Back Entry

  • Meg

    Hi Folks,

    I guess many homes have garages and I agree that if there is a garage / drive / carport that is located some distance from the front door then a back entry is required. The important thing to remember is that everything that comes out of this exercise needs to be incorporated into the front entry if there’s no back entry. It might be better put that each entry needs to be designed to accommodate the people and things that go through it on a frequent basis.

    I saw a neat plan (will try and post up tomorrow as not at home now) where there was one entry but it kind of split up into two lanes – the guest lane straight ahead and the coming home with stuff lane into a room near the entry. It did a really good job of keeping the entrance for guests sleek and accommodating the storage requirements of the ‘stuff’ lane. Both entrances then met up in a small vestibule before the rest of the house opened up. I’ll probably find it’s not exactly like this once I see the plan again but you get the picture.

    As John said as well as the obvious storage it’s worth thinking in detail about what goes in and out of your house which would be best stored at the point of entry \ exit. In addition to the obvious we have key box, mail sorting, wet suits, buckets and spades, tennis stuff, gym kit, shopping bags, spare bags and our charity bag. The charity bag is great since it collects the stuff that’s good enough to go to a charity appeal and is a good system to prevent too much accumulation in the house.

    In addition to what John said was required I’d also go for a mirror, and something that really sigals home perhaps in a special area – a nice view when you walk through the door – like a Tokonoma in Japan. A curtain across all entry spaces makes it really cosy in a cold climate.

    Hooks are important for speed, but as far as possible I’d go for well organised cupboard storage. Another tip I have is to make any swing doors open out into the entrance space – that way they get shut much more often than a door that opens into a walk in closet. The door that opens inwards is just too convenient to leave open so stays open.

    Looking forward to reading other comments on this.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for the clarification about front and back entries. You are correct that not all houses have two entries, and they are very rare in multi-family situations.

    Your observation about the “double duty” entry is important to remember in these situations as it is not very nice for guests to have to wade through all of the family stuff nor is it reasonable for a family to keep a formal front entry clean and tidy.

    Good idea about the mirror.

  • Doug Roberts

    I don’t think that I have ever lived in a house with a really good back entry. Most seem to have been little more than landings at the top of the basement stairs where there was either no door to the stairs and you were at risk of falling down them or there was a door to the stairs and you were at risk of being whacked by someone coming up them. I guess the best so far was in a 2300 square foot 2-storey house in Calgary that was built in the mid-70s. It’s “back entry” was a door that led directly into the house from a front-attached double garage. The door opened into an 8′ long hallway that had a powder room and then the basement stairs (complete with door for whacking) on the left side and a closet with mirrored sliding doors and then a door into a large laundry room on the right side. The far end of the hallway opened into a family room and the kitchen was on the left a few steps up. The entry space itself was a bit tight and was surrounded by doorways, but at least there was good closet space and easy access to both the powder room and the kitchen.

    Having said that, even though the weather stripping on the back entry door was in good condition, we found that the carbon monoxide detector that we installed in the second floor bedroom area (part of which was above the garage) went off quite regularly, which was a source of concern. As a result, we have since avoided buying houses with either a direct entry from an attached garage or living space above an attached garage. If the choice is between having healthy indoor air to breathe and getting a little wet or snowy on my way in from the garage, I’ll take getting a little wet or snowy any day.

  • Paul C

    I will add one to Meg’s door swing suggestion. When the entry is from an attached garage, if there is a set of stairs and/or landing in the garage, I would suggest having the door swing out into the garage over the landing. A simple change from the norm that can make a big difference on the inside of the home.

  • Cat

    Is it worth considering having a family entry available from a location other than the garage? Perhaps all children are chauffeured around these days, but I think it would be nice to use the family entry when coming home on the school bus or being dropped off by the carpool.

  • Terri

    I second Meg’s comment re: if no back entry, the same elements are needed at the front entry. Most homes I’ve lived in had back entries off the kitchen, nowhere near the driveway. Of course, I haven’t lived in many homes with attached garages–except one early 1950s-built bungalow with the garage under the bedroom area, used only for storage. In that case, one would walk across the basement and up some stairs to the kitchen, so it was obviously not designed with much forethought to getting groceries inside.

    I agree withDoor both Meg and Paul — door swings are really important to consider. I think it may be very annoying to have to pull the door open into the garage area if your hands are full, yet I can see how getting whacked by an inward opening door is a real possibility if that door is placed in a traffic zone.

  • Paul C

    A couple of choices worth considering:
    1. Although there might be some security concerns one could include another exterior door into the garage. In this case the garage would function as a vestibule.
    2. The other option would be a exterior mounted keypad which activates the garage door opener. The dropped off children would be able to enter the code and open the overhead door.

    You are right with respect to the out swing door. It’s almost, six of one or half a dozen of another. Our last home had the out swing arrangement and we found it worked great. When we had much to carrying in (i.e. many loads) we simply braced the door open. Having it out of the way on the inside though was quite nice.

  • James Scott

    It would interesting to see how many people use the garage as an actual entry point, vs car storage, vs junk space. I’m considering demolishing my garage just because it’s a haven for stuff and takes up valuable yard space.

  • Ted


    A few random thoughts:

    I agree with Meg that the two entrances should merge. Why should the guests get a better experience entering the home that the people who live there? There should be some delight at entering your home at the end of a long day – not an obstacle course over the laundry.

    While I agree that most new houses are too big, the back entry/vestibule is the one are that is too small. The “what’s wrong with this house” houses have 500 square foot great rooms and 50 square foot back entries. A room that is about 12 x 8 gives space for cubbies/hooks, closets etc. Ideally, it should transition to a desk area for mail etc. before moving towards the kitchen.

    While we now have homes with large dedicated laundry rooms I still think the basement is not a bad spot for them (yes, I admit that I don’t do much myself). Washing machines do flood and you really should build a floor drain if you are going to have them upstairs. Laundry should not be the first thing you see when you come home.

    Lastly – whatever happened to the breezeway? Maybe because lots are much narrower now they don’t work but they can be a graceful transition from the garage to the house.

  • Frances Grant-Feriancek

    If you live with kids and/or pets in our northern climate the back entry is not only about stroage and traffic flow. The materials used must be able to withstand melting snow and salt. A stone tile floor that is not slippery when wet is a good start, tile baseboard or even carried part way up the wall is practical.
    Like Doug I think good back entries are rare. A good entry would offer a cupboard or shelf and hooks for each child.
    We have a claukboard calendar with three seperate cubbies hung in our back entry. Each child has a different colour on the monthly calendar to track their activities and the cubbies hold the important paperwork, permission forms, registration forms etc. It has been a great organizational and communication tool.

  • John Brown

    Great comments today.

    I want to go back to something that Doug said earlier about attached garages and indoor air quality. Garages are polluted places. Not only do they contain our cars, but also usually gasoline for our lawnmowers, pesticides, fertilizers, and paints. These are very toxic and noxious substances and the fumes can easily get into a house if the garage is attached. It is kind of like sleeping with your car.

    I also appreciate the number of comments that were made about the small size and poor layout of back entries in typical cookie cutter houses.

    Frances, you make an important point about cold weather entries (both front and back). The snow and ice issue is a big deal – particularly if you have a dog.