It’s Time to Tackle the Garage

Days spent at home have moved even the most muddled people to organize. The spice rack now displays alphabetically ordered bottles in neat rows. The closet has sections for formal and informal wear, subdivided by season. Pots and pans are arranged by type, the silverware drawer is a model of organizational excellence. But the garage is still overflowing with who-knows-what, piled here, there and everywhere. Time to organize.

It’s best to attack the garage early in the day, so you can temporarily store things outdoors while you work. Arm yourself with a number of empty trash cans and trash bags and get to work. After moving vehicles out onto the driveway, dig into the piles of junk and valuables. Weigh the worth of each item ruthlessly. If your garage is overflowing with years of accumulated stuff, you can assume much of it is useless. (Not having used something for years qualifies it as useless.) Discard things no one could possibly want and bag things someone else might want for a later garage sale or donation.

Containers of garden supplies and automotive chemicals that are near empty or whose expiration date has passed should be discarded, as should paint cans containing remnants left over from a remodel of years ago. Most of this will have to go to a hazardous-products waste site. Ditto old tires and car batteries. Some municipalities host hazardous waste days for drop off, while most metro areas have at least some waste-disposal sites that are accessible year round.

Before you begin returning your keepers to the garage, do a thorough cleanup of the briefly empty space. For the floor, use a product meant for cleaning oil-stained concrete and work it in well. If you have a power washer put it to use here. If not, work in the cleaning solution using an old broom and rinse with a garden hose.

An epoxy garage floor coating can dress up your space, and now would be time to apply it if you choose. It looks good, wears well and resist stains. However, shiny coatings can be slippery when wet. Most require 24 hours of drying time before they can withstand foot traffic, and vehicles will have to remain outside for several days. Figure several hundred dollars in materials if you epoxy-coat a two-car garage floor yourself. Having it done professionally costs about $1,500.

Because vehicles occupy the center of most garages, look to the walls, ceiling and perimeter to store the things you decide to keep. Shelving is a good place to start. If some of the things you’ll be storing on shelves are heavy, a sturdy steel unit is a good choice. This type of shelving is available from many online suppliers in a range of sizes. A heavy-duty four-shelf unit, 77-inches high by 72-inches wide, runs about $200. For that price, makers claim that the shelves will hold up to 2,000 pounds. If you don’t plan to store heavy equipment, lighter-duty shelving can be found for less than $100. (And used is even cheaper.)

Store products on the shelves in an orderly manner. For example, you might designate one section for garden products, another for automotive needs, a third for electrical parts, a fourth for painting supplies and a fifth for cleaning products.

Many of your tools and toys can be stored out of the way on the walls and ceiling. A variety of hooks, racks and shelves meant to be installed in garages are available.

Hooks installed in ceiling rafters are great for hanging bicycles, particularly those that are rarely used, but getting the bikes up there is no easy task for all but the young and strong. Use two hooks, one for each wheel if you want the bikes to hang high and out of the way. You can hang a bike with its front wheel on a sturdy single hook, but if it’s not right next to a wall it will be in the way.

Wall-mounted bicycle racks are easy to install and may allow for locking of the bike, but they don’t conserve as much space as a ceiling mount. Typical wall racks sell for about $90. A sturdy wall-mounted hook and a bungee cord or cable looped through the front wheel gets the job done for peanuts.

Rails meant to store large tools can be screwed into the garage’s wall studs. Some are fitted with clamps that hold a broom, spade, hoe or rake. Other rails are equipped with hooks that surround the tool’s handle, keeping it in place against the wall. Odd-shaped tools like lopping shears can also be hung from the rails.

Ladders and light garden appliances like fertilizer spreaders can also be hung on the wall using stout brackets or hooks.

Garages are typically built with one or two ceiling-mounted light fixtures meant for single incandescent bulbs. They provide little light, rendering the space dark and gloomy.

Until just a few years ago, garage owners desiring better illumination would install a multi-bulb fluorescent fixture in place of each single-bulb lamp. That provided much better lighting. But fluorescent bulbs are not a sound environmental or financial choice and some are no longer available.

You could replace them with an LED-tube light fixture, which would provide more light and use much less energy. LED tubes usually last 20 years or more. They are more expensive than fluorescent tubes but pay for themselves in energy savings.

But an LED cluster fixture is a simpler solution, because it can be screwed into an existing single-bulb socket.

The fixtures are fitted with hundreds of tiny LED bulbs on three or four cast-aluminum heat-sink panels. Each panel can be adjusted to direct the light (they are often known as deformable fixtures). You can buy them in versions from 60 watts up to 160 watts, and makers say a 60-watt LED fixture is four times brighter than a 60-watt incandescent bulb but uses no more energy.

The fixtures sell for about $15 to slightly more than $50. The most powerful and expensive models come with a motion sensor that can detect movement and switch the lights on and off.

All the better to show off your newly organized garage.

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