Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Garage vs Deck (Babble)

Here is my big project question of the moment:  Should we build a new garage?

I love our new house, but the detached garage behind it is becoming an issue.  To solve it by building a new garage we’d have to cut severely into the deck. I’m having trouble deciding what to do.  (This doesn’t qualify as a problem.  I acknowledge our lives will continue to be fine either way, but I could use some input.)

Here’s the story on the existing garage:  It’s a single car garage, not in great shape.  The automatic door has no sensor to stop it from potentially squishing kids.  There is no second exit from the garage, so if a kid got stuck inside, well, he or she is pretty stuck.  The past owners it didn’t have kids so it didn’t matter, but as a parent it makes me nervous.  The garage is in an alley, but the entrance faces a small driveway.  Right now what happens is I park the small car in the garage and the minivan in the drive, which blocks the small car in.  With Ian away it’s not like we’re using both cars all the time, but I can see this getting annoying fast once he’s back.  It’s certainly not the end of the world, but I don’t like parking the minivan outside where I’m going to have to dig it out of the snow all winter and worry about it potentially getting broken into in the summer.  A simple, two car garage is within our budget, and it makes sense that if the current garage will need to be replaced at some point anyway, we should just get it done now so it better meets our needs rather than be frustrated.  I do not want to sink any money into the existing goofy garage.  It would be nice to have a good garage.

This is the garage (it’s in worse shape than it looks in photos for some reason):

But!  To build the garage means drastically changing our backyard.  To conform to regulations about setting it back from the alley, etc., it would cut into the deck about 8 feet or more, and a good chunk beyond that would have to be destroyed just to make space for building to happen.  Plus the finished result is a garage that would feel like it’s practically in our family room.  We’d lose a birch tree, and we’d go from a spacious feeling when we step out the back door to one that is very closed in and cramped.  I don’t see any point in bothering to build a new garage if it can’t hold both our cars, but the amount of space that would take up is more considerable than I first imagined.

This is the current view of the garage from the family room, looking across the deck:  (And yes, I know that looks like a door that could be used to exit the garage on the left, but it doesn’t lead to anything on the inside.)

See that flower pot on the deck on the far right in the above picture?  That’s about where the new garage would come to.

That’s just a lot of space to lose and I don’t know if it’s worth it.  I’d have to figure out something positively gorgeous to do to that garage wall, too, since we’d have it right in our faces.

It’s not like there is no more yard past the deck, but what little yard there is has been kind of taken over by the play set.  The only decent space in the backyard left for adults is really on the deck.

Side note:  In case anyone else is about to assemble such a play set, here’s something we did with ours that’s worked out well.  We put hooks on the top of the rock climbing wall instead of bolting it in place, and we didn’t bolt down the slide.  Everything is safe and holds together just fine, but we can rearrange the set when we want to.  We can pull both things off if the kids need better access to the little picnic table, and we can put the slide pointing in a new direction periodically (which gives some of the grass a break).  At the moment the kids like the slide coming right off the deck.  (We’re also able to switch out a swing for a trapeze bar easily.  It helps to keep them from getting bored with the set if we can keep changing it.  Not that they get bored easily–To my kids the playhouse area is either a ship or a clubhouse and there are elaborate games with rules I can’t follow and there is always something busy going on there.)

(Oh, and I have a friend who has older kids who don’t use their play set anymore, and she had the brilliant idea to string a hammock on it, and the clubhouse area is covered with plants, so now it’s her own little relaxing spot in her backyard.  Doesn’t that sound cool?)
Okay, so back to my quandary:  On the one hand, it seems stupid to give prime space to cars when we should just put up with the parking inconveniences and enjoy our deck.  On the other, we can only hang out on the deck certain months of the year and we would use the garage all the time.  A decent garage would be extremely practical for us and safer for the kids and the cars.  Parking on the street in Milwaukee costs money and you have to move cars to the opposite side each night, plus our smaller car has had the radio stolen twice while parked on the street, so it’s not a great option.  (I’m sure my husband who created a pro-public transit site called “Milwaukee Without a Car” is in his heart thinking “Let’s just get rid of a car,” but I remember the days before we had the third kid that necessitated our getting the minivan.  There were a lot of Army Reserve weekends where he drove off and I was stranded with small kids and few options.  For a family of five that second car comes in very very handy.)

So, garage or deck?  Any opinions or ideas?

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