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How to Make the Most of Your Garage

Having a place to store your vehicles is great — but you’d be right in thinking that there are better ways to use your garage space. Whether you want to continue using your garage as a home for cars and trucks or whether you feel a conversion coming on, here are a few ideas for making the most of your garage’s potential.

Vertical and Overhead Space

The first step to improving the look and function of your garage is getting organized. There are countless resources online for decluttering and arranging the stuff in your garage to make a neat and tidy space, but perhaps the most important takeaway from any of these articles is this: Take full advantage of the vertical and overhead space. Especially if you are planning to continue using your garage as a shelter for your vehicles, you don’t have much floor space to speak of. Thus, maximizing your storage capabilities on your walls and near your ceiling is key.

There are myriad ways to use your vertical and overhead space efficiently, but here are some low-cost, easy-install options:

  • Pegboard. You can buy a wall-sized piece of wooden pegboard from your local home improvement store for about $20, and using different pegboard fixtures, you can store almost anything. If pegboard isn’t your style, you can accomplish the same with a large magnetic board.
  • Folding benches. If your garage is also your workspace, you should build some folding workbenches to collapse onto the wall when you aren’t at work.
  • Ceiling racks. Items you need infrequently, like holiday decorations or seasonal tools, can be stored well out of reach because you don’t need to access them often. Ceiling racks are great for this, keeping unnecessary items out of sight.

Insulation and Temperature Control

The next step toward making your garage a more livable space is insulating it against the elements. Most garages are unfinished, meaning you can see the studs in the walls and ceilings; perhaps only one layer of block or siding separates the inside from the outside. As a result, garages tend to get extremely hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, which can be bad for the items you store in your garage and make garage workshops non-functional during the high season.

Insulation reduces the temperature swings and effectively closes up any airflow that might be making your garage drafty or uncomfortable. Foam is the best for this space because it creates the most effective air barrier, but cellulose and fiberglass are other options to consider. While you’re at it, you might also install some kind of permanent temperature control, like a wall- or window-mounted A/C unit or heater, especially if you plan to work in your garage.

Flooring Upgrades

Flooring is the final step before you leap into fully converting a garage into a living space. Most garages have bare concrete, typically stained with oil, paint, grime and other substances that accumulate over the years. You can dramatically improve the look and feel of your garage by investing in higher-quality flooring, which makes the space feel more refined. Here are a few different flooring options to consider:

  • Paint. After cleaning your concrete exceedingly well, you can apply stain or paint to change the color. You need to use a stain or paint that is expressly made for concrete flooring, to ensure it endures.
  • Vinyl. Vinyl flooring is tough, so it will stand up to the wear-and-tear from vehicles and tools. You can choose interlocking vinyl tiles or a roll-out vinyl mat in nearly any color and texture.
  • Carpet. Carpet seems like a fussy flooring for the garage, but you can find heavy-duty carpets that are easy to power-wash clean. Plus, carpets add some warmth and comfort to an otherwise cold space.
  • Real flooring. If you aren’t going to use your garage as a garage or workshop, you might as well cover the floor in tile, wood or other flooring you might find elsewhere in your home. This will make the garage feel more like a real living space, not an afterthought addition.

Full Conversion

It is easy to convert your garage into a living space if you don’t much care about the outcome — but if you want your garage conversion to look seamless, you need to think seriously about how you want the room to look and function. You need to decide what the room will be before you start the conversion; otherwise, you could end up without many of the amenities you might later need. You will likely need to run electrical and even plumbing into the room, install windows and change the doors, finish the drywall and add decorative touches, like trim and paint.

For many homeowners, the garage is a secret shame. By prioritizing efficiency in your garage — and perhaps investing in a garage conversion — you can make the most of your garage space and prevent it from becoming a cluttered, worthless mess.

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