RECLAIM THE LOST ROOM
Drive up your home's garage appeal by giving it a complete overhaul. Manufacturers are rolling out new garage organizing options that can transform it from a catchall to a cleared car park, as it was intended, and much, much more.
"The garage can become a neglected space in the house," says Marc Shuman, president of GarageTek, a proprietary garage organizational company, based in Melville, N.Y. "And it doesn't take long to load garages with junk, to the point where it can be hard to park the car inside."
An attached garage door -- rather than a home's front door -- has evolved into the primary way families move both in and out of the house. This means that keeping the garage a clean environment can become a safety issue, especially with children and seniors.
"You don't want paint thinner, antifreeze and sharp tools on the floor where people or pets can get hurt," Shuman says. "The more you can get things off the floor, the easier it is to organize the garage."
GarageTek has been in business for more than a decade and has 60 domestic territories with four international franchises. Shuman implements strategies he learned in a previous job as a designer of department store interiors, and applied those same concepts to garage organization. Using a "slatwall" system -- which features grooved channels like store display walls -- modular shelving, hooks, bins and cabinetry can slide into place without using nails.
Although GarageTek sells individual organizational pieces, an entire GarageTek personalized system -- as deemed by a professional consultant -- can be completed in days, but can come at a price of up to $12,000.
For those homeowners who know how they want their garage organized, home-improvement warehouses now have expanded garage sections, with choices of modular workbenches and cabinets on wheels. And local hardware stores can still be an excellent resource, selling pegboards and vinyl-covered utility hooks, which can be used to hang bicycles, support shelving or large tools.
No matter the level of your garage upgrade, Shuman says the first step to any home organizational project is to clear away the clutter. That means donating outgrown sporting gear, disposing of unused hazardous chemicals and discarding broken items that will never be fixed.
After everything is off the garage floor, Shuman says the project needs to begin from the ground up. Badly broken concrete flooring may need to be re-poured, but creating a clean surface can be as easy as installing an epoxy floor coating or laying interlocking, reinforced polypropylene tiles, designed for heavy-duty garage usage.
"The tiles come in many colors, so you can visually place them on the garage floor in the shape of a rectangle, to show where parked cars go," he says. "You can also have stops for tires placed on the floor, so drivers know where to park when pulling vehicles into the garage."
After shedding items from the garage, Shuman encourages homeowners to think of the space in terms of a department store layout. "One reason a garage can get cluttered quickly is that it can have many uses -- a gardening shed, sporting goods center, workshop with tool bench and storage unit," he says. "Figure out how you want the space to work and divide it into zones to organize like items together."
Working zones in the garage can include:
-- Tools -- Start with a tool bench to anchor the space and add tool chests, incorporating heavy-duty tools safely into the space. Mount most-used tools onto the wall or into easily accessible, clearly labeled drawers or cabinets.
-- Automotive -- Store motor oil, coolant and filters together in a cabinet that's out of the reach of children or pets.
-- Sports Center -- Ball-handling skills are easily practiced when bins are affixed to the wall. Hang up everything from baseball bats to golf bags and skis, with individualized lockers for each child as an option for personalized storage.
-- Lawn and Garden -- Rolling bins can store potting soil, mulch and fertilizer. For the homeowner with a green thumb, a potting station can anchor the space with gardening tools mounted on the wall.
-- Storage -- You only have to look up to create even more storage opportunities. Garage ceilings can vault up to 14 feet, which means a permanent platform, storage track system and hooks can be installed to keep items off the floor for good.
-- Trash/Recycling -- This zone should be close to the garage door, since these items will be brought curbside at least once a week.
A garage can be an open door into the family that occupies the home, says Shuman. "No organizational system can be successful if it is overloaded with useless items," he says. "People want inside their homes to be clean and safe, and now they are realizing that the garage is an extension of the home. How the garage looks and functions conveys a message about the rest of the home."
GarageTek, www.GarageTek.com, 866-664-2724
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