Garage History: How Much Do You Know About This Vital Home Space?

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How much do you know about the history of the home garage? Garage history doesn’t stretch back all that far – barely 100 years, in fact. Let’s look at where this vital home space began and how garages have evolved over the past century.

“Garage” – derived from the French word “garer” (meaning to protect, shelter, or store)

garage history


Garage history: the early years

Before the garage existed, the main mode of transportation for North Americans was the horse and buggy, which were kept in detached buildings known as carriage houses, gatehouses, and outbuildings. As the 1908 Ford Model T made automobiles more accessible to the masses, a need for a more practical parking solution became apparent.

Early car owners would park their vehicles alongside their horses in the carriage houses. Carports and portable garages were also used. Large parking lots that charged a monthly fee were another method used for car parking until around 1910. At this point, the availability of parking spots was being outstripped by the number of car sales.

Early on in the 20th century’s second decade, architects began creating the rudimentary designs that brought us a little closer to what would become the traditional home garage as we now know it.

There was a still much room for improvement, however, as many of these garages still weren’t attached to homes and had to rely on inconvenient and cumbersome barn-style doors.


The overhead garage door and garage door opener are invented

By 1920, cars had become a must-own item in America, prompting even more demand for a more practical storage space for vehicles. It was at this time that C.G. Johnson came up with the overhead garage door, which replaced swinging garage doors with a more convenient and space-saving solution.

In 1926, Johnson also invented the first electric door opener, which made it easier to open the heavy wood doors of the era.


The home garage evolves

Garage doors would continue to evolve into the 30s with improvements made to their mechanical operations, reliability, design choices, and overall quality. The sectional overhead garage door was also introduced. The inclusion of a garage would increasingly become a make-or-break factor in whether homes up for sale were purchased.

It was around the early 40s that homes were more commonly designed with an attached garage in mind, with an entryway from inside the garage directly to the home also becoming more popular. The size of garages increasingly grew as car sizes got bigger.


Garage history: garage door openers get more high-tech

Although they first appeared in the 20s, electric garage door openers actually took decades to really catch on with North Americans. Improving on its initial radio-controlled design, openers began to use a fixed code pulse system that ensured a more unique signal that was far less likely to accidentally open a neighbor’s garage door (and were more secure).

Better safety features, such as early versions of the eye sensors commonly used on models today, were also implemented into door opener designs in the 70s.

Now we’ve evolved to the point where modern garage door openers use a rolling code technology that constantly changes the door’s access code, giving homeowners a higher degree of security.

Today’s openers are also much quieter, energy-efficient, and tech-friendly, with innovative features like the convenient MyQ Technology, which lets you control your garage door through your smartphone.


Garage history: garage doors improve in quality

It took until the 70s for a garage door material besides wood to become more common. Although wood garage doors deliver a warm, earthy look to a home’s exterior, they do require more maintenance. This brought about the advent of a low-maintenance alternative with steel garage doors. Eventually, fibreglass and full view aluminum doors were made available to consumers.

Just in the past couple of decades, garage door technology has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of quality and customization ability, allowing homeowners more choices and styles than ever before. And wouldn’t you know it, that original carriage house look is now a very popular style favored by homeowners purchasing new garage doors!


Garage flooring evolves

For decades, a garage floor was nothing more than a gray, boring concrete surface. In recent decades, painting your garage floor was one way to add some character to its look. The end result generally didn’t look great and the paint would need to be reapplied too frequently.

Epoxy floor coatings came along and raised the bar in terms of what floor coatings could do for your garage’s look and as a way to protect the concrete floor. Garage flooring technology has now evolved to the point where newer polyaspartic floor coatings like Floortex™ have raised the bar even further.


The home garage gives birth to some culture-shaking ideas

When contemplating the history of the home garage, one can’t overlook the truly culture-shaking ideas and hugely successful companies and bands that originated inside some of them. The Beatles, The Ramones, Nirvana, The Who, and The Kinks all began in the garage and a whole music genre would come to be known as “garage rock”.

Some of today’s most successful companies also started in garages, including Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Amazon, Dyson, Disney Studios, and Harley-Davidson.


garage history underground

Home garages have come a long way over the past century.


Home garages have come a long way

A look back at garage history shows just how much this vital home space has evolved over the past 100 years. We’ve gone from its humble beginnings as a glorified shed to the modern wonders that garage makeover professionals like Garage Living can now design.

A century ago, no one would have believed the kinds of beautiful garage spaces that can be created nowadays. Take, for example, the stunning underground garage pictured above.

If your outdated garage is in need of a modern touch, schedule your free design consultation with us today.

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