By Mike McClintock, Special to the Tribune
4:38 PM CDT, August 13, 2012
One of the best ever garages popped up on cable in a 1957 Pat Boone movie called "Bernardine." It had many doors, room for several cars, a speedboat, trailer, and a gigantic red Coca-Cola machine full of ice-cold bottles and no dimes needed. In real life, of course, garages are often multipurpose spaces: the convenient, keypad-controlled entry, home shop, laundry, recycling center, storage catchall, and if there's still room, parking space.
There are some over-the-top upgrades like interlocking rubber tiles to cover the concrete floor. Some run more than $4 a square foot — almost $3,000 in a standard two-car garage. At the other end of the spectrum are simple, inexpensive improvements like adding a double socket (Y-fitting) to a standard overhead lamp holder to double the amount of light and throw it in different directions. And some basic maintenance always helps — jobs like oiling the wheels and hinges of the overhead door.
Here are few more garage extras.
Storage rack: Rockwell's RK9019 Lumber Storage Rack (about $80), is a wall-mount system that also carries pipes, ladders or shelves. Made from 1-inch steel tubing, each of the two, 40-inch verticals carries six, 12-inch deep supports. They adjust along holes in the verticals and fasten tool-free with supplied locking brackets. Rated to hold 110 pounds per layer (660 total), you'll need beefy fasteners through the three pre-drilled holes in each upright. Though not detailed in the manual, try lags with washers that extend through the upright, drywall and at least 11/2 inches into wood framing, or the same with pre-drilled sleeves for concrete or block.
Fire extinguisher: In my garage with concrete and stone walls, the fire risks are from wiring and the truck (oil and gas). I hung a First Alert unit UL-rated 10-B:C (about $25) against flammable liquids and live electrical components. In a wood frame garage, opt for an A:B:C rating that works against all types of fires. The 5-pound extinguisher, about 14 inches tall, comes with a mounting bracket and strap, but not screws. There's a pressure gauge at the handle so no test firing is needed. Should the need arise, just pull the safety pin and squeeze the trigger.
Wet-dry vac: These are great for multipurpose garages where sawdust flies and cars come in dripping. The Bissell Garage Pro Vacuum is a compact wall-mounted unit. It's configured with a 12-amp motor over two hose ports, one for blowing and one for vacuuming. Below is a removable 4-gallon collection canister that triggers an LED warning light when filled. The unit (about $190) comes with a variety of extension wands, nozzles and brushes, a wall-mount bracket for the vac and holder for the 32 feet of hose.
Work surface: If you're short on space for repair and carpentry projects, consider a fold-up helper like Black and Decker's Workmate or Rockwell's Jawhorse. An alternative is to make your own bench with a pair of sawhorses. Build your own from 2-by-4s, or use stock lumber and metal connectors like Crawford Sawhorse Brackets (less than $6), or fold-up steel models (closer to $25) like Wilmar steel sawhorses. Fold-ups store easily, and you can slide a work surface like a sheet of plywood onto the ceiling joists.
Parts storage: There are huge cabinets with hundreds of bins fit for a hardware store and tiny plastic boxes that hold a few screws. The idea is to pick a size that consolidates odds and ends around the house — the opened packs of finishing nails, screws, an extra hinge or handle. Stack-on, Akro-Mils and others offer dozens of configurations. Many come with snap-in dividers to compartmentalize each drawer, but not labels. To keep track of a large unit you need to make your own.