No Room For the Car?

My parents are building a new house, one that is large and complicated and may not be completed until the next presidential administration. In the meantime, they are renting a modest home, with many of their possessions in storage, many more stuffed into the house itself, and even more packed into the two-car garage.

I can remember well their last house, and its garage. This was a three-car garage, and the added space was meant to prevent the inevitable garage-bloat syndrome that so often affects this most utilitarian of rooms. The third car bay would hold the lawn mower, the garbage cans, and other stray lawn and garden implements, and there was even a handy shelf with some pegboard mounted over it.

By the time they moved, in 2004, the garage had become an almost mythical place, a mysterious cave where tools went to live in secrecy and solitude, hiding among the empty boxes and half-used bags of fertilizer and mulch. To attempt a foray into this jungle was to risk being sucked into the pool of quicksand which had also captured several rakes, some gardening shoes, a hose, and possibly a stray cat. I think my dad may have purchased seven or eight separate pruning shears, unable to find the last pair each time pruning season came around.

Their current garage, temporary though it may be, became, without even the benefit of time, a black hole deeper than the one they left behind. They can only park the cars in about halfway, and in the left-hand bay, they have to park at kind of an angle. They have now resorted to hiring a service to come and take care of the lawn since these people bring their own tools and no one has to go foraging through the piles and risk having a box of Christmas ornaments come crashing down on an unsuspecting head.

So as the new house crawls toward completion, one of the things I am encouraging them to consider is a garage organization and storage system. Much like the closet systems, such as California Closets, which produce and install prefabricated pieces that can be sized according to your closet, with accessories for storing different types of clothes and other items, garage systems employ wall-mounted racks and cabinets, to keep tools and other gear handy and easy to find. By employing the walls of the garage, and even the ceiling, as storage space, the floor can be kept clear for cars and other vehicles and allow one to actually walk around without having to climb over a mountain of boxes or, as I have done, clamber through the car itself to get to the other side.

GarageTek is one such system. After analyzing and measuring your garage, a GarageTek associate comes up with a computerized model of the space, which can then be used to show various storage options. The walls of your garage are entirely covered with TekPanel, a product originally used in retail stores such as JCPenney and Lord & Taylor. This lightweight, yet durable paneling allows various types of accessories to be hung from it in an almost infinite number of configurations. Racks, cabinets, shelving and other storage accessories clip directly to the TekPanel wall. The paneling is light-colored and glossy, making the garage area lighter and more light-reflective and a breeze to keep clean.

Overhead storage systems allow you to use the space above your head for long-term storage of little-used items. These create a large shelf space, almost like a loft, that is mounted to the studs in the ceiling. The shelves are generally made of sturdy wire mesh, allowing air circulation and a peek at what’s being stored up there. Many of these systems can be self-installed, eliminating some of the cost of other, more extensive systems.

There are also platform lifts that allow you to store a motorcycle or lawn mower or golf cart up to 60 inches off the ground, creating room for a second vehicle underneath it!

Barring a complete floor to ceiling remodeling of your garage, there are numerous stores and websites that carry modular storage systems made for or adapted to a garage. Rubbermaid has an entire line of organization products designed just for the garage, as does Coleman (yep, the same people that made your old camping stove), and even California Closets is getting into the game. Some products are freestanding cabinets, while others are brackets and shelves to be mounted on the walls. Mounting these, of course, requires a working knowledge of shelf installation which I, unfortunately, do not possess. I tried to put a drywall anchor into a wall stud recently, so I think professional assistance is the ticket for me.

Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or a sit-back-and-watcher, there are plenty of options for cleaning up that garage and creating a space that can give you unfettered access to your tools and equipment—and eliminate the need to dispatch a search party when Dad ventures out to find the weed whacker.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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