Designing your own garage





Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Just think of how nice it would be to build a dream garage, just the way you want it. There are a lot of starting points for building a “dream garage.”


You may not have any garage at this time. Or you may have an existing attached (or detached) garage, either too small or utilized in a wasted manner, such as storage or shelter for your spouse’s car, leaving no room to restore your old LaSalle or Caddy. After all, what do you think garages were invented for? Depending on the size of your property, zoning codes, etc., you may have to expand your old garage or build a new one.


You may even win the lotto and be able to move to a nice acreage where you can build a garage or two just like you want. (After all, we are talking about a “dream” garage.)


If you are building, adding to or just remodeling, you should talk to other “old-car” people for suggestions and ideas. I guarantee you that you will get lots of advice and you would be surprised at how good most of it will be. None of us have ever talked to anyone who has already built a garage that did not say, “If I had it to do over again, I would have done this or that.” Or, they say, “I wish I would have done that instead of this.”


Starting with a few basics about your plans for a new garage, the first thing to take into consideration is size. This will only be governed by zoning restrictions, the size of your property and the size of your bank account. Build as big as you can afford, (usually a little more). One complaint you will never hear is “I made my garage too big.” After all, the larger you build it, the less it costs (per square foot, that is).


Once you have come up with the size you are going to build, make a sketch in pencil and plan as far into the future as far as you can, even though you know you are going to go only a step at a time as your wallet dictates. Anything that you even think you might want at a later date, plan for it now. After all, that is why they put an eraser on the other end of the pencil.


Figure out right away if this garage is going to be parking and/or storage, or a place for you to be restoring and tinkering with your old car(s), or possibly a combination of all of the above. You might as well figure from the onset that you will be working in it, because once you get the room, you will want to start a project. (Helpful hint: Wait until the garage is finished before looking for a car to buy.)


Figure in a ceiling high enough to install a lift sometime when you can afford it in at least one bay. Any excess attic area thus created can be utilized for a great storage place. After all, storage space is as important as workspace, and lack of storage space automatically causes less workspace. Down the line, when you realize how great it would be to have a lift and you decide to put one in, you will find that it is far too expensive to modify any existing structure to accommodate it. Of course, that leaves you with the only option of setting it up outdoors. (No fun).


When the shell is up, put in all the electrical service you get can get, or are allowed. Plan for a lot of lighting on multiple circuits and switches. Put in as many electric outlets (both 110- and 220-volt) on separate circuits as you can. You will be surprised at how many you will be able to use and how few turn out to be not needed at one time or another.


Good insulation is a must, even if you don’t put in heat. But why wouldn’t you put in some kind of heating system? On that subject, remember that the difference between overadequate heating versus not enough is only about 20 percent costwise. You can always turn down too much heat, but what do you do with not enough? (Helpful hint: Make plans for a swamp cooler at some future time.)


Plan ahead for a good-sized air compressor and permanent plumbing for air lines with shutoff valves at each outlet, with plans to use air tools and maybe even a sandblast cabinet. Don’t forget an air outlet outside that can be used in the driveway—little cost and big benefits. Along that line, a couple of outside electrical outlets can be real handy.


You can make your inside walls very versatile if covered with pegboard and it still won’t interfere with installation of cabinets or shelving, and will give lots of ways to hang tools, etc. One complete wall should be reserved for a workbench at least 24 inches wide, with a row of drawers right under the work surface and shelf space under that. You may even want to hang some small cabinets over the workbench.


The height of the workbench should be comfortable to work at standing up or sitting on a barstool. Shelving and cabinets around the other walls are always useful. Don’t forget a file cabinet or two for paperwork, catalogs, manuals, parts books, records, etc.


A refrigerator is nice and a small TV will help if you are in the doghouse for extended periods of time, or you may want to watch the Bronco game while working on your car. An extra chair or two should be around for the inevitable visitors once they find out you keep beer in the refrigerator and a coffee pot on the bench. We will talk later about tools and equipment.


I am sure a lot of you can let me know your own experiences and suggestions on building your own “dream garage.” A lot of mistakes were made on mine and it would have been nice to have luxury of profiting by other people’s misteaks as well as my own, because my Dad always told me I wouldn’t live long enough to make them all myself.


Let me hear from you and we’ll see ya all next month.