Pro Tips for Planning Your Dream Garage
For most of us, a garage is a lot more than a place to park. We use it to build big projects, we load it up with everything from Hot Wheels to Harleys, and sometimes we party or just hang out with the guys there. And for all these purposes, you want more than the basic four walls and a roof. You want to make your garage a better place to work and play. So we teamed up with our field editors to show you our favorite garage features. Whether you’re planning your dream garage or just looking to improve your old one, check them out!
Tall doors prevent Great Goofs
If you decide to install an 8-ft. door, you’ll have to build the walls at least 9 ft. tall to accommodate it. But tall walls are better anyway. They allow you more room to maneuver 4 x 8-ft. sheets of plywood and 8-ft.-long boards without hitting the ceiling or breaking light bulbs.
Weekend mechanics love warm floors
PEX tubing carries warm water through the slab, where it releases heat, warming the floor and garage. Since the floor is warm, you can keep the heat set at a lower level and still feel comfortable. Materials for a DIY in-floor heat system cost about $2 to $3 per square foot. A professionally installed system costs about twice this much. And you don’t need a boiler. You can use a conventional water heater or an on-demand water heater as a heat source.
To insulate the tubing and prevent heat loss through the slab, you install sheets of rigid insulation board under the tubing and around the edges of the slab. And of course you’ll want to insulate the garage walls, ceiling and overhead door and pay close attention to sealing air leaks around all the doors and windows too. For information on installing and purchasing in-floor heat supplies, go to .
Shed dormers add second-floor headroom
Consult an architect or structural engineer to help work out the framing details. You’ll probably end up hand-framing the roof, but don’t worry. It’s not that hard, and you’ll gain a real sense of satisfaction from building it yourself.
Don’t forget the AC
Air conditioning in a garage may seem like a luxury, but there are a lot of advantages. Our field editors like the fact that AC reduces humidity, which helps keep their tools dry and rust free. Use the dimensions provided with the unit to build the opening in the wall. Add a header over the opening, just like you would if you were putting in a window. Also add a separate 20-amp circuit for power to the AC.
Make your garage a drive-through
When Kristin and her family decided to build a new garage, they had a list of cool ideas to incorporate. These included lots of outlets, slat wall rather than pegboard on the walls, and a 220-outlet just in case. But the neatest idea was the second garage door in back so they could park the boat trailer out of sight in the backyard. Plus, there are other benefits to a big back door. For dusty woodworking operations, you can’t beat the flow-through ventilation provided by two big garage doors. And if you’re planning a backyard get-together, you can open the back garage door and turn your garage into party central.
Put in a sub-panel now— or regret it later!
Lots of field editors told us that their biggest garage mistake was not installing a sub-panel. Lots of others said including a sub-panel was the best move they made. The reasons are pretty simple: more power and more convenience.
If you want to use your garage for a shop or plan to install air conditioning or other power-hungry appliances or tools, you’ll have all the power you need. And it’s more convenient to have the circuit breakers in the garage. If you pop a breaker, you don’t have to run to the main panel to reset it. Plus, you can easily add more circuits without having to run wires all the way to the main panel.
It’ll cost you a few hundred dollars more for the load center, circuit breakers and heavy-gauge wire that runs to the main panel. But for convenience and future flexibility, it’s hard to beat a separate panel in the garage.