While garages are designed to hold cars, roughly half the time we use the garage for other things. Often we use the garage for storage so there isn't enough room for the cars. Growing up in the northeast, we didn't understand why three car garages were so popular. That is, until we moved to California. Then we had to put our ping pong table in the garage to keep our teen age boys busy. A garage workshop is another popular way to use your garage, and the primary use for my family since I met my husband. It's how I got comfortable with homeowner handyman projects which led to my starting a handyman business.
In fact people use their garages for all sorts of things, so don't worry. You've got lots of company if you never put a car in the garage. Here's a more detailed view of how people use their garages. From Home Innovation Research Labs in their article, To Park or Not To Park: The Real Value of Garages (Part 2 of 3), you'll see that storage is the number one use plus …
This article looks at one garage, my husband's multi-purpose garage workshop. The magic is how he's using the space for 4 different activities. He's always had a woodworking shop for home repairs, telescope setup and testing, family storage and occasionally he parks his car in the garage. For the first time ever, I am parking my car in the garage because temperatures are 90 degrees or higher for about half the year in Arizona.
If you're looking for an overview of the different ways you can store things in your garage, you'll want to read Garage Storage for Tools, Gardening Supplies and Cars and there's another article on 5 Tools for Garage Organization. Looking back at them, I'm amazed at the common threads – vertical pegboard so you can easily find things and storage on wheels so you can move your tools to where you're working.
Creating a Flexible Garage Workshop?
The most important question you have to answer about your garage workshop is whether you'll be using your tools in the garage or somewhere else? If most of your projects are somewhere in the house or outdoors, you won't need a lot of work surface in the garage. If you're serious about woodworking, you'll need a lot more space for larger tools and the materials you're working with, like the workshop shown above. This garage belongs to friends and is meant to store an RV, so it's the second garage on their house.
Here are the requirements for our garage. It's just one example as we all have different ways of spending our free time.
- Lots of tools for small carpentry projects (hmm, does that include building a deck?) and home repairs.
- Lots of storage space for telescopes, their accessories and a staging area to move them into/out of the car.
- More storage space for other things like camping gear, electronics, bikes and whatever …
- Enough space to occasionally park the astronomy van indoors.
- Flexibility to reconfigure the garage workshop. That means one day it's painting, the next week building extra closet shelves, and on a regular basis, fixing and testing new telescopes.
Organizing Your Garage for Multiple Uses
Next you'll need to consider how much stuff you want to keep in your garage workshop and your preferences for storing/finding/using them. My husband has been collecting tools for more than 40 years, starting when he built a boat at age 12. While he once made our furniture (when going to college), he's now spending more time on astronomy so he has sold most of his larger tools. He has kept his hand tools, and while he left three pegboards behind in New Hampshire, he simply bought more pegboard at the local Home Depot, to set up shop in Arizona.
So how is everything organized? There are three 4 x 6 ft pegboards (cut down from 4 x 8 boards) which hold most of his woodworking and home maintenance tools. Where the pegboard in the past was attached to the back wall of the garage, here they're attached to rolling shelves.
Having the tools on wheels gives my husband more storage along the walls plus he can move the shelves around for different projects. More important, he can stack the shelves side-by-side when he wants to put his car in the garage.
The fun part of this approach is finding the perfect hooks for your pegboard. There are many different types and we wanted to show you some for inspiration. All of these (and many more pegboard hooks) are available at Amazon.
Touring My Husband's Garage Workshop
It feels a bit odd to be writing about my husband's garage. But that's his space and I don't want to pretend otherwise. It makes more sense to divvy up responsibilities based on what each person likes to do, and while I'm good as a handyman helper, he's got 20+ years more experience. It got more interesting when I started a handyman business. It took me about six months to get comfortable speaking the language. Now I'm much better at researching and estimating projects. Still, for the hands on work, I don't have the same skills so I let him do most of the work.
Ready to take a tour of our garage? Outside Phoenix, Arizona — 3 car garage although 3rd stall is shorter, probably for a golf cart. The garage also had a row of storage cabinets along the back wall, but my husband filled them all up with his stuff, so I keep everything in my home office closet.
Here you can see the 3 pegboards (each 4 ft wide), lined up in a row which equals 12 ft. You can see that tools are grouped so it's easy to find the best screwdriver, hammer or saw for the job at hand. This makes it easy for me to grab tools when I need them. I do keep a few tools in the kitchen junk drawer. That's so I don't have to run out to the garage for small things.
On the other side of the pegboards are shelves filled with … )(*&^^^$*^%$$. You can tell I don't venture into this space much, unless I can get clear directions for what I want and where it is.
On the left you'll see a large (really large) assortment of nails, screws, anchor bolts and so much more. That's what you can expect to collect after years of home maintenance and repairs, if you're committed to doing things yourself. You might think you're saving money, but if you consider your time, along with the tools and materials it takes for home repairs … you might be spending more than having a handyman visit once or twice a year. Maybe I'm biased because I ran a handyman business for 8 years?
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PS You probably won't collect as many nails, screws, nuts and washers as my husband has (he also said it includes his father's collection). We talked and finally agreed that you probably don't want to buy one of the kits with screws, nails, etc. That's because there are too many variables like screws requiring a flat versus Phillips head screwdriver, wood screws versus drywall screws … you get the idea … so that's another article to write.