A tandem garage is a type of garage design that features two garage doors, one behind the other, allowing for parking two cars. While a traditional side-by-side garage can fit two cars next to each other, a tandem garage allows you to park one car behind the other, maximizing space in narrower driveways.
Tandem garages have become increasingly popular, especially in urban areas where space is limited. They provide a creative solution to fit more parking in tight home footprints. However, they also come with some unique considerations. In this complete guide, we’ll explore what is a tandem garage. Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Tandem Garage?
A tandem garage refers to a garage that has two garage door openings, positioned one behind the other, that create space to park two vehicles lined up front-to-back.
The tandem orientation makes the most of narrow driveway footprints by stacking the parking spaces instead of placing them side-by-side. This allows two cars to fit into a single-car width driveway or garage.
The front garage door typically leads to the main parking space. The back garage door accesses the secondary parked car. Some tandem garages use one large shared door instead of two separate doors.
Tandem garages are also sometimes called:
- Stacked garages
- Double-deep garages
- Back-to-back garages
- Two-car tandem garages
The tandem layout is in contrast to a side-by-side garage where there is enough width for two garage door openings positioned next to each other, allowing both cars to be parked forward-facing.
With a tandem garage, the second car parks perpendicular to the first, lining up back-to-front. This elongated layout allows two cars to fit into a single garage bay.
Now let’s explore the key benefits and drawbacks of tandem garage designs.
Benefits of Tandem Garages
There are several compelling benefits that make tandem garages a smart solution for some homes:
1. Maximizes Space in Narrow Driveways
The main advantage of a tandem garage is it doubles the parking capacity without requiring a wider driveway or garage. By lining up the two parking spots front-to-back, both cars can fit into a single-car width space.
This makes tandems ideal for maximizing parking in tight home footprints, urban lots, alley garages, or any setting where a wider garage or driveway isn’t possible.
2. Allows More Cars Per Square Foot
In addition to fitting into narrow driveways, tandem garages can efficiently maximize parking density. By using a deeper two-car length garage, but a narrower single-car width, tandem garages provide more parking spots per square foot.
This increased density can allow smaller homes or properties to accommodate more cars. A side-by-side two-car garage uses around 400 square feet. A tandem fits two cars in around 300 square feet.
3. Reduces Home Expansion Cost
Since tandem garages fit more parking into a smaller footprint, they can minimize costs when expanding a home’s garage capacity.
Rather than widening the driveway and house to add more side-by-side garage bays, a tandem extends the garage backward, reducing construction and excavation costs.
4. Leaves More Yard Space
When upgrading from a 1-car to 2-car garage, a tandem design may preserve more usable yard space compared to adding a wider side-by-side garage. The extended depth leaves room for side yard space next to the garage.
5. Provides Functional Outdoor Storage
With its elongated layout, a tandem bay leaves extra garage space behind the rear parked car. This makes an ideal area to incorporate storage shelves, tall cabinets, workshop space, etc.
6. Adaptable for Different Uses
The rear garage section offers flexible space that owners may choose to adapt over time – converting it into an in-law suite, home gym, workshop, storage rooms, etc. The forward garage retains parking access.
As you can see, tandem garages offer several benefits, especially for maximizing parking in tight home footprints. However, there are also some drawbacks to consider before choosing a tandem floorplan.
Drawbacks to Consider
While tandem garages work great for some homes, they do come with a few limitations:
1. Rear Car is Blocked In
The main downside of a tandem garage is that the rear car does not have direct access to exit. The owner of the front car must move their vehicle first before the blocked-in back car can exit.
This shuffling of cars is an annoyance any time the back car needs to get in or out. It requires coordination if both owners need to use their vehicles at the same time.
2. Length Limits Interior Access
In a standard attached garage, an entry door leads directly into the home. But with a stretched tandem bay, the home entrance would be inconveniently located at the far back.
Instead, tandem garages typically remain detached from the home or only have a narrow pathway connecting to the rear or side of the house.
3. No Room to Open Doors
While allowing two cars to fit width-wise, a tandem bay may lack space to fully open the driver’s side door. The extended car nose pokes into the back garage space, making it difficult to exit vehicles unless enough clearance is left.
4. Tight Maneuvering Space
Navigating both vehicles into the narrowed garage takes precision parking skills. There is little wiggle room to maneuver the cars into position. And turning around or accessing gear in the garage can be tight.
5. Difficult Access for Visitors
For visitors parking in the tandem garage, the homeowner must clear the front spot and then carefully shuffle their own car into the rear space – an inconvenient process.
As you can see, tandem garages involve some maneuvering and access tradeoffs. But smart design choices can help maximize functionality and minimize headaches.
Now let’s look at important garage specifications.
Tandem Garage Dimensions
Proper tandem garage dimensions are critical to ensure enough room is left for parking, opening doors, and maneuvering through the space.
Here are the key dimensions to factor when planning a tandem garage:
- Garage door width – The width of each garage door opening should be a minimum of 8 feet wide, with 9 feet being ideal. This leaves room to open doors without rubbing against walls.
- Garage interior width – For maneuvering room, the wall-to-wall interior width should be no less than 12 feet wide, with 14 feet being optimal.
- Garage length – The total tandem garage length from front to back needs to be around 40-45 feet to fit two average-length vehicles and leave room to walk between.
- Door height – Standard garage doors are 7 feet high. Taller 8 foot doors allow more overhead clearance.
- Vehicle clearance – Around 20-30 feet should separate the parked vehicles. This leaves room to fully open doors and walk between the cars.
Ideally, oversize the tandem garage dimensions as much as possible to maximize functionality of the space. Now let’s look at how to plan the garage layout.
Planning a Tandem Garage
Careful planning is needed to ensure your tandem garage flows well and functions properly. Follow these planning tips:
Choose Detached vs Attached
Tandem garages can be built either as attached or detached structures:
- Attached tandems connect directly to the home but limit back entry points.
- Detached designs leave more home access flexibility but require braving the outdoors to reach your vehicles.
Consider how the garage layout will interface with the home when choosing detached or attached.
Front vs Rear Orientation
Most tandems are positioned perpendicular to the front of the home, which provides optimal access to the main parking spot. But the garage doors can also be oriented facing the backyard if the driveway allows rear access.
Evaluate which door directionality makes the most sense for your property.
Incorporate Access Paths
Since tandem bays extend far back from the home, incorporate sheltered walkways to conveniently connect the garage to side or rear entry points.
Having quick indoor access will encourage using the garage and protect from the elements. Consider heating, lighting, and overhangs to keep the access path pleasant.
Add Extra Interior Length
When sizing the tandem garage, go longer than the absolute minimum required length to prevent a cramped interior. This oversize buffer allows smoother parking maneuvers and gives flexibility to reconfigure storage.
Plan Maneuvering Space
Design enough side and rear space around the garage for easy driving access. Wide openings, gentle turns, and straight approaches make parking simpler.
Any tight turns or offsets into the garage should be avoided to prevent collision scrapes and allow safe reversing.
Choose Room Uses Carefully
Since the rear of a tandem bay essentially becomes an isolated room, plan how to best use this space. Storage and workshops make ideal tandem room additions. Bedrooms may lack ideal egress or privacy.
Now let’s examine tandem garage door options to fit this unique layout.
Tandem Garage Doors
The tandem garage layout influences door selection and configuration:
Two Single Doors
Most tandem garages utilize two individual garage doors – one for each parking bay. This allows independent access to each vehicle.
Having two doors does complicate weathersealing. The interior door jamb will be exposed to outdoor weather unlike a standard garage with an enclosed rear wall. Draft-proofing this join is important.
One Shared Oversized Door
Some tandems use one large shared garage door that accesses both parking spots. This leaves a cleaner interior without a center post and may reduce costs.
But a single shared door causes issues if one car needs to exit while the other remains parked. The large door also requires more side clearance to fully open.
With vehicles lined up back-to-back in a tandem garage, the rear car’s trunk space peeks out underneath the front garage door.
Using an extended height 10 or 12 foot door for the forward bay provides enough overhead clearance so the back car can fully fit underneath.
Side Entry Doors
Placing a regular entry door on the side of the garage provides handy direct outdoor access, especially for detached garages.
A side utility entry door can also access the rear garage space for storage access without needing to shuffle cars around.
Adding automatic garage door openers, especially on the forward bay, makes daily tandem garage access more convenient. With the press of a button, the blocked-in back car can easily be freed when needed.
Now that we’ve covered key door considerations, let’s look at structural design.
Tandem garages involve some unique building considerations:
The extended tandem length often requires special reinforced floor and ceiling framing. Post spacing needs to account for the longer span. And special headers are required over doubled-up garage door rough openings.
Carefully plan the tandem bay’s electrical layout since the space is compartmentalized. Think about placement of outlets, switches, and lighting fixtures in the rear to ensure accessibility.
Also factor where to place openers, keypads, motion sensors, and any special auto electrical hookups.
Since tandem garages extend the full depth of the home, insulating the space against noise transfer is important, especially if converting the rear to living space.
Staggered stud, double stud, or insulated concrete forms (ICF) help reduce sound transmission.
Building codes may require protection between the garage and home such as a fire-rated separation wall. Be sure to account for any firewall specifications in the tandem garage layout.
Using smoothed finished surfaces like drywall and concrete edging helps prevent scrapes and damage when maneuvering vehicles into the narrowed tandem bays.
The divided tandem space needs proper exhaust fans and vents to circulate fumes and ventilate both vehicle bays as required by code.
Sloping the concrete floor surfaces toward the garage doors helps water drain out of the tandem bays rather than pooling in the middle joint.
With an understanding of tandem garage design and construction, you’re ready to explore the realities of living with this layout on a daily basis.
Living with a Tandem Garage
While tandem garages make smart use of space, they do involve some unique practical considerations with daily use. Here are some tips for living with a tandem:
- Coordinate schedules if both cars are used regularly so owners don’t block each other in. Communicate when shuffling of the cars is needed.
- For visitors, keep the forward bay available and shuffle your secondary vehicle into the rear position.
- Use bumper pads and rearview mirrors to prevent contact scrapes during tight parking maneuvers.
- Install automatic forward bay door openers to quickly free blocked vehicles with the click of a button.
- Incorporate side- or rear-access doors so the garage can be entered without moving cars.
- Keep the garage orderly and free of clutter to allow easier parking motions.
- For access to the back bay, use a smaller secondary vehicle that’s easier to maneuver.
- Install padding on garage walls and ceilings to prevent accidental damage.
- If space is very tight, use vehicle mirrors to park rather than risk collisions.
With smart strategies and cooperation between drivers, tandem garages can make efficient use of limited space. But alternative designs may better suit some homeowners’ needs.
Tandem Garage Alternatives
If you decide a tandem layout has too many limitations for your plans, here are some alternative garage types to consider:
- Compact tandem – A shortened version with space for one car plus a small secondary vehicle like a motorcycle or compact car. This minimizes the tandem Rear.
- Side-by-side garages – While wider, side-by-side bays avoid the blocked-in downsides and simplify parking. Popular for two and three car garages.
- Car stackers – Mechanical or hydraulic lifting systems to vertically stack multiple vehicles in a standard garage. Pricier but efficiently condenses space.
- Detached garage – Locating a separate garage structure in the backyard opens up home expansion possibilities while still providing parking.
- Carport – Open covered structures can provide basic vehicle protection at low cost but lack a controlled garage environment.
- Portable shelters – Temporary fabric canopies allow makeshift vehicles shelters when permanent structures aren’t an option.
- Multistory garages – Home expansions like rooftop garages add parking capacity with less footprint.
For most homeowners needing to maximize parking, tandem garages offer the simplest narrow-footprint solution. But weigh all options to find the right fit.
For many homes, tandem garages provide a smart strategy to maximize parking capacity without expanding a home’s width or driveway footprint. By lining up two parking spaces front-to-back, tandem garages can double vehicle storage in the same single garage width.
This elongated layout makes tandem garages ideal for tight urban lots, narrow driveways, or anytime laying out side-by-side parking bays isn’t feasible. Tandem garages can efficiently condense cars into a smaller footprint.
How many cars fit in a tandem garage?
A typical tandem garage fits 2 average-sized cars lined up front-to-back. Larger tandem designs may squeeze in more small or compact vehicles.
Are tandem garages worth it?
For homes with narrow driveways or limited space, tandem garages effectively double parking capacity. But shuffling cars and blocked access take extra coordination.
How deep is a tandem garage?
Tandem garages need to be around 40-45+ feet deep from front to back doors to comfortably fit two cars and provide clearance.
Can you walk through a tandem garage?
Tandem garages do allow walking from front to back between parked cars. But navigating the tight space can be tricky so wider dimensions are better.
Do both tandem doors open independently?
Most tandem garages have two separate doors that open independently. But some use one large shared door for both bays.
Can you convert a tandem garage?
The rear portion of a tandem garage is easily converted into storage, workshops, Mother-in-law suites, or other uses since it is compartmentalized.
How much does a tandem garage cost?
Adding a tandem bay garage addition generally costs $15,000-30,000. New construction tandem garages average $25,000-45,000 depending on materials and finishes.
Do you need planning permission for a tandem garage?
Adding a tandem garage typically requires local permitting and approval like any garage addition to ensure proper zoning and code compliance.
I hope this overview helps explain the ins and outs of tandem garage designs! Let me know if you have any other tandem garage questions.