As a city dweller, I don’t have the luxury of plentiful garage space. Regardless, when we bought our townhouse, I was able to upgrade our standard two car garage to maximize its efficiency. I did a lot of research before getting started and discovered there are two types of resources out there, professional companies that come in and makeover the space or how to cheaply DIY. So cool, I can either fashion some wrench dividers by hand with two paper towel rolls, a glue gun and some pipe cleaners OR I can pay some overblown closet company 10K to put up some useless cabinets and cluttered shelves. Ugh. Where are the solutions for the rest of us?
My process went something like this: I made a list of the things that I knew we’d want most. That list included, more lighting, more convenient power and a floor surface that didn’t require a truck load of kitty litter should I happen to spill some oil (or MT fluid, God forbid).
Storage obviously needed to be a thing but what exactly am I storing? I don’t have lawn equipment but my HOA won’t let me store the gargantuan trash and recycling cans outside so I’d have to give up some space for them. I also have more Christmas decorations than is reasonable. Beyond that I wanted to make sure that we’d have space for a tool chest and some kind of rack to keep an extra set of wheels.
This made my “must have” list pretty clear
- The floor had to be refinished with a non porous material
- Plentiful but out of the way storage for non car related things
- Rack to hold another set of wheels
- Convenient space for tool chest
- Plentiful and conveniently located power outlets
- Extra lighting
Everything else was an add on. I did gray epoxy on the floor and blue and gray walls with a chair rail to protect the wall from when my kid inevitably swings the door open too hard. I considered putting a beer fridge in but my hubs and I are more inclined to drink bourbon so it would have been a waste of precious space for us.
Now that I knew what I wanted (half the battle for us females, ya know), I figured out what I could do myself and what I wanted to hire out. I’m no slouch with car and home projects but I know my weaknesses and I know that I don’t need to be working with power tools lest I lose a digit. Time was a big factor so I ended up hiring a handyman for the bulk of the work. (I reno’d the garage as an anniversary gift for my hubs while he was away on a business trip). The handyman did the epoxy floor, installed extra power outlets and light fixtures. I had one outlet installed on the ceiling in between where the two cars would sit and a hook for an extendable extension cord for an underhood light. They also built and installed shelves and my tire rack. All in all, I spent about 2K.
Our garage works great for us, but I may have done things differently if I’d been able to have a more objective look at what options were available. Since I couldn’t find information all in one place on the interwebs, I’ve made a Garage Renovation Guide for you that incorporates options, pros/con and tips and tricks so that you can determine what will work best for you.
Doing a garage renovation might turn out to be a lot of work but it shouldn’t be a complicated project. There are a few big choices to make before you start out though:
|Type of Flooring||Price Point||Pro||Con|
|Sealant||$||CheapMakes concrete non-porousEasy DIY||Needs to be reapplied after a few yearsNot good for high traffic areas|
|Epoxy||$-$$||Non-PorousProtects against drop damageCustomizable colors/textures,Holds up well in high traffic areasCan last up to 5-10 + years before reapplication is neededEasy to clean||Installation takes a while and requires dry weatherLots of prep work Best if professionally installed as there is a risk of bubbling and discoloration Can flake over time|
|PVC Mats||$-$$||Relatively inexpensive No prepEasy, no tool installationAvailable in a variety of colors and designs||May require adhesive to keep the corners from coming upCan move or shift over timeNot stain resistant Holds water|
|Containment Mats||$$-$$$||Good for climates that experience a lot of snow and rainEasy to clean with a shop vac||Can shift and rip By design, these mats keep water/fluids off the garage floor using an elevated edge, this is obviously cumbersome when working on your car|
|Diamond and Coin Tiles||$$-$$$||“Floating” floor that can be moved to a new location if needed Easy to clean Provides some cushion and noise reduction No downtime for installation (can install and drive on it the same day)||Needs border and transition pieces Not Stainproof (although some manufacturers have a stain guard available for additional purchase)|
|Ribbed Tiles||$$$||Water flows through giving you a dry surface to walk on (helpful in lots of rain and snow) You can take the tiles with you when you move||Needs border and transition pieces Small screws can fall in between the ribs and get lost Spilled fluids will go straight through and stain the concrete Concrete below still needs to be sealed|
As mentioned before, I did epoxy in my own garage. I had it “professionally” installed by the handyman I hired. In hindsight, that was a poor call. He didn’t have any more experience than I did. Over the last few years it has indeed flaked, faded and gotten some damage from hot tires. It still looks decent enough though (I’d say 6/10) and functions fine. It does what I care most about – makes it easy to clean oil spills without significant difficulty or staining.
For contrast, I got some feedback from another car enthusiast that went higher end with his garage reno. For flooring, he opted to use diamond tiles from RaceDeck. Here’s his experience: “Install was easy, took about a day. I paid about $6 per square foot. I love it, the floor looks good even when it’s dirty. I pressure wash it about twice a year and scrub the areas that have been stained. It never comes back to looking like “new” but it’s decent. I would choose this again. I love the fact that you can pull it apart and take it with you. I imagine it will last forever as it doesn’t really seem to wear.”
- If you do the epoxy floor – No matter how long the instructions say to let it dry/cure, give it longer. You’ll be pissed if you give up your garage for a whole weekend and pull in the car only to have the heat from the wheels rip up all your hard work.
- If you decide to go with tiles, price shop and don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer to price match the lowest price you’ve found.
- Think about the weather. Will the floor expand and contract with heat and cold? What will the surface be like in rain and snow?
Tools and Equipment
|Jack and Jack Stands||$-$$||Cheap, easy to find You don’t need to move the car to lift it Great for tight spaces||Unstable Can damage your car if you don’t lift in the correct places|
|Race Ramps||$$||Come apart for storageBetter angle for lowered car Easy to get the car lifted Can handle lots of weight Lightweight and portable||Can’t remove wheels Ramps can slip on certain surfaces (ensure you’re placing them on a surface free of debris and oil stains) Takes up valuable storage space (even though they come apart for easier storage) Can be tricky in tight spaces|
|Scissor and Portable Lifts||$$$||Excellent access for light maintenance, tire rotations and brake jobs Good for garages with low ceilings Hydraulic for easy lifting||Lifts enough to get a creeper under but not enough for any major workCan get unstable from front to back especially if you’re removing the engine No good for vehicles with low ground clearance Can lift unevenly if hydraulics start to fail Not for heavy use|
|Kwik Lift||$$$||Portable, drive on lift gives you 20” of lift from the tires (not frame) Good option for vehicles with low ride height Sturdy, level work surface Lays on the garage floor so you can park right on top of the ramps (so no storage issue) Portable Has a bridge so you can remove wheels||Still requires a jack if you want to lift up the back of the car About the same price as a portable lift|
|Installed Lifts||$$$$||Heavy capacity Can hold up to heavy use Should last a lifetime for home use||Most require 12 foot ceiling height and 10-12 feet of width to install Needs to be bolted to 4-6 inch thick concrete Maintenance required to maintain the hydraulics, ropes and rollers|
I would have loved to have put a lift in our garage but that just wasn’t an option for us at the time. We use Race Ramps. Of course, we still had to buy a decent jack and pair of jack stands as you can’t remove the wheels with the ramps. I’ll take the redundancy for a safer alternative when we do need to get underneath the car for oil changes and the like.
If you’d like to know what it’s like to go through with installing a lift in your garage, here’s a summary of a fellow enthusiast’s experience:
The first thing done was to have a professional modify the garage doors from 2 doors to a single door and move the mechanical opener from the ceiling to the side of the garage door. This type of wall mounted opener is commonly called a Jackshaft opener. Once the garage door mechanism has been relocated, you’ll have maximum clearance for the lift.
The lift installed was a MaxJaxxM6. You have to drill 10 holes through the floor of your garage (you can rent a rotary drill from home depot if you don’t have one) and then anchor the posts to the floor with the provided bolts. Having had one of my vehicles on this lift, I can attest that it is indeed very solid and feels safe.
Once the lift was installed, the hero of our story decided to move the hydraulic hoses that go from each pump by wall mounting both pumps as to clear the space on the ground. This was done by purchasing longer hydraulic lines from Northern tool and running the hoses across the ceiling. The big win here is that there is nothing to get in the way, but the downside is that he now needs to bleed the lines regularly to remove air and prevent the lift from raising unevenly. He says he bleeds the lines every 5 times the lift is used and it takes about 5 minutes. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it for you.
- Add epoxy to the drilled holes for extra stability.
- If you have any doubt about your ability to install a lift properly, hire a professional. It’s not worth your safety to be cheap.
So many companies have come out with products that aim to help you organize your garage- they range from mild to totally wild.
There’s a lot of different options out there for wall cabinets, countertops and drawer setups. They are available in wood, metal and plastic. What you choose will depend on how much you want to spend and how polished a finish you are looking for.
For inexpensive wood cabinets, you can check out IKEA, Wayfair and Home Depot. Just consider the moisture levels in your garage before choosing this option.
For plastic cabinets, check at Home Depot, Lowes and Amazon.
For metal cabinets you’ll find some value at Uline, Northern tool and Granger (industrial supply).
There are companies that make specific cabinets specifically for garage applications. One such company is Newage. A fellow enthusiast has installed their “bold” series and has this to say about them:
“They were well constructed and of high quality. They were easy put together (just handles and feet, etc.). Wall mounting for uppers is easy (if you have help but that’s true of any hanging cabinet). My biggest complaint about them is that they need more shelves. I ordered more but I thought they were overpriced. Despite that, I’d buy them again for the price, quality and function. I’d also recommend swapping out the feet with casters.”
Hanging Storage/Wall Shelves
This category of storage is where you have the most options. You’ll find things like peg boards, bicycle storage and hooks and racks for yard tools. Here are a few interesting products I’ve found.
The internet is full of unique storage solutions for everything imaginable. I’ve found solutions for golf bags and other sporting equipment, fishing poles, power tools, ladders, paint and chemicals . Whatever you’ve got that you need to store, chances are there’s a product you can buy to help you store it. If you’re a DIY kinda person, Pinterest has a plethora of ideas ranging from borderline genius to absolutely ridiculous for your perusal.
One to the best DIY ideas I’ve seen is to install a table that folds out from the wall. Think murphy bed except a countertop- ideal for tight spaces. I was going to include this in my garage project but ditched it last minute to save money. Kinda wish I had just done it though. It would be so much nicer to have a flat surface to work on at waist level (and not on wheels).
There are some great options out there for shelves that hang from the ceiling. I like the ones from www.saferacks.com and this one from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Overhead-Garage-Storage-Rack-Organize/dp/B0845L4K7Q.
Obviously, proper installation is going to be super important so that your stuff doesn’t fall on your car.
Oh, if you can do ceiling racks, there are some that work on a pulley system so that you can raise and lower the shelves as well as a few mechanical one that will lower with the push of a button. Feel free to geek out as much as you want to.
A few more bits of advice:
- Everyone wants things organized but don’t spent so much time trying to make things so perfect that your system becomes cumbersome. The last thing you want is to extend the amount of time you are spending on a project by meticulous tool or material organization. Keep it simple.
- Don’t hang things on the ceiling if there’s a bathroom or kitchen right above. Leaks can cause a big problem.
- Think about how your garage is likely going to be used before picking storage solutions. You don’t want things you need to access at regular intervals on a ceiling rack that requires you to move a car and get out a ladder each time you need something. If you have kids, make sure you solution for bicycle and sport equipment storage also works for them or they’ll be useless.
- Take weight capacity seriously.