Garages are great places to store tools and other items you don’t want to store in your home. The problem is, too soon the garage becomes a place to toss items you plan to sort out later but never do.
Old paints and other substances can easily get pushed to the back of a pile, not to be seen again until the dreaded day you just have to “clean out the garage,” when you discover that can of paint that is so old it’s no longer usable. A storage system is great for keeping things organized and easy to find. It keeps your garage from becoming so cluttered that you no longer have room for your vehicles.
It also eliminates the need for a huge cleaning job except for occasionally sorting through items to get rid of things that you no longer need or substances such as paint or yard chemicals that have aged past their usefulness. If you’ve ever plowed through a stack of items to find that one thing you need at the moment, you know how useful an organized system would be.
Five Tips for Choosing Garage Storage Systems
- Evaluate your needs. What do you plan to store in your garage? How much extra space do you have besides your vehicles? Are there any seasonal items that are stored only part of the year such as bicycles, grills or snow blowers that will need room? What items need shelving and what can be hung up? Do you need to leave room for dirty boots and jackets that will be removed before you enter the house?
- Measure your space. When planning storage, take into account all the things that shouldn’t be obstructed. Windows and garage door tracks are obvious, but other things such as faucets, light switches, timers and anything that needs to be in reach should be taken into account. It would be helpful to make a sketch of the room, indicating all these things and their location so that you don’t find that your shelving unit is blocking an electrical outlet you really need. You may also want to include some extra lighting, especially if you want to include a workbench.
- Evaluate your inventory. Go through the items you plan to store in the garage. Take note of the general weight of most of the items. Now is a good time to get rid of any outdated or degraded yard chemicals or paint or the like, or items that you really no longer have a use for.
- Determine what kind of storage goes where. You’ll want to assign some wall space for hanging yard tools such as rakes and hoes. You may also want a workbench along part of a wall. Will you store hand tools in a cabinet or hang them on a pegboard on the wall within easy reach of the workbench? Are you going to consider some sort of overhead storage?
- Determine what kind of units you’ll need. Do you want an enclosed cabinet to lock up power tools to keep them away from kids or protect them from thieves? Do you need the more expensive garage grade shelving systems for heavier items such as auto parts or cartons of nails or can you make do with the cheaper storage grade shelving?
What Should You Not Store in Your Garage?
Too often, the garage becomes a catch-all for anything you don’t want in the house or things that take up too much room there. However, not everything is suitable for garage storage. There are several things that should not be stored there.
- Paper products – Storing important papers or photographs in a garage is definitely not a good choice. Books as well can suffer. Your garage will be damp at times, especially with the seasonal temperature fluctuations. Your papers may develop mildew and other problems, and your photos will degrade, especially older ones. Silverfish and other insects are attracted to paper, while some beetles feed on the starch in book backing.
- Pet food – If you have large dogs and large bags of dog food that go along with them, you’ll be tempted to store the dry dog food in the garage. However, you’re really just issuing an invitation to the neighborhood rodents to come to visit if you do so. Rodents can and will easily chew through paper and cardboard and even some plastics if they smell something tempting on the other side. You also may invite insects, such as moths and various beetles that feed on the grain in the food or lay eggs so their larvae can feed. You could open a bag some morning and be greeted with a swarm of moths flying up into your face or see a bunch of tiny beetles crawling through the food. If you just have to store the food there, use a metal or heavy plastic container that seals firmly.
- Clothing items – Clothing and other fabric-covered items such as sleeping bags can develop all sorts of problems in a garage, such as moths and mildew. Fur and leather goods especially will suffer in a garage. Old rugs or carpet scraps likewise won’t do well in a garage for long.
- Electronics – The dampness and temperature changes inside a garage are definitely not good for any electronic gadgets. If you don’t have any use for that old boom box anymore, consider donating it. If it still works, it won’t work much longer if it stays for any length of time in a garage.
- Propane tanks – These are usually safe, but if there should be any leak in your enclosed garage, even starting your car can cause a fire. These are best stored outside in a place that won’t get very hot. Likewise, any old rags used to wipe up oil or chemicals should be disposed of, not stored. Some can actually start on fire spontaneously under the right conditions.
- Home-canned goods – You might think a garage shelving unit will be the perfect place to store home-canned food, but no matter how well the canning process has worked, these are not impervious to spoilage. The metal lids can rust with the garage’s moisture, spoiling the food. Canned food should be kept between 50 and 70 degrees F, which means that garage storage is out. This is one reason old homes with free-standing garages usually had indoor pantries.
How Do I Organize My Garage Storage Bins?
Plastic bins make great storage in your garage, especially if they are put on shelves and properly labeled. They are great for seasonal items. You can use individual shelves to make use of odd spaces, use shelving units made for storage bins or even build your own units to fit your spaces.
Utilizing shelving is much better than just stacking the bins. You won’t have to move bins around to get to the ones on the bottom. Another great idea is to use wire bins or baskets on the shelves. They can also be attached with wall hooks. These allow you to see exactly what’s inside and are easily slid off shelving.
Units featuring wire baskets are also available. Seasonal items are also the perfect thing to store overhead. It’s fairly easy to build a track system that allows you to hang plastic bins by the top lip, allowing them to slide in and out.
A 2 x 4 with hooks attached to wall studs is the perfect solution for yard tools. Rakes, hoes, shovels, brooms and the like can be stored this way, keeping them from being accidentally kicked and knocked over and just generally taking up floor space. Many yard tools now come with plastic hanging holes at the top for just this purpose.
While pegboards are a great way to hang smaller tools, if you have a lot of heavier tools to get out of the way, you can attach hooks directly to your studs through your wall surface. You can also attach horizontal wood strips to hold your hooks. Even your corner spaces can be used by building a few triangular shelves to hold smaller things such as spray cans and jars.
If you plan to have a workbench, there are several ways to make use of the space underneath. Additional shelving can be built or cabinets with drawers for your hardware. If you really want to show off, you can put wheels on your drawer units so that you can wheel your hardware collection wherever you need to use it.
Pros and Cons of Using a Garage Storage System
Each type of garage storage has its limitations. Shelving units are a real time-saver, making it easy to find specific items, but if you have a lot of heavy items, such as car parts, you’ll need the heavier units, which can be expensive. Free-standing shelves are handy to fit into odd, unused spaces, but have weight limitations.
Cabinets allow things to be kept out of sight or even locked up. Some cabinets are designed to withstand fire. However, they have limitations on how much can be stored inside and the sizes of items that can be placed within.
Pegboards are popular for hanging hand tools such as different size wrenches. However, there is a limit as to how much weight they can hold. A heavy drill or electric saw, for instance, eventually can put enough weight on its hook so that it wears down the peg hole, eventually making it hard to get it to stay put.
Not hooking a tool properly can lead to a fall, especially if something bangs into the board. If the pegboard is not installed properly, the whole thing can eventually come down. Wall hooks for hanging yard tools are handy as long as they are installed out of the way of foot traffic. Banging your ankle on a hanging hoe is not fun.
Can I Install the Storage System Myself?
Most storage systems in your garage can be installed by almost anybody. Free-standing individual shelves are fairly easy to install. Shelving units are made so that they can be attached to the studs in the wall. Pegboards likewise are fairly easy to install. Most cabinets are free-standing and just need a bit of help to move into place.
The only system you may have a problem with are those that attach to the ceiling. These come in various forms. Some are wooden shelves attached by a framework to the ceiling. Others consist of tracks attached to the ceiling that hold plastic bins that slide in from the top lip.
Are Overhead Systems a Good Choice in a Small Garage?
Small garages are a good place for an overhead system. Floor space is limited, and wall space may be also. You don’t want a wall full of shelving if you have to squeeze sideways around your car to get anything or risk damaging your car if you should happen to knock something down. Most garages have a lot of usable space on top.
Of course, if you have a pitched roof and some attic space, you can put in an attic floor and make space that way, but there are overhead storage systems that take advantage of the space just beneath the ceiling. You can build your own shelving or buy some pre-made. There are stationary as well as adjustable shelves.
There are even overhead racks that can be raised and lowered so you don’t have to drag out a ladder. If you don’t have much floor space, investigating various overhead storage options can be a real boon.
Choose a time when your vehicles are inside your garage, then take a good look at what spaces might be available for storage. Even if you don’t have a lot of floor space, you might assign one sidewall or the back wall to be used. It can be fun to plan storage and see just how much storage you can comfortably fit there and what kinds.
Even the corners can be used, and an odd space can be filled with narrow shelving for small cans and jars. Things that stand around for half the year might well go above into overhead storage. Draw out your space on paper, then play around with the available options. You might be surprised at how much organized space you can make for your things.