For most of us, a garage is a lot
more than a place to park. We
use it to build big projects, we
load it up with everything from Hot
Wheels to Harleys, and sometimes we
party or just hang out with the guys
there. And for all these purposes, you
want more than the basic four walls
and a roof. You want to make your
garage a better place to work and play.
So we teamed up with our field editors
to show you our favorite garage features.
Whether you’re planning your
dream garage or just looking to improve your old one, check them out!
Storage trusses are cheap
In addition to the normal garage stuff, Ken Collier
has tons of camping gear to store, so when
it came time to build a new garage, he wanted
to make good use of all the space. He discovered
that substituting storage trusses for
standard roof trusses would open up the
attic space without breaking the budget.
Upgrading to storage trusses on a 24 x 24-
ft. garage would only raise the price about
$200. Storage trusses have a wide-open
area in the center, about 12 ft. wide for a
truss with a 24-ft. span, and a 2x6 floor
frame that's designed to support the extra
weight. If you need more storage space in
your garage, storage trusses are a no-brainer.
Attic trusses are pricey, but they add tons of space
Ben learned a lot about what features his new
garage should have by talking to friends and
relatives. One of the best decisions Ben made
was to upgrade to attic trusses.
Attic trusses cost about 2-1/2 times what a
standard truss costs, raising the price on a
about $1,600. But
that’s a bargain considering you’ll
have a full-size room ready to wire,
insulate and finish. Attic trusses for a
24-ft.-wide garage with a steep roof
pitch would provide a room about
16 ft. wide. There will be plenty of space for an office or workout area.
The simplest way to the attic
Many of our field editors
suggested adding a
pull-down attic ladder
as one of the cheapest, easiest garage
upgrades. You’re more likely to take
advantage of the storage space in
your garage if there’s an easy way to
get up there. Most attic ladders fit
between 24-in. on-center trusses so
you can install them without any
structural changes. Search online for
“attic ladder” to see what’s available.
Prices start at about $150 for wood
ladders or about $250 for sturdier
Tall doors prevent Great Goofs
Every month we receive at least one Great Goof letter from a
reader who strapped something to his roof and wrecked the
garage door. So when our set builder, Joe, built this new extra-large
double garage, he wanted to be able to drive in with a load on top of the
van. This meant installing an 8-ft.-tall garage door rather than the more common
If you decide to install an 8-ft. door, you’ll have to build the walls at least 9 ft.
tall to accommodate it. But tall walls are better anyway. They allow you more
room to maneuver 4 x 8-ft. sheets of plywood and 8-ft.-long boards without hitting the ceiling or breaking lightbulbs.
Weekend mechanics love warm floors
Tom Kapikian was looking for a DIY-friendly
heating system for his new
garage. He was tired of crawling
around on a cold concrete floor to
work on his car and wanted a system
that was quiet and efficient. He
decided to install a PEX radiant infloor
heating system and loves the
PEX tubing carries warm water
through the slab, where it releases
heat, warming the floor and garage.
Since the floor is warm, you can keep
the heat set at a lower level and still
feel comfortable. Materials for a DIY
in-floor heat system cost about $2 to $3
per square foot. A professionally
installed system costs about twice this
much. And you don’t need a boiler.
You can use a conventional water
heater or an on-demand water heater
as a heat source.
To insulate the tubing and prevent
heat loss through the slab, you install
sheets of rigid insulation board under
the tubing and around the edges of the
slab. And of
want to insulate
the garage walls, ceiling and overhead
door and pay close attention to sealing
air leaks around all the doors and windows
too. For information on
installing and purchasing in-floor heat
supplies, go to pexsupply.com.
Shed dormers add second-floor headroom
Tighe Belden knew he wanted space on the second floor for an
office, but local building codes restricting the height of the roof
were throwing a wrench into his plans. His solution was to add
shed dormers. By carefully planning the size of the dormers, he
was able to meet code requirements and still get plenty of headroom
on the second floor. Incorporating shed dormers in your
plan allows you to gain some of the benefits of a second floor—
more headroom and extra windows—without the added hassle
of a full second floor. Unfortunately, you can’t just throw up trusses, though.
Consult an architect or structural engineer to help work out the framing details.
You’ll probably end up hand-framing the roof, but don’t worry. It’s not that hard,
and you’ll gain a real sense of satisfaction from building it yourself.
Don't forget the AC
Many of our field editors
garage air conditioning.
A through-the-wall AC
unit is a good choice
since it doesn’t block a
window and you can put it wherever
Air conditioning in a garage may seem
like a luxury, but there are a lot of
advantages. Our field editors like the
fact that AC reduces humidity, which
helps keep their tools dry and rust free.
Use the dimensions provided with the
unit to build the opening in the wall.
Add a header over the opening, just like
you would if you were putting in a window.
Also add a separate 20-amp circuit
for power to the AC.
Make your garage a drive-through
When Kristin and her family decided
to build a new garage, they had a
list of cool ideas to incorporate.
These included lots of outlets, slat
wall rather than pegboard on the
walls, and a 220-outlet just in case.
But the neatest idea was the second
garage door in back so they could
park the boat trailer out of sight in
the backyard. Plus, there are other
benefits to a big back door. For
dusty woodworking operations,
you can’t beat the flow-through
ventilation provided by two big
garage doors. And if you're planning
a backyard get-together, you
can open the back garage door and
turn your garage into party central.
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Put in a subpanel now— or regret it later!
Lots of field editors told us that their
biggest garage mistake was not installing a
subpanel. Lots of others said including a
subpanel was the best move they made.
The reasons are pretty simple: more power
and more convenience.
If you want to use your garage for a
shop or plan to install air conditioning or
other power-hungry appliances or tools,
you’ll have all the power you need. And
it’s more convenient to have the circuit
breakers in the garage. If you pop a breaker, you don’t
have to run to the main panel to reset it. Plus, you can easily
add more circuits without having to run wires all the
way to the main panel.
It’ll cost you a few hundred dollars more for the load
center, circuit breakers and heavy-gauge wire that runs to
the main panel. But for convenience and future flexibility, it’s hard to beat a separate panel in the garage.