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Upgrading Your Garage Workshop

Tips for building the best workbench for auto and small engine repair. Build a grease gun holder and add a central vacuum system to your garage.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

The always-clean workbench

This sheet metal workbench cover is the first upgrade I made to my garage, and it's one of the wisest investments I've ever made. (Well, it beats my two wedding licenses anyway.) It's easy to clean (just squeegee the oil into the gutter and drain bucket), and it's heavy duty enough to handle heavy car parts. All it takes is some measuring and sketching and a trip to a sheet metal shop or a local HVAC shop and steel yard. The whole thing assembles in less than an hour and costs less than $300. Skip the steel decking if you wish, but it does prevent the top from denting and provides a more solid work surface. I paid $180 for the top and $92 for the 11-gauge (1/8-in.) steel plate (cut to size and then whacked into thirds for easy transport).

Jack and jack-stand holder

Haven't you tripped over your jack stands enough? Build this brain-dead–simple storage rack and get them off the floor. If you have a lightweight floor jack, add mounting hooks under the holder. Screw a 2-in. PVC coupler onto the side of the rack and a 2-in. cap on the wall near the floor for the handle.

Grease gun holster

A grease gun is big and, uh, greasy. So don't slime up your drawers or cabinets with it. Slice up a few sections of 1-in. and 3-in. PVC pipe and screw them to a plywood backer to make this slick grease gun holder. Then slap up a 2-in. coupler and cap to hold a backup tube of grease.

PVC drawer organizers

When you're right in the middle of a project, you don't need to waste time pawing through drawers looking for tools. So keep frequently used tools neatly stacked in your workbench drawer using this handy setup. Cut 1- or 2-in. PVC pipe to length. Glue on end caps and then slit each pipe in half on a band saw. Screw them to the drawer bottoms and load them up!

Central vacuum for the garage

OK, I admit it. This setup is overkill. But once I got the vacuum mounted to the wall, it just made sense to run inexpensive 2-in. PVC all over the place. That way I didn't have to drag the 35-ft. hose all over the garage. Buy adapters to connect standard plumbing PVC to the vacuum (central vacuum fittings are 2-in. O.D., while plumbing fittings are 2-in. I.D.).

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Miter saw
    • Cordless drill
    • Caulk gun
    • Drill/driver, cordless
    • Table saw

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 3/4-in. plywood
    • 1/8-in. steel plate
    • drywall screws
    • 26-gauge custom fabricated sheet metal cover
    • 2-in. PVC pipe and fittings
    • PCV adapters

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 9 of 9 comments
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July 24, 12:06 AM [GMT -5]

Ditto on some more detail on the work table with metal top.

July 24, 12:06 AM [GMT -5]

Ditto on some more detail on the work table with metal top.

March 19, 4:48 PM [GMT -5]

Alec: It should do just fine if you shut off the unused ports. Gate valves do well for this.

March 19, 4:45 PM [GMT -5]

In the "Central Vac for the Garage" piece; Should you run a static strap inside the PVC?

January 20, 10:03 PM [GMT -5]

I don't think the jack is hanging. Just a holder for the handle so its secure.

June 07, 10:07 AM [GMT -5]

Fine article, except if you don't have all this equipment ect. what would it cost$

June 07, 12:55 AM [GMT -5]

Can anyone give me some idea as to the size shop vac needed for the garage vacuum system? I have a Rigid brand shop vac, has done great on all of our demo and construction jobs, but not sure it will be strong enough for a central vac in the garage.

Thanks in advance for any advice with this.


June 06, 11:48 PM [GMT -5]

I'd like to see the details for assembling the "sides" and gutter, and drain assembly.



June 06, 10:27 PM [GMT -5]

watch out for haning your jack. some jacks don't care for that and will leak...

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