garage workshop

For many folks, spring is the optimum time to clean out storage spaces like closets, attics, basements, and garages. If your garage is mostly used to store things you don’t want to deal with, you may be wondering how to convert it into something more useful, like a workshop. Here’s how to create a garage work space that’s accessible, organized, and safe.

Step 1: Clean out your garage

We know, we know. This is something you may have been putting off for months—years, even. Our best advice for tackling the overwhelm: pick one corner, and move out from there. Try to identify which projects can be delegated to someone else, which can be abandoned entirely, and which you want to tackle personally. Put these different piles into storage bins, and you’ll be well on your way to an organized space.

Step 2: Separate out household items

When building a garage workshop, your ideal option would be to move all of your household and automotive maintenance items somewhere else, to a shed or covered storage area. If you don’t have such an area, and don’t want to build or buy one, your next best option will be to divide the garage into “home” and “workshop” sides.

Bikes, inner tubes, sleds, lawn mowers, and so on go to one side; your workshop tools and materials go on the other. (Also, consider which items are actually being used, and which are just collecting cobwebs. If your kids have moved out and the bike tires are all flat, it may be time to donate them.)

Step 3: Build (or buy) tool storage

If you’re reading this article, we’re going to guess that you already have the tools you need to do the work you want to do, in which case all you need to do now is organize them. Try to place heavy and large machines close to power outlets to reduce cord lengths (and therefore the risk of tripping). Tool chests can help you organize all those nuts and bolts, and pegboards can help you store (and stow) tools that require quick access. Whenever possible, try to place items on casters or wheels. This will make it easy to configure and re-configure your garage workshop as needed. It will also make it much easier to clean up sawdust and mess.

Step 4: Add your workbench

One thing you probably don’t want to put on casters is your workbench, which will have to withstand the pressure and force you apply to it and the materials on it. For the same reason, you’ll want to ensure that your bench is sturdy and high-quality—this is not an item that should be made of flimsy particle board. Make sure that the surface is made of a material that is appropriate for your types of projects, too. If you think you might have a lot of spills, a laminate or granite surface might be a better option than wood. Discounted granite countertops can often be purchased at secondhand stores, like Habitat for Humanity ReStore. If you think you will want to do a lot of welding, a metal surface might be a better choice.

Step 5: Ensure you have enough outlets

Earlier, we mentioned placing your large tools and machines close to outlets. However, the average garage has just one or two, while the average workshop needs many more—it takes a lot of juice to, say, charge a drill battery; power a 3D printer; hook up your laptop; run an AC unit; power a task light; and run a ventilator system all at the same time. Don’t just plug in a couple power strips and call it a day. Hire a qualified electrician to help you install a safe, sufficient power supply.

Step 6: Install sufficient lighting

That brings us to lighting. Garages tend to be dark, and the last thing you want to be doing is squinting at your projects for hours at a time. Moreover, poor lighting combined with dangerous equipment equals one big safety hazard. Protect your eyes and your overall health and safety by installing a sufficient lighting solution. Track lighting is easy to install, but it can cast shadows, and you’ll probably need to add more light sources throughout the room to achieve complete illumination. Fluorescent lights are bright and economical, but some people dislike their aesthetics. Recessed overhead lights are a great option, as long as your garage has a ceiling that can accommodate them. Finally, don’t forget to add an adjustable work lamp on or near your workbench, for when you need a bright, focused light on minute details.

Step 7: Ensure adequate ventilation

Since we’re discussing health and safety, let’s talk about your respiratory health. Most workshop tasks generate a good amount of dust and chemical fumes, and most garages don’t have adequate ventilation (if any). If you’re on a tight budget, installing a ceiling exhaust fan will give you much better ventilation than simply opening a door or window. And if you’re seriously ready to invest in the best garage workshop possible, install a dust collection system, central vacuum, and/or air ventilation system. These systems will help keep the dust and particles off your clothes and out of your lungs, so you can keep enjoying your workshop for a long time to come.

Step 8: Don’t forget heating and cooling

Garages are notorious for being hot and stuffy in the summer, and freezing in the winter. To ensure you can work comfortably in all seasons—and keep your expensive tools and machines in peak condition—take the extra step to maintain an even climate. Insulating your garage is a great first step that will help maintain your indoor temperature. You’ll also want to inspect for any gaps or cracks, and seal them with rubber, tape, or sealant. Placing weather stripping around and beneath your garage door can help keep cool or warm air in.

When it comes to creating that warm or cool temperature, you have several options. The cheapest and easiest is to simply plug in a portable electric heater or AC unit. However, these products can pull a lot of energy that might overload your system (and rack up your energy bills). They also take up a lot of floor space, obstructing movement. Another option is a window HVAC unit. Though these are no longer as bulky or loud as they were in the ‘90s, they still do hang out of the window, which some might consider unattractive. For many, the best climate control solution is a ductless mini-split HVAC unit that emits both hot and cold air. These can be wall-mounted, freeing up your space, and provide the maximum air control coverage. On the downside, they tend to be expensive, in the realm of $1000.

Step 9: Consider upgrading your flooring

After upgrading your electric system, lighting, ventilation, and climate control, you may be reluctant to invest in yet another item—but upgraded flooring can really help your workshop be a comfortable, convenient place to work. Concrete floors stain over time, and can stress your joints if you stand on them for a long time. Adding an epoxy or laminate floor can provide you with better traction, and will be much easier to clean. Garage floor tile and rubber floor mats can also help give you some cushion.

Build your garage workshop with SSI Packaging!

We hope that this guide has helped inspire you to renovate your garage into a fantastic place to work on your projects. If you need anything else to help keep your space clean and organized, feel free check out our online product catalog. From safety equipment, to facilities maintenance supplies, to storage shelving, we have everything you need to run your small business or passion project. If you live in the Richmond, VA area, feel free to pay us a visit!

(804) 808-1606