Garages are enclosed areas designed primarily to house automobiles. They are commonly affixed to homes and are usually accessible both through a large door which permits entrance to the vehicle and a smaller door which leads into the home itself. In some older homes, the garage makes up a separate building from the living area of the house. Access to the street is usually via a paved driveway which cuts across the sidewalk.
Garages evolved in design from common house sheds, ultimately expanding in size to hold one or two automobiles along with the tools and equipment which such buildings were formerly used to store. By the 1950s, garages were a standard fixture in most American homes.
In recent years, garages have become used less and less for the purpose of sheltering vehicles. This is occurring for several reasons:
- Most cars today are quite large in comparison to former models and do not fit comfortably into older garages
- Modern cars are sufficiently durable as not to require a great deal of protection against exposure
- The increasing number of homes built in the suburbs has allowed greater space for parking outside.
It is estimated that anywhere from 40 to 70% of homeowners with garages make use of them exclusively for storage, while placing the car out in the driveway or out on the curb. This trend has been particularly pronounced as outdoor sheds, basements, and attics have ceased to be standard design features in homes, necessitating alternative storage spaces.
Garages are most often built using a slab of concrete several inches thick as a base. Some garages use a synthetic covering instead; these tend to be highly resistant to spills and cracking. Garage walls are usually of the same material as the house proper.
Formerly, garages were built to house one or two cars comfortably, but as car sizes increase, many garages are being built to hold three or more vehicles. Some garages are divided into multiple rooms, the smaller of which are used for storage or workshops.
While older garage doors were formed of one or two large panels that slid aside or opened outwards, the doors in almost all modern garages roll up vertically. These newer garage doors are frequently built of rolled steel or various synthetic materials which are either painted or given a faux wood covering.
Roll-up doors usually contain tightly wound springs at their top, which pack sufficient tension in their coils to take most of the burden of lifting the door onto themselves and off of the shoulders of the lifter��a desirable feature, as some modern garage doors can weigh as much as 300 pounds. In addition, many garage doors today are opened wholly mechanically by means of a motor drive. These are often triggered by a radio signal emitted from a portable garage door opener. (See the following for more information on Garage Doors.)