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Tips for Organizing a Garage

Posted on September 5, 2017 at 7:25 PM

If your car is out on the street because there's no room for it in the garage, it's time to get organized. Here are some tips and tools to make it happen. 

Safety First: Learn the best ways to store that hazardous stuff we all keep in the garage: the chemicals, the paint cans and pesticides.

Chemicals are the No. 1 danger. A lot of people keep pesticides, paints and auto fluids, often in old food containers, which can leak and cause fumes, burns, respiratory problems and fire hazards. Always store such substances in their original containers and out of reach of children, on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. Chemicals that are poisonous to pets are a huge problem. Road salt and ice-melt mixtures can get on the paws of cats and dogs and cause diarrhea and vomiting. Antifreeze, in particular, is highly dangerous and can be fatal. It has a sweet smell that attracts pets; as little as 1 tablespoon can kill a cat; half a cup can kill a dog. Be sure to wipe up any spills immediately, and keep antifreeze out of reach for children, too.

Gas grills often are stored in the garage, complete with their propane tanks. Propane is highly combustible, and when the propane leaks, it's a gas. You can't see it, but it can hover over the garage floor. One spark of static electricity or the flick of a light switch could cause an explosion. Anything with propane should be stored at least 10 feet away from the house. 

Kids' toys can be a hazard if they're not stored properly. First of all, they should be kept well away from chemical clutter, and they should be up off the floor. Not too high, though; you don't want the kids trying to reach them by standing on wobbly boxes. Use bins for small toys and balls. 

Ladders can be a hazard just leaning up against a wall. That may seem like the logical way to store a ladder, but it can tip over very easily, damaging your car or injuring a loved one. Lean it against the wall horizontally at floor level, or, even better, store it on hooks.

Gardening tools should be stored vertically on secure hooks attached to the walls so they're easy to get to when you need them and they're out of the way when you don't. 

Extension cords used in the garage should always be rated for outdoor use, even though technically you're using it indoors. There is just too much chance of moisture on the floor in a garage, so don't take any chances.

Doors and windows in garages usually don't get the same attention as those in house. However, the door should have a professionally installed deadbolt; the doors and windows should be kept locked.

Smoke detectors also need the same attention you give the ones in the house. Be sure to change the batteries twice a year. 

Unmarked stairs are an accident waiting to happen. Even if you have only one or two steps, put a strip of white or reflective tape on the edges so that people can see them, even in dim light. 

Rugs or tarps under a car to catch leaking fluids may keep the garage floor clean, but it also becomes a fire hazard. Get rid of it, and soak up the spills with cat litter or sawdust. If the stains have already soaked into the floor, try oven cleaner to remove them. Let it soak for about 15 minutes, then give the floor a good scrubbing.

Garage floors need some protection, too. Install matting or rubber tiles. They extend the life of your concrete floors, and they give your garage the look of a showroom.

Clearing the Toy Clutter

It's easy to control clutter if you remember that the four walls of your garage are actually four more floors. With the right shelves and hooks, you can actually quadruple your storage space. 

Sterilite makes a collection of some of the sturdiest plastic storage products available. One of them is a shelving unit that can be assembled in about 30 seconds; each shelf will hold 50 pounds. It only costs about $30.

Storage totes are great because they hold everything and they keep it all dry. If you have kids or pets, though, drill a hole in the tote. If the kids are goofing around and get stuck inside, that hole will be a very good thing.

The cabinets are great for storing anything toxic. You can lock the doors to keep the kids out of it. Also look for modular units that make storing toys easy and fun. 

Rubbermaid has a system called the Fasttrack System. The track mounts horizontally on the wall with screws; the system has a variety of attachments for hanging hoses, tools, even bikes. You can adjust the hooks whenever you need to very easily.

E-Z Ancor's Tornado hooks have a pin in the back that acts as an anchor in drywall. You put the screws in with a Phillips screwdriver; they'll hold 30 pounds. If you hit a stud, the hook will hold 70 pounds.

Going Green in the Garage

Instead of shopping for a bunch of bins and boxes, create storage out of things you already have. It's the green way to store stuff. 

Old jars get a new purpose as storage for screws, nails and other small items. Use a screw or two to attach the top of the jar to the underside of a shelf. Fill the jar with whatever, and screw the jar onto its top.

Pegboards are another storage classic. They're great because you can see everything; the tools aren't lost in a drawer somewhere. If you want, you can draw the outline of the tools on the pegboard; that way, you can tell at a glance if one is missing and could be in use building a tree fort.

A metal bow rake that's lost its handle can gain a new life in the garage. Remove most of the handle, drill a pilot hole through the remainder and screw it to the wall. It's perfect for hanging your garden tools. 

Old metal garbage cans can get recycled, too. They're great for storing bags of soil and fertilizer — a great alternative to piling them up in the corner. Drill some holes in the bottom so that the nutrients in the soil or fertilizer can "breathe." Otherwise, they can go rancid. 

Old tires can go green, too. It's not something you can do yourself, but tires can be turned into rubber mulch. It's a little more expensive, but it lasts for 10 years or so, and it doesn't fade. It won't wash away, either; it's heavier than regular mulch. 

Some manufacturers also make garden hoses out of old tires, too, and they're less expensive than new-rubber hoses.

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