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Making over your garage

If you can't park your car in the garage or have trouble finding it when it is parked there, your garage could probably use an extreme makeover.

Less is more when it comes to your garage. Start your garage makeover by clearing the clutter.

Empty the garage and get rid of toys, tools, sports equipment and other stuff that you don't need or haven't used for more than two years. Convert your clutter into cash by selling it at a garage sale, swap meet or flea market. Or donate your stuff to a local church or charity.

Organize what's left by installing shelving, cabinets and organization systems for anything and everything.

But first comes finish.

If the interior of your garage consists of bare studs, consider using the opportunity while it is clear to finish the space and make a few other key improvements. It would be an excellent time to add electrical outlets or lighting. Keep in mind that electrical outlets in a garage must have a ground fault circuit interrupter. Remember, too, that a permit will likely be required when making these improvements. Check with your local building official.

If there is attic space above your garage, now would be a good time to consider installing a pull-down staircase to utilize the space for storage. Before you go pulling out the chain saw, consult an engineer to determine if structural upgrades are needed before "stressing out" your roof or ceiling framing. Also, be certain that your attic stairs comply with fire prevention codes as there must be a continuous fire barrier between the garage and living space.

You can improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your garage by adding attic and wall insulation.

After the wiring and insulation are complete and have been inspected, wallboard can be installed. Wallboard provides a smooth and uniform surface to which shelving, cabinets and other organization systems can be attached. And with a bright coat of paint, it can improve available natural or artificial light.

Though fire taping is standard for garage wallboard, you might want to go the extra mile and finish it as you would any other room in your home. Prime the raw wallboard with a drywall sealer and finish it with a coat of acrylic latex with a washable finish. A fire-taped finish is all that's needed for walls that will be covered by cabinets or other organization systems.

With the walls and ceiling complete, the floor finish is next. Although the floor can remain raw concrete, a finish will make the space easier to clean and will prevent damage from snow melt and other corrosives. Options for floor finish include coatings, tile and roll-out rubber mats. Epoxy is the most durable coating.

Steer clear of latex paints that are "guaranteed not to peel." Latex paint and hot tires don't mix -- no matter what the sales pitch.

Rubber mats are easy to install, but don't offer seamless protection. Plastic and quartz tile look great, are virtually indestructible, and are easy to clean, but can be pricey.

Next come cabinets. When installing cabinets, be certain not to cut into space that will allow you to garage your car. (Who knows, with all the extra space you'll have, you may even decide to park your car in the garage. What a novel idea!)

Garage cabinets come in all shapes, sizes and levels of quality. They can be custom built, are available in standard sizes or can be purchased assembly-ready at most home centers. There are two major mistakes that people make when it comes to garage cabinets. The first has to do with the thickness of the shelving. In our opinion, anything thinner than three-quarters of an inch is too flimsy. The other mistake is overspanning or overloading a shelf to the extent that it sags. A wood or metal edge at the front and rear of each shelf can greatly improve its carrying capacity and prevent sagging.

Want your garage cabinets to last a long time and make washing out your garage a breeze? It's simple -- don't install the cabinets on the floor. Hold the cabinets up off the floor about 4 inches. This can usually be accomplished by hanging the cabinets from a cleat at the cabinet back just as you would upper cabinets in your kitchen. To do this successfully the cabinets must be solid and they should be securely fastened to wall studs.

Besides cabinets, other means of improving storage include freestanding shelving, ceiling hung storage "lofts" and an assortment of storage accessories that attach to peg board or grooved paneling.


James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

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