1. Perform triage. Ruthlessly review what’s stored in your garage. If you don’t use it, trash it or donate it to a resale shop. If it’s used elsewhere in the home, store it there. Categorize the items that truly belong: painting supplies, tools, sports equipment, garbage can and recycling containers. This will help you decide what kind of storage you’ll need. Chris Gruen of Surface Creations suggests that you clear everything out as you work and paint walls and floor before installing cabinets. “A lot of communities are deed-restricted, so if you can’t leave stuff in the driveway overnight, call PODS to drop off a container,” he says.
2. Climb the walls. Shelves and cabinets free up floor space. They’re great for paints, tools and potting supplies. Special clasps from the hardware store keep shovels, brooms and rakes flat against the wall. Bikes can hang on wall hooks. You can even install shelving above the cars. Carl Sferra of Slide N’ Hide Garage Closets calls it loft shelving. “Garages often have ceilings that are 10 or 12 feet high, so a four-foot-wide shelf at approximately eight feet gives you extra storage from one side of the garage to another.”
3. Size up the cabinets. Before installing cabinetry, measure for length and depth. The cabinets should be deep enough to hold the items you want stored, but not so deep that you can’t open the cabinet doors if a car is parked there. Jay Ackerman of Custom Garage Systems notes that a 12-inch-deep cabinet has limited use, so he normally does a 20-inch-deep cabinet on one side. “Keep the driver’s door side clear. Usually as you drive in, the door to the right or the front wall is good. If you have a passenger you can still let them out before you pull into the garage.”
4. Organize the bits and pieces. A pegboard above a workbench holds tools; outline each tool in position so anyone using it knows exactly where to return it. Gather like-minded items—such as gardening tools, camping gear and car wash materials—into boxes or plastic totes and label them. Likewise, place small items like nails and screws into plastic containers so you can find them easily. Specialized racks gather golf clubs, tennis rackets, sport shoes, baseball bats, rollerblades and other sports equipment.
5. Plan a workspace. A base cabinet with a countertop comes in handy for messy chores you don’t want to take into the house, such as potting plants or painting a picture frame. Don’t forget to install task lighting above the work area, perhaps under an upper cabinet for extra storage. Jay Ackerman, owner of Custom Garage Systems, notes, “If you’re doing a workbench area, check for an electrical outlet. It’s normally installed on the studded, front wall.”
6. When all else fails, add another storage area. If your garage is jammed with a riding mower, bikes and tons of garden supplies, consider installing a shed as their new home and reclaim your garage for the car. If your kids have left home but stored their belongings in your garage “for the future,” have them retrieve the items or rent a storage locker.
7. Make it wash ’n’ wear. A garage is subject to water and oil leaks and spills of all sorts, so it should be easy to clean. Cabinetry or shelving should be waterproof or raised above the floor. And speaking of the floor, use a dirt-resistant epoxy paint in any fashion color you want. New products have vinyl chips that adhere to the base coat and provide a handsome speckled finish much like terrazzo or granite. ”It cleans easily, looks beautiful and whatever drips out of the car, nothing will stain it,” says Gruen of Surface Creations, which specializes in the process.