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Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/26/20 10:14 a.m.

My wife and I bought our small fixer-upper house 10 years ago last month. When we were looking, we didn't have a lot of money, but one thing I really wanted was a garage. I grew up working on stuff in my parents' gravel driveway, and their small one-car garage was the home of my mom's car, and they didn't like me working on things long-term in there. Needless to say, I wanted a garage of my own to wrench in. When we bought the place, I was beyond excited to have my own place to wrench on things, even if it wasn't perfect.

Like the house, the garage dates back to 1944 when the house was built. It's mostly original, but someone updated the door and the electrical service years ago to more modern stuff. There are good and bad (actually, mostly bad) things about this garage.

The Good:

-It's bigger than my parents' garage

-Built on a concrete pad

-It has both 110v and 240v service

-It hasn't fallen over yet

The Bad:

-It's a one-car garage

-It has holes in it

-Water gets in sometimes

-Eventually needs a roof

-There is some rot around the sills and some of the walls

-It's right on the neighbor's property line, and that neighbor hates that I exist

For the past 10 years, I used it as-is. For a while, it housed my Shelby CSX project, but it has become a catch-all for crap since that left. The garage door isn't in the best shape, the rot has not gotten better, the side door and walls were literally flapping in the breeze, and I nearly set it on fire with a staple gun back in April like a moron. It's also right on the property line, and due to the town bylaws, I cannot do a knock down-rebuild; I can renovate it, but the structure needs to remain upright during the process. After looking it over, I've decided to fix up what I can for now and keep it upright. It's all fixable, and the overall frame is sound, but there's a lot of work to do.

The goal at the end of this is to have a functioning garage/shop that looks decent, stays dry, and will fit a car inside.

More pics:

The trim is rotting, and paint comes off in the wind. Not ideal.

That corner is rough, but the studs underneath are still there. Sorta.

Cool, more rot!

Long before we moved in, there was a window where this piece of plywood is. That may need to come out and get fixed properly. But hey, cool signs! There's also a hole on the left under one of the signs for an old wood stove pipe that I need to seal up.

This side is right on the property line. The foundation of the garage is basically the line, so working on this side is going to be tricky. The neighbor doesn't like us at all, and has told us numerous times he wants the garage to fall in on itself rather than me fixing it. Much to his chagrin, it's getting fixed. The good news is this is probably the "good side" so it will be mostly paint over here, so hopefully he stays out of my hair.

This thread will chronicle me picking at the garage over time. It might take a while, and I'm on a budget, but I think I can make it a much more functional, better looking, and structurally sound space. smiley

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/26/20 10:48 a.m.

The no-knockdown rules are dumb but easily subverted sometimes. Could you, for example, build a nice 3-car tying into "your" side of the existing garage, then demo the other 3 walls of existing, thereby expanding your space while simultaneously appeasing your E36 M3-heel neighbor?

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/26/20 11:34 a.m.

First garage project, and it's a big one:

Replacing the Side Door

The most important fix that needed to happen was replacing the side door. It only took me 10 years, but I tore into this project over the weekend. There were a number of problems here:

-The existing side door had no business being a garage side door, or an exterior door in general

-The opening was a non-standard size

-The frame, parts of the wall, trim, and surrounding sills were rotted

So, with that said, let's dive into it with some pics.

Here's what I'm working with. Ignoring the door itself, the surrounding frame was a mess. The sills on either side were rotted, the 2x4's that made up the frame were rotted at the bottom, and the walls were also rotted. With the door shut, there was a good 5-6" gap between the bottom of the door and the concrete slab.

Not ideal.

Also not ideal. As a bonus, this side had an anchor point that did absolutely nothing due to the rotted 2x6 sill. There's evidence of insect damage here as well.

The solution: Cut back into the sill until I get to solid wood, cut the 2x4's for the same reason, and build up the sill. Not pretty, but functional. You can also see here that the door itself is a mess. We think it was an interior door from the house that has been patched together over the years. It's a non-standard, non-modern size, and the frame was built up around it to make it work with random scraps. The frame would need some modification to fit a modern door and casing. The sill build-up still needs some work, but the wall is attached now and is no longer flapping in the wind, which is a vast improvement.

With the wall solid, I went to Home Depot to scout out a new door. After measuring the opening, the closest I could get to a normal size door was a 32x80" off-the-shelf pre-hung door. I found this steel-reinforced door that would do the trick with some massaging of the existing frame. My only concern was that it was a left hand in-swing door and I had a right hand out-swing door now. I was afraid the door would swing too far in once a car is in there, but after doing some measurements, this would be ok.

Off came the old door and trim. And to fit the new door, the left side of the frame would be modified. On the existing frame, I had originally planned on replacing the 2x4's that made up the frame, but quickly realized that there were wires running through some of them, so I decided against that. This was also part of the reason I built up the sill to them. One of them on the left side was trimmed out along with the wall to accommodate for the extra width. To my surprise, cutting out that 2x4 gave a near-perfect fit width-wise for the new casing.

Here's the new side door installed. No more bottom gap (threshold sits on the concrete), and after some expanding foam up top, it's weather tight. After persuading it into place, I secured it, installed the lock, and it does door things. I'll be cutting the shingles around the door for new trim in the future, but for now, it's good. There's one small hole on the bottom right of the wall that will be sealed up, but I call it a success considering how messed up the opening and previous door was.

As a bonus, during the door removal, I broke the bottom right glass pane of this window. I was able to get a new pane and enough caulking to secure all of the windowpanes on both side windows for around $10 at the local hardware store. Yes, the window frames are not doing great, but I'll get to that.

I'm no carpenter, as you can clearly see, but this is huge progress.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/26/20 11:40 a.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

The no-knockdown rules are dumb but easily subverted sometimes. Could you, for example, build a nice 3-car tying into "your" side of the existing garage, then demo the other 3 walls of existing, thereby expanding your space while simultaneously appeasing your E36 M3-heel neighbor?

Unfortunately, there's no room for more garage. Our house is about 5 feet away from the garage in spots, and expanding even the house's footprint isn't possible on that side due to how close it is. Can't build one on the other side either due to my septic field. I'd love to build a bigger shop elsewhere in the yard, but we have wetlands behind us and they are also protected, so that's not likely to happen. Fixing what's currently there is also going to increase home resale value; we have been thinking about upgrading in a few years.

TVR Scott (Forum Supporter)
TVR Scott (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/26/20 11:57 a.m.

Looks good!

My house is a 1949, and it also has some creative DIY from previous owners.  And I appreciate your lack of space to spread out and build new.

Coincidently, this summer I put an almost identical steel door on my garage to replace my rotting falling-apart door.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/27/20 11:16 a.m.

Finished up the inside of the door last night after work.

Filled the top and some of the sill gaps with expanding foam for now just to seal it up. Also added some wood on the bottom left of the frame to fill a hole. And of course, I had to re-hang my GRM Holiday Box Exchange license plates and my sweet Italian Stallion plate over the door. I can already feel a HUGE difference in temperature and wind reduction with the new door in place. It was downright toasty in the garage last night as I cleaned up some of the mess from the weekend.

gearheadmb SuperDork
10/27/20 11:55 a.m.

Great project. I do love me some garage rehab! If you dont mind my asking, how big is the building? What is the overall plan?

NOT A TA SuperDork
10/27/20 12:12 p.m.

The goal at the end of this is to have a functioning garage/shop that looks decent, stays dry, and will fit a TRANS AM inside.


Fixed that for ya, ^^^   will follow along!

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/27/20 12:24 p.m.

In reply to gearheadmb :

You know, I haven't measured it! blush I'll get on that at some point. Put it this way: it's big enough to house a car, a big toolbox, and a workbench.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/27/20 12:26 p.m.

In reply to NOT A TA :

Well, YES! That is the plan! That's also been the plan for the past 10 years. I don't think it will make it in there this winter, as there's just too much crap in the way, but that's the eventual goal. The Trans Am also needs to move freely on its own for that to happen. Right now, it doesn't. I should probably address that.

NOT A TA SuperDork
10/27/20 8:54 p.m.
Tony Sestito said:

In reply to NOT A TA :

Well, YES! That is the plan! That's also been the plan for the past 10 years. I don't think it will make it in there this winter, as there's just too much crap in the way, but that's the eventual goal. The Trans Am also needs to move freely on its own for that to happen. Right now, it doesn't. I should probably address that.

Make it happen! You can do it! Doesn't need to be under it's own power, get a couple neighbors to help push or push it with the truck.

Back the pick um up truck up to the garage and throw all the crap in the bed, take to dump & repeat. If you haven't used something or touched it in five years, heave it! You'll be glad you did in the spring vs another season of ole man winter making more rust repair work on the TA. Even if you can just barely fit the car in by pushing it and can't open the doors once in you'll be glad you got it in there. Being inside where the temp doesn't change as rapidly really slows down the rust compared to outdoor where condensation occurs daily all winter.

Error404 Reader
10/27/20 10:13 p.m.

What if the whole thing was subject to a very stiff wind and just happened to fall across the property line onto your snooty neighbors side and then, randomly catch fire? Just saying... I might know a guy. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/28/20 8:14 a.m.

In reply to Error404 :

That would be a nightmare rather than a blessing. Not only would I be out a garage, I'd have to listen to his BS! Trust me, that would not be good.  

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
10/28/20 8:27 a.m.

I've watched Norm Abrams and Tom Silva replace those cedar shingles on This Old House twenty times.   I should come visit.  

lnlogauge HalfDork
10/28/20 8:43 a.m.

for a location that has ANY potential of touching water, the wood needs to be pressure treated. 5 years from now that wood is going to look like the wood you're replacing. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/28/20 9:20 a.m.

This reminds me of the garage at our old house. House was built in 1930, garage in 1940 and it was missing a corner when we bought it. That was the first work I did to the house when we moved in. Carry on. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/28/20 3:55 p.m.

In reply to lnlogauge :

The wood I used on the sills was not pressure treated, but I attached it in a way that I can remove it and replace it later. Pressure treated lumber has been hard to come by around here lately, and I already had this stuff. It shouldn't get too wet around there with an actual door there.

759NRNG (Forum Partidario)
759NRNG (Forum Partidario) UltraDork
10/28/20 8:13 p.m.

So as I understand this you can move away from your neighbor going towards the house and the front yard eh?  

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/29/20 9:17 a.m.

In reply to 759NRNG (Forum Partidario) :

No, the garage has to stay exactly where it is. No modifications to the footprint allowed; it's too close to the property line. The line crosses into my driveway a bit, so moving it forward would put it over the line. Honestly, garage size isn't the problem; I can work with what's there. It's the structure itself that needs some rehabbing, both in and out. Whether I add a small loft, shelving, etc, I can make it work for my needs.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/29/20 9:32 a.m.

To give you all a better idea of how large the inside is, here's a pic from earlier this year:

Yes, it's a mess. It's still a mess. There's a bunch of old insulation that I need to deal with, and lots of reorganization and tossing out crap needs to happen. One thing I am good on is tool storage; I got a new box last year to add to my smaller one that a friend gave me when we moved in, and it's been great having all that space.

My want list for inside the garage:

-New workbench (current one is falling apart and kinda big)

-More wall shelves

-New shelving/cabinet to replace a failing Rubbermaid one in there

-Tire wall rack

-Loft (if possible)

-New insulation

Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me.

10/29/20 11:57 a.m.


Here's my idea, but paint3D is a garbage program that refused to save any of the Ska jokes I added. Just pretend it's plastered with PICK IT UP PICK IT UP on the pic.

Roof's gotta be replaced anyway, and my upcoming own garage build will show how seriously I take space constraints and proper storage of tools. You need a strong floor and the roof's gotta be replaced anyway... so why not vault the celing up to a slab style shed roof for a second floor, add some kind of fire escape, and potentially double the square footage eh laugh?

Currently for mine I'm looking at metal pegboard- to paraphrase Adam Savage, "A tool that's not seen doesn't get used"- but I'm also a big fan of concrete coatings, white paint, LEDs and anything that makes a workspace more comfortable and nicer to be in. I've also learned quite a bit about cement coatings after doing Urethane on mine.

gearheadmb SuperDork
10/29/20 12:54 p.m.

Have you considered vynil siding? It will cost more than painting, but you do it once and you're done. You also won't have to fix every imperfection in the wood siding and trim. You could also put foam board under to add insulation.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
10/29/20 1:00 p.m.

In reply to GIRTHQUAKE :

Not happening due to budget constraints and having to pull permits and dealing with the neighbor. Fixing the trim, painting, and inside stuff piecemeal that I do myself doesn't require any of that. The space that's there can be utilized much better than it currently is. In all reality, we are probably going to be moving up and out in the next 5 years, and if we do, a bigger garage or real shop would be part of the plan.

I didn't mention that we have a large shed, a motorcycle-sized car tent, and some other outdoor storage in the backyard. Some of the stuff in the garage belongs in there. I just need to put it back there. smiley

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/29/20 8:44 p.m.
Tony Sestito said:

In reply to GIRTHQUAKE :

motorcycle-sized car tent


Georges1991 Reader
10/29/20 11:56 p.m.



Projects like this are always fun to read about, because 1) I'm not required to do any of the work, and 2) well, see #1.


I think it'll turn out great. Always nice to have a good warm dry spot to work, especially in the north.

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