Ramseys: Turn your drab garage into a multipurpose area

Barbara,Clair Ramsey

Whether you rent or own, the problem is the same -- what do you do with all the extra stuff? Where do you store the camping gear, the lawn and garden equipment, Costco overflow and kids' toys?

If all the extra stuff ends up in your garage, without adequate storage everything gets strewn all over. It would be like trying to work in a kitchen without cabinets. The garage has become the most abused, under-utilized and ignored area in the house. How many friends brag about their kitchen or bathrooms but apologize for the mess in the garage?

This winter, move the garage up higher on the "honey-do" list by creating a multipurpose area. Here are few ideas to think about.

First, consider paint. Many garages have never been painted and still look unfinished with visible Sheetrock seams. Much like winter snow brightens dark Alaska nights, a fresh coat of paint will make the garage interior brighter and reflect the limited light usually found there. If you feel adventurous, put a touch of color in the paint mix.

Next, consider adding more lighting. At minimum, change out the single porcelain light fixture that typically came from the builder for a four-foot fluorescent fixture with two or four bulbs (depending on how much ceiling space you have). Once that's done, you can see where else light may be needed.

Now look at your storage needs. The first step is to choose a style. Will your storage be metal or wood? Open shelves or enclosed units? Custom-fit or free-standing?

The style also determines price. For minimal costs, think about deep, open, standing shelves. A good size to consider is a 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide, open unit with adjustable-height shelves. For even more versatility, consider purchasing casters for easier movement without having to take everything off the shelves.

The cost increases with enclosed units but these will definitely make your garage look more uniform and organized. Material can range from molded plastic to metal. Add a coordinating workbench and tool chests to create a work area with additional storage. Think outside the box by using the tool chest for hobby or similar items. To give the space more personality, magnetic graphic panels are available but we haven't checked the cost. Examples of these full storage options can be seen at Sears, Home Depot and Lowe's.

Remember to try to use all walls and the ceiling. Ceiling storage has a lot of options if you have unobstructed space and enough height. Overhead units can be manual or motorized, and can be for specific purposes (bikes or kayak storage) or platform style for versatility.

To organize your storage space, get see-through boxes to store items. This gives you an idea of what is inside without opening each box. Tubs come in a variety of sizes for easy stacking but remember to measure what sizes you will use (leave a extra little space for your hand to slide in to get the box) before you put the shelves together. Tubs can also be easily labeled with masking tape to give you a general idea of the contents.

As things are sorted and boxed, divide your new storage area into zones. For example: lawn, car, sports, and household items. This way when you are looking for something, you don't have to go through every box.

Finally, consider putting an epoxy coating on the garage floor. The epoxy resin is durable and makes cleanups easy, while the epoxy chips add a splash of color. Do-it-yourself products are available but we have heard application is not as easy as it seems and results have been mixed.

So if you are tired of feeling storage-challenged, take some time this winter to create a more organized space out of a usually unorganized area. This will help you now by making your garage more usable, and will also help when you eventually sell your property. A more organized garage gives prospective buyers a hint of the care taken in the rest of the house.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Daily News. Their e-mail address info@ramseyteam.com.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey