Free up the garage

19 Nov 2013

By Jacqueline Simoneau | CAA Touring | Winter 2013

The inside of your garage looks like a scrapheap on a bad day. There’s not even enough space for a stroller, let alone a car. The item you desperately need is hidden beneath piles of junk. The time has come to reorganize.

First, tackle the contents and make three piles, keep, donate, and toss. Once you’ve cleaned up the mess, sort the items you want to keep into different categories (sports equipment, DIY materials, tools) for easy identification and retrieval. The next step is crucial: Prepare a space that’s orderly, practical and multifunctional. Make sure that your reorganization plan incorporates all current and future needs. What’s your budget? Do you plan to keep your car in the garage? Will you need additional storage space? Would you like to have well defined areas for various activities such as gardening, DIY projects and auto repairs?

Coating the concrete floor Before installing a storage system, consider coating the concrete floor with a sturdy product. The market is awash with choices. Among the most efficient is one that combines polyurethane and polyurea. It’s flexible and resistant to stains, scratches, chemicals, UV rays (won’t yellow or fade), scuffs and hot-tire marks. It’s seamless, odourless, durable, easy to maintain (water and a broom are all it takes) and available in several colours. The cost – including material, preparation and labour – is around $6 per square foot for a garage in good shape. Note that the product is sold only at stores specializing in concrete-floor coating.

Surface preparation is just as important as the coating application to ensure proper adhesion. First scrub the concrete slab with a diamond-blade sander to eliminate all traces of grease, oil, paint and dirt. If the surface is inadequaly scrubbed, the coating will scale, and its lifespan will be reduced. Next, fill any holes and cracks with a flexible polymer gel, which won’t crack in case the slab moves because of sudden temperature changes.

The floor is now ready to be coated. Spread the polyurethane with a trowel then use a roller to ensure a uniform coat. Next, scatter vinyl coloured flakes over the entire surface to reinforce the coating and make it slip-resistant (the vitrified surface can be slippery if wet) – plus the flakes will give the floor an appealing terrazzo look. Finish off with a coat of polyurea. This clear coating will seal in the vinyl flakes, provide a shiny finish and more importantly, long-lasting protection.

A word of advice: Have  the entire job done by a professional – you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.

Storage systems You can hire a professionnal garage organizer – a trend that has become increasingly popular – or do it yourself, selecting storage systems adapted to your personal needs. Options include a wide range of products in various shapes and dimensions designed to optimize space down to the tiniest nooks and crannies. So shop around and visit showrooms.

A winning strategy: Free up floor space by maximizing wall and ceiling space. Store large and seasonal items (Christmas decorations, tires, chairs and other deck accessories) in bins that can go on ceiling – or wall-mounted racks. Make sure that brackets are secure and strong enough to support the weight.

Most wall-mounted storage cabinets are made of steel or melamine. Steel cabinets are usually prefabricated, and thus pre-assembled. Steel is solid, resilient, moisture – and waterproof. For strong, sturdy cabinets, choose an 18-gauge thickness. Melamine cabinets are practical when space is limited. They are sold in standard shapes and sizes, but can be custom-made to suit your requirements and your garage configuration. Choose good-quality melamine – the high-density thermo-bonded kind, for example – which won’t warp and can withstand dampness and temperature fluctuations. And make sure that the cabinets, wheter steel or melamine, have adjustable shelves and that the drawers are solid enough to hold large and heavy items. Some melamine cabinets can be hung on a wall-mounted track system, allowing you to move them around as needed – a handy idea when space is at a premium.

Cabinets not directly affixed to a wall stud must have adjustable legs. Experts generally recommend a six-inch clearance (15 cm) between floor and equipment to allow for easy cleaning. If you plan to keep your car in the garage, then arrange the storage units so as to leave enough room for getting in and out of the car and for moving around it without causing any damage.

Also practical are wall organizers using perforated panels – or steel grids – along with hooks, brackets, baskets, bins and shelves. they are ideal for hanging items too cumbersome to fit inside cabinets – for example, sports equipment, tools, and gardening accessories like rakes and shovels.

And don’t forget that indispensable feature of every garage, a workbench for do-it-yourself projects, gardening chores, even cleaning. Workbench countertops are usually stainless steel or laminated maple generously coated with catalized lacquer. Stainless steel is sturdy and rust-resistant, but scratches easily. Wood is less resistant but the finish can be restored with sanding and a coat of varnish. It’s helpful to mount a grid over the workbench to keep your tools within easy reach. The grid is also useful for hanging baskets and different-sized containers that can hold nails, screws and other small items.

Finally, you should install a hose reel and wall-mounted brackets for your tires.

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