Attached, Detached, Built-In, and Semi-Attached Garages: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably heard about attached and detached garages before. But did you know there are two other types of garages, as well?

When you go to sell your current home or buy your next one, it’s important to use the proper terminology so prospective buyers can quickly find your home. 

This brief article will cover the differences between an attached, semi-attached, detached, and built-in garage. 

4 Main Types of Residential Garages

Here are the four main types of garages commonly found in residential construction:

  1. Attached Garage: An attached garage is a garage that is physically connected to the main house. It is usually located on the side or front of the house and shares a wall with the main living space. In addition to the garage door, attached garages include a main entry door for accessing the main house. Homeowners can enter the house directly from the garage without going outside. 
  2. Built-in Garage: A built-in garage is a garage that is designed as part of the main house structure. Like an attached garage, the homeowner can enter the house from the garage without going outside. However, a built-in garage has living space directly above the garage, while an attached garage does not. 
  3. Detached Garage: A detached garage is a garage that is not physically connected to the main house. This standalone structure is typically located in the backyard or side yard of the property and is often designed to complement the style of the main house. Detached garages may also offer additional living space, such as an upstairs loft.
  4. Semi-Attached Garage: A semi-attached garage is a hybrid between an attached and detached garage, offering some of the benefits of both types. Like an attached garage, a semi-attached garage shares a common wall with the main house. However, there is no access from the garage directly into the home. The homeowner must go outside to get from one to the other. 
Clockwise from upper left: Built-in garage, Attached garage, Semi-Attached garage, Detached garage
Clockwise from upper left: Built-in garage, Attached garage, Semi-Attached garage, Detached garage

What is the Difference Between an Attached Garage & Built-in Garage?

The main difference between an attached garage and a built-in garage is how they are connected to the main house. 

An attached garage is physically connected to the house and shares a common wall with the main living space. However, it does not have living space above it that connects to the rest of the house. 

In contrast, a built-in garage will have living space above the garage that accesses the rest of the home. It’s designed as part of the main house structure and shares its walls and roof with the rest of the home. 

It’s common for older homes to add a garage apartment that can only be accessed from the outside. This would still be considered an attached garage, not a built-in garage. 

Both attached and built-in garages offer convenient access to the main house through a garage entry door. This makes it easy for homeowners to enter and exit their vehicles or unpack items from the car to the house. 

What Does the IBC Say About Attached vs. Built-in Garages?

The International Building Code (IBC) regulates the design, construction, and occupancy of buildings and structures. It does not distinguish between attached garages and built-in garages as separate categories but instead addresses garages as a whole. 

The IBC provides requirements for garages, including fire resistance, ventilation, and means of egress. This ensures buildings are safe for occupants and do not pose a hazard to the main house or neighboring properties.

The IBC requires that garages be separated from the main house by a fire-rated wall and ceiling assembly to prevent the spread of fire between the two structures. 

Each garage must have at least one exit door that leads directly to the outside or to a stairway or hallway that leads outside.

Overall, whether the garage is attached or built-in, it must comply with the same requirements set forth by the IBC to ensure it is safe and functional.

Photo of author

Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.