt to remind myself why we did not attach a garage, I am typing out a list of our brilliant hard thought over reasons. I plan to read this list everyday until the first sign of spring, break through the icy pool outside my door. Then I will burn the list in celebration - warming my icy fingers over the flames.

Rechelle's list of why we do not have an attached garage. And why it was a good idea in spite of falling on my butt on the ice outside my door more times than I want to ever think about again...

1. I wanted to build a very Classic American Farmhouse. Farmhouses tend to be comprised of trim exterior lines which a detached garage would disturb. They are also often surrounded by outbuildings which are a part of their charm. An attached garage would have swollen the proportions of the house taking away from it's exterior character and taken away fro an opportunity to build a very sweet outbuilding - our barn.

2. I also wanted lots of natural light flooding the house. An attached garage often shuts off an entire direction of light taking up an entire north, south, east or western exposure of a house. I was not interested in losing any of my light exposures. Also, in new houses, an attached garage is directly adjacent to the kitchen creating what I call, interior kitchens - or kitchens with little to no natural light, I wanted to avoid this as well.

3. Building a farmhouse in the countryside seemed to demand opportunities to step outside and breathe in the fresh air, smell the flowers, hear the birds, etc, etc.... Entering and exiting our new home from the dark depths of an attached garage would have lessened those opportunities. A short hike every day to a rustic barn, housing our cars would give us a chance to celebrate the outdoors in a small way every day.

4. I have seen lots of homes built in classic styles that found clever ways to incorporate an attached garage. Swinging the garage around behind the house is one way - but if light is important to you, you will be closing off light to your back yard and to a large part of your house. Most people wouldn't mind, but it would kill me.

Attaching a garage through a breezeway is also often done today and I think this option is often handsome and has the potential to create another outdoor area to enjoy or you can enclose the breezeway as a mudroom or a sun room. This is a good option, and if I ever build again it is one I may consider.

But for now, we hike the ice patch every morning. We hope to lay down a layer of asphalt this spring. The black material spongy will absorb more heat and melt the snow before it can turn into ice next winter as well as giving our four sons a place to play basketball. The asphalt will also make clearing off the driveway easier as it is very difficult to shovel off a gravel driveway. Your shovel tears into the rocks and you bring up a half shovel full of mud with every shovel full of snow. It is frustrating and back breaking.

3. Garage Schmarage - we were tought enough to take a short hike to our cars every day. so we walk across our ice rink every morning. Saying a silent prayer that we make it to our cars without injury. Hoping for an early spring so that those birds and flowers and fresh air will remind us of why we so crazily built a house with a detached garage.

Like the ice-rink that formed in November on the north side of our home which we must cross every day to get to our cars, because I insisted on having a detached garage to keep our home looking like a true old farmhouse. This being one of the harshest winters in recent history, getting to our cars every morning has become a treacherous death defying act. We have all slipped and fallen more than once. We hope to correct this in the near future by having a layer of black asphalt placed on the driveway and parking spaces. We hope the black will absorb more heat and help in melting the snow before it turns into ice. But that project is a ways off, until then we tread very carefully back an forth from the barn to the car. Praying that we make it to the warmth of our cozy house without breaking a bone on the way.

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