Sooner or later, most homeowners decide they’re ready to take on a renovation project. We tend to think about renovations in terms of bathrooms, kitchens or possibly living areas. The truth is, you can renovate any part of your home that seems to need it. Often, the area that needs it most is the garage.
Garage renovations are more common than you might think, and they can really pay off – both in terms of your day-to-day life as well as the value you get when selling your house.
Before embarking on a garage renovation, make sure you’re going about it wisely.
Here are seven things to think about before remodeling your garage:
- Are you turning your garage into a room, or keeping it as a garage?
- How will you use the space?
- What kind of storage solutions do you need?
- What about the aesthetics?
- Can you handle the project on your own, or should you call in the pros?
- How much will it cost?
- What will you do while the remodel is happening?
Are You Turning Your Garage Into a Room, or Keeping It As a Garage?
Fundamentally, you’ll need to decide what you’re going to use the space for. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to decide they need an extra bedroom or living room and can live without a garage. Thus, they convert their garage into a proper room. That’s one way to go, but you may also decide that you just want a nicer garage, with better storage options in addition to space to keep a car.
How Will You Use the Space?
Even if we assume you’re going to use your garage as a garage, there are still some important decisions to make about how the area will be utilized. Will you keep your vehicle in the garage? Lawn equipment? Many people want to be able to keep overflow of household items that don't fit in closets or the basement in the garage, like holiday decorations. The garage is also a popular location to set up a workbench area for hobbies or home improvement work.
What Kind of Storage Solutions Do You Need?
Most garages are used primarily for storage, and sometimes that might mean upgrading your shelving. This is especially true if have you a lot of items to store, and need to take advantage of the vertical space the garage offers. Consider any shelving upgrades that need to be made in order for you to achieve your garage renovation goals. If you are remodeling your garage to sell, the more storage solutions you have available, the more attractive it will be to buyers.
[Read: How to Winterize a House]
What About the Aesthetics?
It’s not unreasonable for you to want your garage to look presentable, especially if you have plans to sell your house any time soon. As such, your remodeling effort might mean painting the walls, replacing the floor or even having a new garage door installed.
Can You Handle the Project on Your Own, or Should You Call in the Pros?
Depending on the scope of your garage remodel, it may or may not make sense to handle it on a do-it-yourself basis. Certainly, if all you’re doing is reorganizing, perhaps painting the walls or adding some shelves, then you can probably do it on your own. For something as ambitious as a garage door installation or a room conversion that requires insulation and new walls, you’ll likely want to recruit a professional renovation team. Be sure to work with contractors who have experience doing the kind of work you need.
How Much Will It Cost?
Any time you renovate your home, cost is going to be a factor. Hopefully, you’ll recoup your investment when it comes time to sell your home. Regardless, be sure you get some reasonable estimates about the anticipated expense, and that you have your payment ready to go.
What Will You Do While the Remodel Is Happening?
If you have a remodeling project that takes more than a day or two, then you’ll probably need to find space to temporarily keep all the items that are normally kept in the garage. Your car may have to stay in the driveway, a lawnmower and other yard tools may have to stay on the back patio and more fragile stored items should be brought into the house. This can present an inconvenience, and while it’s not an insurmountable issue, it’s definitely something to think about before your remodeling effort is underway.
Take a second look at what you keep in your garage or basement.
For many homes in the U.S., a basement or garage tends to be the catch-all for seasonal or forgotten items that may be useful at some point down the line. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans can’t even fit their car in the garage due to clutter, according to a 2015 survey by Gladiator GarageWorks, a garage storage and organization company. But before you let this sometimes-forgotten space become the final resting place of just about anything and everything, consider the items that shouldn’t find their way to these parts of your house because they may get damaged, attract pests or potentially be a safety or health hazard. Here are eight things you shouldn’t store in your basement or garage.Propane tanks
An extra propane tank for your gas grill can be convenient to have on hand, but never leave it in an enclosed space. If the tank were to leak, gas in the air that's near your car, a furnace or an electric panel could be disastrous. In addition, should a fire break out in either space, the indoor location of a propane tank could lead to an explosion. “It could cause damage to the home, it could cause damage to other property and worst of all, of course, is that it could present risk of injury to people in the house,” says Jim Taylor, head of claims compliance, quality and customer experience at Farmers Insurance. A propane tank should be stored outdoors on a flat, stable surface and far from open flames, like a fire pit.Natural fabrics
Storing your winter and summer clothes during the off-seasons is a great idea to save space in your closet, but the basement or garage may not be the best place to keep bins of clothes. Humidity levels tend to be higher in the basement, since it's underground, and garage, which typically isn’t heated or cooled like the rest of the house. When dealing with fabrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point to the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, which notes that cotton and linen fabrics can begin growing mold at 80 percent humidity and 92 percent humidity for wool and silk. Store your clothes in a linen closet or under your bed in boxes.Furniture
Wood furniture will warp in humid conditions, and upholstered furniture can mold when the humidity is high. Not to mention, a cushioned couch or chair that no one’s paying attention to can become the perfect spot for rodents to build a nest. If it’s a piece of furniture you hope to use again, it’s best to keep it in a location where it’s least likely to suffer damage. For any item you’re planning to store in your basement or garage, Taylor recommends considering: "What could potentially happen to that item and the consequence if it does [get damaged].” If you don't care what happens to it, the furniture is better served being donated, given away or sold online.Refrigerator
A second fridge makes sense in the basement, but keeping it in the garage could cause issues. Refrigerators, unless made for outdoor use, can’t handle extreme hot or cold temperatures and can break down in the peak of summer or winter. To keep a refrigerator in your garage, you’ll need a refrigerator garage kit, which prevents the freezer portion of your fridge from thawing out, or you can purchase a specially designed fridge for extreme temperatures. Frigidaire and Summit Appliance both make fridges that are designed to last through cold winters and hot summers in a garage. The right fridge can be as cheap as $350 for a small model or beyond $1,500 for a full-size outdoor model.Important papers and photos
Important papers and photos
Items like your birth certificate, passport, marriage license, medical records and family photos are best stored in a secure location, like a safe, to keep them from getting into the hands of nosy visitors or burglars. In addition, these important items should also be kept where the chance of water damage is as small as possible. While replacement of your personal documents may be covered in your homeowners insurance policy, it can be hard to protect your identity if the original copies get into the wrong hands.Leftover paint and cleaning products
Leftover paint and cleaning products
The garage or basement may seem like the perfect place to keep the extra paint from when you redid the kids’ bedrooms, but it can potentially be another fire hazard when stored in the areas that hold anything that runs on gas. Should your dryer or electric panel start a fire, the flammable chemicals could easily cause the fire to spread faster. “I would absolutely encourage people never to store flammable materials in a basement or garage,” Taylor says. To get rid of chemicals you don't have room to store, search online for the nearest hazardous waste location or inquire about the next neighborhood waste collection event.Extra firewood
Woodpiles are a natural haven for rodents, insects and spiders, which is why you should always store extra firewood away from the exterior of your home. But bringing firewood into the basement or garage won’t just invite pests to hitch a ride indoors. Higher humidity levels in those spaces may also make it more difficult for the wood to properly dry out to be ready to use in the fireplace. Wood kept in a humid spot is useless for a fire until it’s able to dry out. Keep your wood pile toward the back of your property, away from any structures. A tarp on top will keep the rain off, but leave the sides exposed for air to flow through the pile and allow the wood to dry.Candles, wine and other temperature-sensitive items
Candles, wine and other temperature-sensitive items
The temperature fluctuations from season to season have a greater effect on places in your home that don’t have the same climate control as the rest of the house. While you may not spend enough time in the garage to notice how hot it is in summer, some of your items stored there will. Wine, electronics and candles can be affected when they endure extreme temperature changes. Taylor recalls how he and his wife left a box of candles in the garage after moving to Arizona. By the time they went to unpack the box, “It was basically a big ball of wax,” he says. He also notes that most homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage to items from temperature fluctuation.Read More
Haas’ team advises homebuyers and sellers on how to make the most of their experience by connecting them with the optimal agent partner for their needs. With over 10 years of experience in the real estate industry, including previous roles at Zillow and Auction.com, Haas is an expert on the ins and outs of home sales.