Gearing Up for a Garage Overhaul

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garage makeover - before

As a residential organizer, there’s a very good chance that you may be called upon to organize a garage, particularly at this time of year. These tips from Home Depot’s Jay Harris will help you to develop a strategy and create a garage organizing system that’s right for your client and environmentally friendly.


Can you imagine trying to tackle a 400-square-foot junk drawer? That’s essentially what professional organizers face when clients call for assistance in their garages or sheds. These curious catchalls store everything from cars and lawn equipment to tools and toys, often with little rhyme or reason to how it all fits together.

Indeed, most homeowners simply shove things where there’s space, with no regard for safety or function, then just close the door on the whole matter. So what’s the best way for hired hands to help customers sort such diverse contents into appropriate categories and attractive containers? Here, I’ve outlined a three-step strategy for opening the door on a professional garage overhaul.

1. Remove

I like to work with a blank canvas, so my number-one task is to remove every item from the space and sort it into stay, go, and “good riddance” piles. The first two groups are relatively simple: Keepers must be in good working order and get used at least once a year; donations should take care of any duplicates, as well as items that haven’t been touched in more than two years. But in a garage, the “good riddance” group can be a sticky (slimy, greasy, mucky) business, because getting rid of busted lawn equipment and hazardous household materials means more than just hauling them to the curb.

It’s important to note that the EPA advises old gasoline-powered tools be recycled rather than resold (so as to prevent further environmental pollution). Plus, motor oil, paint, pesticides, antifreeze, wood preservatives, batteries, and many cleaners can’t be poured down the drain or dumped in the trash, since they can contaminate water sources.

I utilize the website for information on recycling centers and disposal sites for lawn mowers, batteries, paint thinners, PVC, auto parts, and a slew of other shed-kept goods. And it may be helpful to go into every garage job with a printout detailing local recycling practices and policies, which can be gathered from the department of public works.

2. Refinish

While certainly not necessary, if a client’s interest (and budget) allow, drywall, paint, flooring, and lighting go a long way towards a professional finish.

Underfoot, modular interlocking floor tiles create an appealing cover-up for cracks and stains on a standard concrete base. The flexible tiles from companies such as Tuff-Seal, Rubber Flooring, DynoTile, and Lock-tile are sold in a variety of colors, patterns, and profiles that stand up to oil spills and heavy wear.

And overhead, hanging shop lights provide focused illumination where your customer requires it, be it over a workbench or near storage cabinets. The ceiling also opens up opportunity for suspending power strips and retractable extension cords if wall outlets aren’t conveniently located for power tools, etc.

garage makeover - after

3. Replace

Along the walls, offer a variety of situational storage, including pegboards, open shelves, closed cabinets, hooks, and lifts. The versatile galvanized steel pegboard panels from Wall Control work with standard and slotted pegs, hooks, brackets, and shelves. And Gorilla Rack sells easy-to-configure metal-frame shelves.

For linear storage of larger items, turn to wall-mounted systems such as FastTrack from Rubbermaid or Geartrack from Gladiator, which hold an assortment of hooks for hoses, coolers, garden tools, sports equipment, and more. If your client possesses a great number of tools or often engages in DIY projects, a workbench or tool chest may also be in order. Store-bought versions (Craftsman’s a common and reliable brand) range from $100 to $600 and up. For bonus storage, think about bike lifts and ceiling-mounted steel shelving systems (like those from HyLoft) to raise plastic bins, ladders, and infrequently used gear such as that for camping off the ground.

Last but not least, be mindful of safe storage practices: Lock up paints and chemicals in their original manufacturer containers, so that warning labels can be clearly read. Separate corrosives, flammables, and poisons from one another. And keep flammable items far from heat sources and workspaces.

Have any of these suggestions proven useful for you in a renovation or remodel of a garage? Any other tips or extra insight?

Garage photos courtesy of Rubbermaid

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A Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs, Jay Harris offers home improvement advice to homeowners, ranging from room arrangement tips to the latest news on riding and zero turn mowers.

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  1. Avatar Margarita Ibbott ~ on April 7, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this blog post from Home Depot. I have to admit, I need to work on our garage when the weather finally gets better. Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on April 8, 2013 at 6:44 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Hopefully it won’t be long now before you can get out there and start working in the garage!

  2. Avatar Joe on May 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for the post. It s pretty amazing how much storage space you can get by using one of the organizer systems to utilize empty wall space.

  3. Avatar American Empire on July 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Nice tips, Janet. It’s not only amazing how much space can be gained by organizing a garage, but also how great the garage can actually look afterwards. –Ed @ American Empire Garage Doors

  4. Avatar Harry Anderson on September 19, 2013 at 2:39 am

    This is really true – I suggest everyone keep the area around the photo eye sensors clear, as well.

  5. Avatar Harry Barber on November 26, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Really helpful for newbie like me. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Avatar Elden Gatley on March 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    I agree that you should refinish your garage. No one enjoys being in a garage that smells like paint or looks grungy. And just such a garage will decrease your likelihood of organizing it, as well.

  7. Avatar Hazel Owens on March 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I like your tip about refinishing the garage. While the most important thing is cleaning the garage out to make it functional, making it look nice can add a lot as well. Getting new flooring, a new door, and a new paint job are things that can make your garage look like new. Thanks for the article.

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