Thursday, February 25, 2021

Out of town customers have many interesting comments upon arriving in Teaneck for the first time. “Oh wow! the houses here are so close together,” or, just as frequent, “Oh wow, the houses here are so far apart!” “The trees are so tall; the restaurants are so great … Is this house walking distance to Lazy Bean?”

There’s one observation I hear on a fairly regular basis that speaks to one of the most debated of home designing questions today: “Oh wow, I didn’t know you could put your garage on basement level,” followed by the oft stated: “Does anyone even park their car in the garage anymore?” Before I comment on these below grade driveways we should delve deeper into this space we call “the garage.”

From more and more of my customers I am hearing that this so-called indoor parking space has become more of a repository for Costco packages, water deliveries, sports equipment and the defacto recycling staging area. For so many years I have been asked by homeowners, “What do you think about altering my garage space into a family room or guest bedroom?” My answer has always been the same: “For resale purposes a garage is important.” Would this answer still hold true today? With 200 square feet for a one-car and 400 square feet for a two-car, some respected designers have been pushing for half of your current garage space to remain as the family storage unit with the other half repurposed for much needed interior space.

This conundrum is prominent for those planning new construction as well. Unless you own one of the few, larger properties in Teaneck allowing greater lot coverage for an on-grade garage, does one give over crucial first floor living space for one’s car on the main, first floor level?

And so was born the popular alternative of garages beneath the first floor on basement level. If done properly, with the right pitch and distance from the curb, one or two cars can be brought safely and comfortably down to the basement level, adding back 200 to 400 square feet to your first floor.

At a Sunday open house many years ago, one couple argued whether the wife would be able to drive her large SUV down a sloped driveway to the basement level garage. She got in the car and hesitantly started her descent. It was no problem; she got down easily and her car fit well. With her newfound courage she quickly put the car in reverse and came inches away from the side wall, nearly taking the mirror off her car. Ultimately, the house was not in the location they wanted, but they contracted the same builder to build a similar home in the location of their choice with a below grade garage. They raised the first floor higher off the ground to lessen the slope.

When working with your architect to include a garage below grade level, make sure the proper balance between the slope of the driveway and the resulting increase of steps to the first floor does not become too great. An expert engineer should be consulted to make sure this proper balance is achieved. In case you are wondering, I do have a two-car garage and my husband parks his car on his side every night. As for me, I can’t be bothered! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to email me at [email protected] or call my cell 201 826 8809

Nechama Polak is Broker of Record & owner of V and N Group LLC Located in Teaneck at 1401 Palisade Ave. 201-692- 3700