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CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 9:40 a.m.

I have a 70 year old house that was built with a tiny, cold, damp, cricket-filled garage. You'd think that with the size of the boats driving around in the 40's and 50's, any garage built around that time would be sized large enough to contain one. No such luck. This is a 9'-5" x 19' garage with moldy cinder-block walls and a poured concrete ceiling. It's pretty standard for this suburban Maryland neighborhood, though.

This past winter I decided I was done with crouching above a little electric heater in 20 degree weather to put my Porsche 944 race car engine back together. Not one more evening like that.

There are plenty of pictures of the garage on my Porsche 944 Track Toy Build Thread here in this forum, but typically, there was more time spent making a path to walk in than actually wrenching... Or looking for parts and bolts and pieces. Or cleaning up stuff I knocked over. It was an inefficient operation.

So I paused my current "build" (my recovery from two consecutive 944 engine failures, actually), and got out my checkbook.

My objectives:

  • make the space suitable for all-season work
  • reduce condensation on parts and tools
  • re-wire with enough outlets to support bench tools and HVAC
  • better lighting
  • some sort of flooring or coating for insulation
  • reduce dust from the concrete floor
  • have enough storage shelves to get most of the crap off the floor areas
  • have more ways to hang stuff on the walls
  • have a place for everything and everything in its place (HAHAHAHAHAHA)

The plan:

  • Replace the old noisy wooden door with weak springs with a new insulated garage door.
  • Install 2x2 furring strips on 24" centers everywhere
  • Install a new 100W subpanel to support new lighting, quad outlets, door opener, HVAC, and my welding circuit.
  • Spray insulation between the furring strips 
  • Install a mini-split heat pump
  • Install recycled-rubber floor tiles

I started this out at the beginning of the COVID thing, but plans for it had been in the works since the first cold snap in November. So I had to do this while socially distancing from contractors and helpers. We managed, and all the crews were very responsible and professional.

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 9:52 a.m.

I had drawn an electrical plan as well. The plan survived for the most part (for better or worse).

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:02 a.m.

The first step was having the garage door replaced.

But first things first: clearing out the garage! Fun!

This was cleared enough for the door installation, at least. All the stuff went to the screened porch above it.

Eventually everything came out, and I put a good amount on pallets under tarps in the driveway just outside the garage.

The garage door installation was really smooth, and so was its operation when they were done!

They relocated the opener to the left side of the garage, so that I won't ever hit my head on it again. That was a fantastic thing that I didn't even know was possible. Eventually I removed that little angle bracket at the bottom middle of the door because it would cut me up when I hit my head on it. I couldn't see any purpose for it other than to lift the door manually.

It's quieter, smoother, insulated, sealed, and far more attractive, in this beholder's eye.


CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:06 a.m.

Next step was to build out the walls for insulation with 2x2 treated furring strips.

Actually, in these pictures you can see the electricians have been here too. That's a new subpanel there in the middle of the rear wall. The ample LED lighting makes it so bright! That was a huge improvement.

Each one of the 2x2's is anchored really securely into the walls and ceiling with substantial anchor bolts. I've always struggled with choice of fasteners so I left that to my pro in this case. They are really on there. So solid!

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:15 a.m.

When the electrician came to give an estimate, he asked, "Why the mini-split? Why not a cheap wall heater?"

Well, I assumed I needed something efficient, but when I got the quote from the HVAC guy, I realized that I could buy a LOT of electricity for that price. So I tabled the idea of the mini-split. There's a circuit in place if I ever want one, but we'll see how it goes over the seasons.

While I had the garage emptied out for like the second time since I bought the house 24 years ago, I parked the i3 in there just to be able to say I did. Never in my life have I kept ANY car indoors. It was surreal to get out of the car inside a garage.

XLR99 (Forum Supporter)
XLR99 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/5/20 10:18 a.m.


My garage is quite a bit bigger,  but I totally can relate to the real-life game of tetris to get anything done: to do anything with a welder or the table saw, I need to find help to drag the 3500lb car on rollers sideways enough to get to that wall, etc. 

I'm looking forward to seeing this play out.

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:21 a.m.

Next the insulators came. The foam they sprayed isn't fireproof, so I had them spray a fire-retardant coating over top of it so I wouldn't need to do drywall and lose any more square footage.

Plus the gray wasn't unpleasant to look at, and kept things bright for the most part.

That's a sump pump there in the corner, with its own dedicated circuit. Fortunately it hardly ever runs now that I've fixed other drainage problem areas around the house.

So this is how it's going to stay. The 2x2's make great places to hang pegboard or whatever you need to hang, and the walls are smooth enough. It's very quiet in here.

solfly HalfDork
7/5/20 10:28 a.m.

Love that you're making what you have work. Following. My space needs a makeover.

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:33 a.m.

My next step was to install 3/8" thick recycled rubber tiles. These are the type that you'd find at the gym under workout equipment and weight rooms. And when you put them together, the seams literally disappear. It's neat stuff, and it makes the room even quieter and more comfortable. And good looking!

My nephews helped me build some new shelving. 24" deep shelves and a 24" deep workbench on one side, 14" deep shelves plus tool storage on the other.

Also it was nice to have more convenient places for the compressor and shop vac in this layout.

I plan to get another Harbor Freight toolbox like the red one here (the Series 2 boxes they sell at HF are 22" deep now, though, which is actually good), and I'll get another one that's narrower to replace that silver chest, for a total of three in a row here. All three will be different colors, so I can say "it's in the green box, second drawer down!"

This red one is chock full of tools and I need space for more. devil

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 10:39 a.m.

So all that was left was to get everything back into the garage, and to start putting stuff where it "belongs".

Oops, things started to get cluttery again... I'm working on it, but it's totally manageable.

It's OK though... I'm still finding places to put stuff and getting things organized. It's all part of the process. One of the big wins is illustrated in this last picture... All my tools-in-boxes (hammer drills, sawzalls, sanders, grinders, etc.) used to be on a 14" deep black wire shelving unit. They stuck out and made it difficult to use the space efficiently. Now they're on a 24" deep shelf on the right, and they don't stick out.

On the 14" wire shelf, I tested the heights of several brands of shoebox-sized plastic bins, and set the shelves to contain them two-high, regardless of the manufacturer (Sterilite, 2 kinds of Rubbermaid, dollar store crap ones, etc.) I also left room below to house my used motor oil and coolant for recycling.

This shelf will hold all the various kinds of fasteners, small parts, and supplies in a totally visible way. I'm pretty excited about this one. I'm hoping it means I'll have more stuff in the first place I look, and less stuff in the "Nuts & Bolts Tub Of Hope". 

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 11:14 a.m.

So this project is pretty much finished, except for some more tool chest procurements (waiting on an HF sidewalk sale for best pricing).

What have we learned?

Put Power Everywhere. I assumed I'd be using the entire side of the garage exclusively for storage. Why put outlets there if you're just going to cover them up? But when I tried to put my very tall drill press on my workbench, it was fouled by the garage door opener. So I'm going to have to put it on top of a tool chest on the other side. But I didn't put any outlets over there. Stupid. I'll have to run a line from the door opener's outlet to it. No big deal, but it's just disappointing.

Insulation is Good. With the insulated door, the warm flooring, and the insulation on the walls and ceiling, I effectively made the garage another room in the house that can be cooled by just leaving the door to the house open. On the hottest days of summer (and we're having some now), the garage is cool and comfortable and it doesn't even strain the house's systems (which are very efficient anyway - I have a ground-source geothermal heat pump). I'm pretty sure in the winter, my teeny ceramic disc heater will be plenty to keep it very comfortable in there. Time will tell, and I'll come back and let you know.

Cut Your Own Rubber Floor Tiles. I didn't buy any pre-cut floor tiles, because I planned to cut them to the size I needed, but I was surprised that the tiles weren't square. They have a sheen on them that, when you look at them in a certain light, shows their directionality. You want them all to point the same direction. And if I'd purchased pre-cut "border tiles" or "corner tiles", there's no way of knowing which side those tiles would have been cut on. So just buy tiles, and buy a knife-edge jigsaw blade which cuts these tiles like buttah.

Keep Her Happy. Once I got the screened porch emptied out again, Kendra and I picked up and vacuumed under each tile, power washed them, and then Kendra applied a coat of finish before I got down to organizing the garage (which is perhaps the most satisfying part of the process). It's so nice that there was some kind of mutual payoff for all the disruption we endured. The garage renovation process took about four weeks from beginning to end, mostly waiting for the various trades to schedule during COVID.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope the build was helpful or inspirational in some way or another. Thanks in advance for your comments!

docwyte UberDork
7/5/20 11:17 a.m.

Wow, that's a small space.  Hard to believe it could ever be used to park a car.  Maybe a few motorcycles.  Turning it just into a shop is definitely the best use of the space

hobiercr (FS)
hobiercr (FS) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/5/20 12:06 p.m.

Looks great. I find that the planning on where things need to live takes me the longest. I'm still moving things around trying to find "forever homes" for different tools, parts, etc.

Also, love that porch! 

solfly HalfDork
7/5/20 12:44 p.m.

How do the rolly things roll on that flooring?

preach GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/5/20 12:46 p.m.

Fantastic renovation.

I just did a bunch of work to my shop as well, then went away for work for 3 months. Can't wait to get back!

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 1:07 p.m.
solfly said:

How do the rolly things roll on that flooring?

That's a really good question. Lighter things roll quite well. The engine stand, for example, even with an engine on it, is fine.  The vacuum rolls around easily. However, I had read that heavier stuff could cause the flooring to skate and bunch up in front of it... so whenever I move the red toolbox full of tools (which has only been once, when re-introducing it to the space), I will place some sheet metal runners over the floor in front of it to avoid that.

But of course it has to roll the last few inches to its final spot. I didn't notice any shifting of the material or difficulty in rolling it within that short distance.

I would just recommend that you avoid rolling something really heavy over long distances on this stuff without something to distribute the load.

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) Reader
7/5/20 2:05 p.m.

Power everywhere - power on shelves and in cabinets is still handy for battery recharging stations, letting a welder live on a shelf, stereo, etc.

jimbob_racing Dork
7/5/20 4:00 p.m.

Can you give us a link to where you got those floor tiles?  I think that they'd be perfect in my basement home gym.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
7/5/20 4:44 p.m.

I'm just hanging out wait for the floor tile info. Looks neat. 

In the mean time, the initial pictures didn't look too bad, cluttered, but how bad can it be? Then you cleaned it out, and it looked worse. I'm very curious to hear how your humidity issues go. I run a dehumidifier connected to a humidistat in my garage all the time and it makes everything so much better. 

CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 6:36 p.m.

In reply to jimbob_racing :


This company has at least half a dozen kinds, but they’ll send you samples. The prices per square foot vary pretty wildly between styles, too, and I requested the samples just to try to figure out why. The ones in the link ended up on the less costly end of the range because they are recycled, not virgin rubber. That was actually a plus for me. I mean, how cool is it to actually reuse old tires? The material is nearly as dense as the virgin sample.


CrookedRacer Reader
7/5/20 6:42 p.m.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :


I have two dehumidifiers. One in the garage, and one just inside the door to the house. I haven’t needed to run the one in the garage so far. Just leaving the inside door open while I’m working in there has been enough to dry the air.

If I have to open the garage door on a hot and humid day for any length of time, I’ll fire up the other one as soon as it’s closed again.

And it looks worse right now but the main objectives above included only a joke about orderliness, after all. :-)

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/5/20 7:53 p.m.

The timing of this is perfect. Thanks for showing what you did. 

nlevine (Forum Supporter)
nlevine (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/5/20 9:24 p.m.

What garage door is that? I've got a mid-century modern house, with a very un-modern-looking solid garage door on my tiny carport-turned-garage. I like the look of the one you installed.

CrookedRacer Reader
7/6/20 7:26 a.m.

In reply to nlevine (Forum Supporter) :


I’m happy that we chose the “grooved panel” design which is more interesting but still looks clean. We were fortunate that they could be configured in a standard brown color that approximated the “Pella Brown” color of the windows elsewhere on the house.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
7/6/20 7:43 a.m.

Never forget, no matter how big the garage there is never enough space. 

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