By: Jill Hamilton
We demand a lot from our garages. We put them to work as tool sheds, gardening benches, sports equipment depositories, dumping ground for off-season holiday decorations and general go-to spot for everything that doesn't quite fit elsewhere in the house. Add in (maybe) room for a car or two, a couple of oily spots on the floor and a generous coating of dust, and most garages end up a cluttered, unorganized mess.
But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little pre-planning, lots of effort and an unflagging spirit, you can turn a room that's become the junk drawer for the whole house into a place that's an organized and even pleasant place to be. Here are some tips for a successful garage rehab.
Daydream and plan. What do you want the space to be? What does it need to be? If you don't need to park cars in the garage and have ample storage space elsewhere, it can be anything you dream up. Look on online for “dream garage” inspiration including home gyms, artist/crafter studios, micro apartments, play rooms, man caves, and home theaters. Or maybe you just want a clean place to park the car and store stuff. Or some combination of the above. Garages can work well as multipurpose spaces—such as a gardener's bench, a handyperson's workshop and the traditional car/storage combination.
Learn the rules. Certain alterations and upgrades may require building permits. Additionally, some changes may influence your property tax assessment. Find out what the laws are in your area.
Purge. Go through everything in the garage, sorting as you go. Be ruthless. Make piles for stuff to keep, things to give away or sell, trash, and hazardous waste like old household chemicals that require special disposal. Sort the “keep” pile into categories like sporting equipment, decorations and gardening. Those who need extra motivation can convince neighbors to do the same then hold a multi-house garage sale and/or split the costs of dumpster.
Calculate costs. Figure out how much you'll need for basic materials, new storage equipment and any upgrades. Specialized rooms may come with additional costs, like soundproofing for a band practice space or home theater, or extra electrical outlets and Wi-Fi for a home office or media room.
Clean. Wash windows, sweep cobwebs and wipe down shelves. Scrub, vacuum and mop. Cat litter can work to sop up oil spills or you might need a power washer. As you clean, note the locations of bulky electrical boxes or other infrastructure and the position of electrical outlets and any plumbing hookups that will influence what you put where.
Create zones. Delineate clear spaces for each use. Use different colors of paint, different types of flooring or carpet, and use screens, walls or half-walls to separate spaces. If you plan on parking a car or two, use masking tape to mark off how much space each car will take up (allowing ample room for opening doors and comfortable maneuvering in and out of the car.)
Store. Since storage space is at a premium, use smart storage solutions. Go vertical to maximize space. Hang bikes, sporting and gardening equipment from hooks. Put high shelves up near the rafters to store seasonal and rarely used items. Use a combination of shelves, peg boards, bins or whatever else will hold your stuff safely and neatly. Mesh bags work well for balls and odd sporting equipment. Plastic bins are better than cardboard boxes because they're less appealing to rodents. Clear bins make things easy to find, but opaque ones keep stuff more hidden away. Consider a wall, half-wall, screen or curtain to hide storage areas.
Make it livable. If using the room as living space, make it more comfortable with proper ventilation, insulation to keep the temperature stable, weather stripping around doors and windows, and a heating and/or cooling system.
Add the finishing touches. To make a garage seem less like a garage, put a coat of fresh bright paint on the walls. Try bold flooring like rubber floor tiles for a play area or use inexpensive carpet remnants for a teen hangout. Consider adding a window or two, skylights, a ceiling fan or French doors. Plug in a floor lamp to make a cozy corner or hang pendant lights over a work area.
Bolster security. Keep the doors and windows locked and the garage door closed when you're not around. Reinforce doors, put strong locks on windows and doors, and make sure the garage is connected with any home security system.