The garages in most homes are less than spectacular. In fact, a lot of them (including mine... excuse soon) won't even hold a car. They seem to collect all sorts of things, from Christmas decorations to sports equipment. All of that is in addition to tools, lawn equipment and the bulky stuff that won't go elsewhere.
But, most garages are pretty close to being back into 'show shape'. Here is a good place to start... Let's get started.
Step 1. Clean out the 'Not-Garage-Stuff'. Get the Christmas decorations up to the attic or down to the basement. Find a closet for the sports equipment. A shed for the lawn tools would help too, but not mandatory. The main thing is to find places for the stuff that really doesn't belong in the garage. Stop using it as a giant junk drawer. Priced from FREE to a few hundred bucks for a shed.
Step 2. Break out the paint. I'm assuming that you have drywall on the walls and ceilings. If not, that might be the next step. So, on to the paint. Don't do 'Contractor White'. Every house in the neighborhood was painted with Contractor White. If you want to set yourself apart, pick another color... While Ferrari Red might be really cool, it might not be the right choice if the rest of the house won't support it. Cool tones generally work well. I would say to pick a couple of tones of gray and be a little graphic. Ceiling White is cool, though. Priced from $25 to $100 depending on how much paint you need.
Step 3. Upgrade the lighting. This is really easy, and not very expensive. Most garages have a cheesy flush light fixture above each car bay. The quality of the light is terrible. Aside from there not being very much light, it seems like everything you need to work on is in a shadow. The easy solution is fluorescent shop lights. Because of their efficiency, two 4' fixtures with two bulbs can generally be used over each bay. This dramatically increases the amount of light in the garage, and cuts down on the shadows. In addition, another 4' fixure over each workbench would be a good idea. Priced from $40 to $100.
Step 4. The floor sets the stage. There are three main ways to deal with the floor if you want to make it better than the house next door.
- Epoxy - Great looking, can be fairly reasonably priced with a DiY kit. Prep is VERY important. Make sure that you don't have moisture coming through the slab before applying Epoxy, or it will blister off. The main drawback is that the floor won't stand up to heavy fabrication. Welding, floor jacks and stands can all chip the coat. But, clean-up of spilled oil or other chemicals is a breeze. It also seals the concrete dust.
- Floor Tiles - RaceDeck is the best known, but there are some other brands. They look great and can be used to add a lot of style with different colors and patterns. Their main drawback is the same as for Epoxy, except they are more prone to damage than a good Epoxy coat. However, they will allow the conrete to breathe if there is moisture coming through the slab, and will also let water drain through them to help keep the floor dry while working. Also, they tend to be warmer and softer to lay on while working under a vehicle. Jackstands have to be modified to not damage the floor.
- Polished Concrete - This will stand up to anything that the concrete will stand up to. And, if well sealed, will keep down dust and repel water, oil or other chemicals that might get spilled. Welding, floor jacks and stands are generally not a problem unless they chip the concrete. The biggest drawback to polishing comes with moisture. It can be REAL slick when it is wet.
A final option is a good old fashioned cleaning. One thing I would recommend is to sweep with a sweeping compound rather than just running the broom over the floor. It will actually pull dust out of the floor and may also get out some minor staining. Priced from $20 (sweeping compound) to a couple thousand dollars (professional application of epoxy)
Step 5. Storage and Workspace solutions. This is where things can get really cool really expensive and/or really creative. I've seen cool garages with kitchen cabinets foraged from curbs or recycled after a kitchen renovation. I have also seen some pretty cool garages from the catalogs of high end storage cabinetry companies. Let your budget be the guide... But here are some tips.
- Open storage is cheaper and easier to find, but closed cabinets will look WAY better and keep all of your stuff cleaner. They also tend to hold a little more stuff since you can attach racks and hangers to the doors to hold another layer of items.
- Drawers are better than doors. The stuff in the back of cabinets tends to disappear and get forgotten. It always seems like the item you need requires you to kneel on the floor and empty the entire cabinet. But, with a drawer... pull it out and grab what you need. If you end up with cabinets, bins are a great way to make more items accessible.
- In order to make cleaning and organizing easier, wheels are a wonderful addition. In addition to making the cabinets a little higher and easier to work on, being able to roll everything out of the way to clean, or re-arrange because of changing needs, can make all of the difference.
- Finally, remember that kitchen cabinets might not be ready to hold your transmission. Either build a seriously solid workbench for the heay jobs, or make some heavy modifications to stand up to the punishment. For a heavy bench, wheels might be impractical. While pounding on it, wheels would be the weaklink. You might consider making them removable.
It sounds like a lot of work, and Step 5 can be. It can also be the most expensive, but it is the thing that will not only really set your garage apart, but also make it much more efficient and pleasurable to work in. Pricing can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
Waiting until time to sell isn't going to pay back. If you are getting ready to go on the market, limit yourself to paint and lighting. But, the other steps can make your garage a much more pleasurable place to be... and might make it easier to park a couple of cars.
*My excuse. I have a project car strewn about my garage. If not, I could fit a minivan in the two car garage... maybe even the riding lawnmower, too.