Is it OK to store books in a garage?

Books are one of the most sentimental items we keep around our homes. Think of what they represent: A good story, knowledge, a symbol of our intellect and personality. But when the books start piling up the question becomes, how to store books?

The emotions we have about our books are the heart of the issue behind knowing how to store books. We don’t want to get rid of books. While our love of books is unlimited, our space is.  

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But that’s ok. We are here to help you find a way to have your cake and eat it too. We want to help you think of creative, yet tasteful, ways to store books properly and elegantly. We’ll cover a few ways to store books around your home, and then some maintenance tips for your books both to keep them fresh or ready for long term Storage.

Yes, it is OK to store books in a garage.

Garages might seem a suitable place to store books, especially if space isn’t being used. In some ways, they are. Garages are out of the way and protected from the elements, including sunlight. Books, however, are vulnerable to the damp, mould and pests often found in garages. Numerous insects consider books a tasty snack, the organic paper is an excellent substrate for fungi, and mice find the pages useful for nest-making projects. Without central heating or much ventilation, quiet places like garages make ideal homes for such organisms. Before placing all your much-loved books in the garage, take a few precautions to keep them in reasonably good condition.

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Reduce the Humidity

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t typically store books in the Garage is the humidity factor. Garages can be humid spaces, especially in hot or wet weather, and books and humidity don’t go well together. You don’t want your books to grow mould while they’re sitting in your garage. 

Position one or more hygrometers in your garage and check daily for the first few days and once a week after that. These devices measure the atmospheric humidity. 

However, there are ways to address a humid garage and make it a dry place for books. A portable dehumidifier is a simple solution that can greatly decrease the amount of moisture in the air in your garage. You can measure the humidity in your garage with a device called a hygrometer. If the hygrometer displays humidity levels of more than 30 or 40 per cent because a garage is not living space, low humidity won’t cause any problems. Still, high humidity usually results in mouldy books. Run a portable dehumidifier as required to reduce the humidity.

Obviously, a garage is going to accumulate a lot more moisture in the air than other areas of the house, so a dehumidifier is a good sound investment. It will regularly draw the moisture out of the air and away from your books, thus, preventing the production and growth of mould and fungus.

In regard to storing books Ideal levels are 68-72° F, with 40-50% relative humidity. Monitor temperature and humidity levels. Excessive fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity can be particularly damaging. There’s no perfect agreement on the best humidity level, though. The British Library recommends 45-55 per cent relative humidity and the Library of Congress recommends 35 per cent. The State Archives of Florida provides this commonsense advice: “A good rule of thumb is, if you are hot and sticky, your books are, too.”

Why do temperature and humidity matter so much?

Hot and dry conditions will desiccate and embrittle leather and paper; damp conditions will encourage mould growth. Changes in temperature and humidity cause paper and bindings to swell and contract at different rates, which causes warping.

All of this means you probably don’t want to store books in a garage or an attic unless you have temperature and humidity controls in those spaces. You also want to keep them away from fireplaces, radiators, clothes dryers, and other sources of indoor heat. Bookshelves are best placed away from windows and outer walls because these are the indoor areas most prone to temperature and humidity fluctuations. And, keep books away from heat and air conditioning vents. Check out garage shelving solutions

If your books are stored in very hot, damp places, they can start to warp and mould. If you can, try to keep the humidity lower than 25%. Good circulation of dry air is good for books.

Anything lower than 50-60% humidity should be ok for most books, but if you have books that are old, rare, valuable, or even all three, then try to keep the humidity levels as low as possible.

Books prefer a temperate climate and abhor extremes. Try to identify a Storage location that maintains a relatively steady temperature of around 65 degrees and humidity around 40%. Too much humidity can lead to mould and foxing of pages. Too little can leave the leaves and bind dry and brittle. For example, some of the worst places for a controlled climate in your house would include an attic, garage, or basement, so these locations are to be avoided.

Books are made up of paper and bindings that tend to be sensitive to atmospheric conditions. Damp is especially problematic, since it both warps pages and encourages mould growth and insect infestation. For either daily use or long-term storage, do not keep books in an environment that is moist or prone to flooding. Excessive dryness is equally dangerous, as are strong sunlight, poor air circulation, and direct sources of heat.

Ideally, books should be kept at 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 45-60 per cent.

This means that you should not house your collection of books in the basement, on a screened porch, in your garage, or close to the floor, if at all possible. Instead, show off your library in the living room, dining room, or (should you be lucky enough to have one) an actual home library. Use a dehumidifier for dampness control if necessary.

Excess light can also damage books. Sunlight and fluorescent light are the biggest culprits when it comes to fading, because of their high UV component. UV coatings for windows are one way to help protect your books. Do everything possible to keep books out of direct sunlight, which will not only fade the jacket, spine and boards but will also cause them to deteriorate over time. Especially be careful of books shelved to face south windows (north if you’re down under!) as they garner more sun exposure than other windows.

Shelving Units

If you’re thinking of storing books in the garage, it can be tempting to pack the books that you don’t think you’ll need soon into boxes and store them that way. However, this type of Storage actually increases the risk of damage to your books. It’s bad for the books to have no air circulation around them, and when you do decide you need a book stored in that space, you’re more likely to accidentally damage one if you’re digging through stacks of books in a carton. 

Instead, line the walls of your garage with shelves or freestanding bookcases. You can find cheap bookcases in thrift stores or at Garage sales. This way, your books will have some exposure to circulating air, and they’ll be accessible when you need them. 

Position shelving throughout the available space and fill with your books. Find inexpensive freestanding bookshelves at discount stores, thrift shops or online classified ads. It might seem more efficient in terms of space to store books in cartons. Still, the inaccessibility of such storage methods and lack of air circulation increases the likelihood of damage.

As tempting as it might be, do not store your books in boxes and containers, as this will decrease the amount of air which is allowed to circulate around them, which can result into the books getting damaged. Instead, try to install some stable shelving units and either stack them or line them up side by side in the shelves. It may seem like they are more exposed, but the fact that you will be able to reach easily when you need them without having to drag them in and out of boxes will help to prevent any extra damage due to handling.

Which bookshelves are best?

Book collections should be stored on bookshelves made from metal or sealed wood. Unsealed wood releases damaging acidic vapours into the environment and can accelerate the deterioration of books.

Also, make sure the bookshelves are deep enough for your books since books that overhang can warp.

When you order new bookshelves, metal is an excellent choice because it will not damage your valuable books. In the Pacific Northwest, where much of the wood used in American furniture making is sourced, Portland carpenters advise that bookcases made of Oregon oak and other popular woods are attractive but may give off lignin and acid. These vapours are harmful to books and other paper items.

If you already own wood bookshelves, make sure that they are adequately sealed. As an alternative, you might want to line the shelves with sheets of inert materials. Glass, acrylic, or stable plastics are recommended. 

Do not pack your books tightly together on the shelves to avoid damage and make sure that air can circulate freely around them. Regular dusting with a chemical-free cloth or soft brush (work from the spine outwards) will help preserve the pages in good shape. And yes, Mom was right when she told you always to wash your hands before touching precious books. Even if your skin looks clean, it still contains oils that are destructive to paper.

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Prioritise Pest Control

Pests often have an easier time getting into the garage than into the rest of the house, and they can wreak havoc on your books. In order to make your garage space a safe place for your book collection, you’ll need to make garage pest control a high priority. 

Start by making sure that there are fewer ways for pests to get into the garage. Seal up any holes, use caulk around drafty windows, and check the weather stripping on your garage door and replace it if necessary. Keep the garage clean and organised and dust the bookshelves regularly, as clutter, dust, and dirt can attract pests and give them places to hide. Look for natural pest repellents that won’t damage your books. For example, cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil will help repel mice. 

Once you’ve turned your garage into a safe haven for your books, you may want to consider bringing in a comfy chair and a reading light. Not only can your Garage store your books, but it can also make a comfortable personal library. For more great garage renovation ideas, contact us for a free design consultation and estimate.

Position cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil to deter mice. Don’t place the balls directly on books; instead, place them along walls, underneath the shelving and near any potential mouse entrances.

Inspect your books at least once a week. Look for signs of mould and insect damage. A flashlight allows you to inspect darker corners for pests. If numerous books are displaying damage, you may need to move them, take further pest control steps or increase the use of the dehumidifier.

The harsh chemicals, which are used in pest repellents, can be also be damaging to your books if they come into contact with them. A good tip to follow is not to used these chemicals but instead utilise cotton balls which are soaked in a natural repellent, such as peppermint oil, and are placed around the area where your books are positioned. Do not put them on top of the books or anywhere they can touch them, just around the area, and you will find that mice and rodents will not want to go anywhere near them.

Lots of pests are attracted to books. Keep your books away from any area that gets rats or mice. Both rats and mice use paper to make their nests, and many fine books have lost chunks of text through their jagged gnawing.

Insects such as silverfish and carpet beetles are also attracted to books. Silverfish like warm, moist areas — one more reason to avoid such Storage areas. Keeping book storage areas clean helps prevent insect problems.

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Dusting the area

Dust or vacuum the garage and books once a month. An accumulation of dust and dirt provides a home for insects and other small creatures, which may damage your books. While your books are stored, if possible, try to dust them regularly using a chemical-free duster. Dust towards the spines, not away from them. This prevents nicking and tearing of the jacket flaps or corners As long as you take the appropriate steps and check your books on a regular basis, such as once a week, you will be able to keep on top of any problems that may occur and prevent damage to your books.

The Don’ts

If you’re lucky enough to have a roomy attic, garage, or basement, they can offer tons of storage space. But because of weather, critters, and location, these areas of your home aren’t ideal storage for everything.  Even if you’re the most organised and cautious homeowner, you should never store these items in your attic, garage, or basement if you want them to stay in quality shape. 

The main reason you shouldn’t be storing items in these spots is the potential for water damage. Not only are attics, garages, and basements easy targets for flooding and accidents like fallen trees during storms, but climate plays a big role in this aspect as well. If you live in the South, you understand the true meaning of the word “humidity.” Most areas of the South experience muggy conditions the majority of the year, which can cause water damage. But it’s not just water damage that can occur, though. 

Heat can also cause significant damage and even ruin some items. It also goes without saying that animals can get into your attic, Garage, or basement. Whether birds or moths in the attic, a raccoon in the garage, or mice in the basement, critters aren’t concerned with taking care of your belongings.

As a general rule of thumb, nothing in your attic, garage, or basement should be left out in the open. Anything that’s safe to store in these rooms should still be put away in a plastic container with a lid to keep environmental elements out. Cardboard boxes will deteriorate due to heat and water, and animals and bugs will snack on them in the meantime.  A few more universal storage rules: Don’t stow away anything that’s very important to you. Put anything you store on shelves a few feet off the ground in case of flooding in the basement or garage. 

Garages are prone to break-ins, so you don’t want any valuables in there anyway, and because of environmental factors that can deteriorate special items, you don’t wish to cherish belongings going in the basement or attic either. Here are some items you should never ever store in the attic, garage, or basement.

In 2005, GarageSmart® pioneered the garage storage category in Australia. Since we’ve built a reputation of providing a premium product along with a friendly and professional service. GarageSmart has the best storage solutions for home. GarageSmart is the nation’s leader in complete garage fit-outs. We are a privately owned company and we are very proud of that. GarageSmart is a complete “do-it for you” premium garage fit out company.

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