So you just bought a new house, and for the first time, you have a garage! You might be relishing the new storage space, but you also might be unsure about what to store in it. Aside from your car? Maybe some lawn chairs? Your roof rack? What else goes in a garage?
Alternately, you may be dealing with the opposite problem: a garage that over the years has become a room-sized junk drawer for all manner of clutter. If you’re wondering how best to use the extra space your garage provides, here are some guidelines on what to store in the garage.
When space in your home is at a premium, and you need a place to stow sports equipment or rarely used household hold items, what’s the first place that comes to mind? The garage, of course! Not so quick. Many precious possessions can be damaged when stored in the garage, while others could pose a risk to your home or family. Click through to find out what items you should never keep in your garage.
Your Car and Related Supplies
If you have a car, it probably spends a lot of time in your garage or parked nearby. So it’s only logical to store in your garage anything you use for your car, like wiper fluid and tire inflators. A garage is also a good place for items you often transport in or on your car, like a roof rack or camping gear.
If you have space, try to hang items like roof racks on the wall or ceiling of your garage. They can be large and awkward so getting them out of the way is important.
As for smaller items like extra wiper fluid and tire inflators, these can be stored within your garage storage system. Your system can be as simple as a plastic storage rack with bins or a full-on garage cabinet.
Yard and Gardening Tools
The garage is the ideal home for tools and appliances you only use outdoors. Think shovels, hoses, extension cords, lawnmowers, gardening tools, extra pots for flowers and so on. Bags of potting soil, buckets of ice melt and other outdoor supplies that come in bulky packaging are also good candidates for garage storage. If you find you don’t have enough room, you may want to invest in a shed.
Outdoor Toys and Entertainment
Any product made for outdoor entertainment has already proven it can withstand the elements, so go ahead and keep it in the garage when it’s not being used. This includes toys for kids (or adults) to play within the yard or pool, extra patio furniture or plastic chairs, pool or hot tub supplies, bicycles and the like. This kind of stuff can get messy if it’s just stashed in an empty corner, but there are plenty of creative yet simple garage storage ideas to keep the space looking nice and neat.
Hang lawn chairs on the wall, fasten pool and patio supplies to the ceiling with an overhead garage storage rack. If you can’t fit these items in your garage, try a basement or shed.
Infrequently Used Items
If you need to store any items you rarely (or never) use, the garage – like the basement or attic – is often a great place to hide it away. Just keep in mind that sturdy, weatherproof objects will do better in the garage, while more delicate items, like documents and electronics, will hold up better in a basement or attic.
What Not to Store in Your Garage
This leads to the related, and perhaps more important, topic: what not to store in the garage. These items fall into three main categories: materials that could ignite or are otherwise dangerous, items that will attract insects or vermin, and delicate objects that could be ruined by fluctuating conditions. Besides, there are a few things that sound like they belong in the garage, but, for a variety of reasons, should be stored elsewhere.
- Anything that Cannot Withstand Temperature Swings
- You may have done the work to insulate your garage well (think: weatherstripping, fixing and old garage door, so it doesn’t let air escape), but your garage is exposed to outside temperatures more than the rest of your home. Don’t store anything in the garage that you wouldn’t store in the trunk of your car. it’s gets hotter than your house, and it gets colder than the rest of your house.
- Anything Dangerous
- Keep propane tanks, which can leak and ignite, out of the garage (and other enclosed spaces). Store them outside, in a well-ventilated area, instead. Always be careful with flammable or hazardous materials. Gasoline, for example, can be stored in a garage, but make sure to use approved containers and keep them off the concrete floor and far from ignition sources and curious children. If you’re holding onto hazardous materials you no longer need, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the time to dispose of them properly, rather than sticking them out of sight and out of mind in the garage.
- Items That Will Attract Pests
- If rodents or bugs can make a meal or a home of it, think twice before storing it in your garage. This includes clothing, bedding, books, papers, firewood and food – including pet food and birdseed.
- Anything Fragile
- Depending on where you live, items in your garage can be exposed to extreme or fluctuating temperatures, moisture, humidity, dirt and dust. So consider storing cans of paint, items that have been painted, such as furniture or artwork, canned food, wine, electronics, photographs and wooden furniture, which can warp in the heat, indoors where they will be more protected.
- A garage might seem like a good place for an extra refrigerator or freezer. But in hot temperatures, they’ll have to work harder to keep food cold, which means your energy bill will be higher than it would if you kept the appliances in the house.
- A garage can also feel like a handy solution to a cluttered home; it’s tempting to just shove all your unused stuff into the garage, where no one will ever see it. But don’t let it happen. For one thing, it doesn’t solve the problem of why you’re accumulating clutter. For another, maintaining an organized garage is safer and more convenient than hiding a mess behind that automatic door.
Never Store These Common Household Items in the Garage
An extra refrigerator
The garage may seem like the perfect place to put your beer or soda fridge, but the constant temperature changes will make your fridge work harder to keep your items cold during hot months. Plus, fridges don’t work efficiently when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Need an extra fridge? Keep it inside somewhere, or better yet, try a few fridge organization tips to make extra room in your kitchen fridge.
The only safe place to store your lawnmower is in the shed. Most people don’t realize that these are a huge fire hazard. “Not only is this piece of equipment deadly while engaged, but it has the potential to cause harm after it’s been stored,” Gene Caballero, co-founder of YourGreenPal.com, told Realtor.com. “The exhaust and engine on mowers can stay at 240 degrees for up to 10 to 15 minutes after being turned off.”
If you’re like many Americans, then you might not have enough room in your closet for summer and winter clothing simultaneously. Still, keeping all those extra sweaters and jackets in the garage isn’t a good plan. If you store them in plastic bins, then all the fumes from the garage (including car exhaust) will seep in and make your clothes stink. Need to save some room? Try space-saver vacuum storage bags that you can slide under your bed.
According to Good Housekeeping, canned items have a “shorter shelf life in any room that gets hotter than 70 degrees.” If you live in a warm climate, then your garage probably hits those temperatures all the time. It’s smart to keep extra canned goods on hand in case of emergencies, but don’t keep them in the garage.
Do’s and Don’ts for a Safer Garage
Your garage is probably the spot in your home you think about least—you’re more likely to be passing through instead of stopping for a long visit. But take time out occasionally to give your garage your full attention. After all, it’s an entry point to the outside, a storage depot for chemicals and a treasure trove of heavy, sharp objects. To keep your garage safe and secure for the whole family, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:
Do install a double lock on any service door leading to the outside
The garage is an attractive point of entry for thieves, says Howard Pegelow, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Installing a double lock above a standard doorknob gives you an extra layer of protection. If your door has a breakable glass window in or near it, install protective security bars over the glass.
Don’t store your entry code near your programmable keypad
If you use a keyless entry system for your overhead garage door, take sensible precautions. “Some criminals do sit nearby and watch as you press your code,” Pegelow says, “but what usually happens is that people write the code under the keypad cover so they won’t forget it. That’s like inviting someone to come inside.” Use a code that’s unique to you and change it regularly.
Don’t move or remove the “safety eye” that serves as a sensor for your overhead garage door.
Many people do this because clutter on the floor—or strong sunshine—interrupts the electric beam and prevents them from opening or closing the garage door. But that safety mechanism is there for a purpose. If the sensor can’t detect a child’s presence, for example, you risk his injury or death if the door closes while he’s underneath.
Do inspect the high-tension springs on your overhead garage door
These can cause serious injury if they break unless they have a protective cable running down the centre that attaches to the door frame or the ceiling joist. The cables are easy to see, Pegelow says, so do a quick visual inspection to confirm they’re intact. If they’re broken or missing, call a qualified professional to address the problem. Don’t attempt to fix the springs yourself unless you’re experienced at this type of repair.
Do store tools off the floor—but not too high
Use dedicated racks for storing unwieldy items like garden tools, but be careful to install them securely and gear them to the height of the person who will be using the most. Many garden tools are top-heavy and can come crashing down if a person has to strain to reach them.
Do store household chemicals and gasoline outside if possible
“In a perfect world, I’d recommend that you store chemicals in a weatherproofed container system that’s insulated, ventilated and located outside the garage alongside the house,” Pegelow says. “But normally people store them in the garage.” If you do that, use a dedicated storage cabinet designed for that purpose, which you can buy at big-box stores. If you have small children, keep the cabinet locked.
Don’t store chemicals near combustible items, like rags
There’s always a small risk of spontaneous combustion with some household chemicals and gasoline, which is one reason it’s better to store them outside. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), spontaneous combustion causes about 1,600 home fires every year. Throw away rags soaked in oil-based paint, stains or gas, and keep clean ones outside your chemical storage cabinet in a covered container (preferably metal). Don’t let clutter collect near the storage area.
Do take precautions with space heating
Make sure your heating unit has no obstructions around it, and if it’s propane or kerosene rather than electric, it must be properly ventilated to the outside. “If you don’t, that’s no different from leaving your car running in the garage,” Pegelow says. If you operate any combustion devices at all in the garage, even when vented properly, it’s safest to have a carbon monoxide detector installed inside the house.
Do inspect your water heater regularly
If your water heater is located in the garage, it must be elevated on a platform, properly vented and kept clear of obstructions. Eyeball yours to make sure the vent pipes are secured both at the point of attachment on the heater and at the wall or ceiling where they leave the house. Pipe angles should be roughly 45 degrees to allow for proper venting; 90 degrees is too steep and will cause backflow. Ideally, you should have a pipe or bar installed on the floor to prevent driving too close to the water heater.
Do keep a fire extinguisher on hand
Make it easy to see and let all family members know where it is. The NFPA recommends that extinguishers be tested once a month, but if you can’t get to the task that often, at least put a seasonal reminder in your calendar.
Do keep a flashlight in an easy-to-find spot
Attach it to the wall near the door so that you can locate it in the dark.
Don’t leave items on the stairs
If your garage is below level and you use steps to get inside the house, make sure they’re kept free of stray items, and inspect railings and treads regularly for weakness or excessive movement. One good idea, if you have room, is to place a small bench and changing station near the entryway into the house where you can remove dirty work clothes and shoes and store them out of the way. “Of course,” Pegelow says, “if you have a chemical storage cabinet and a dressing area in your garage, you may well have to park your car on the street.”
The garage is a great storage spot, but don’t let space become a cluttered catchall. Organizing and cleaning expert recommends taking stock of belongings and donating what isn’t needed. Most of the stuff people store in the garage is stuff they decided they no longer want in their everyday living space. “So they get it out of their house — out of sight, out of mind — and there it sits.
While you’re editing your belongings, keep in mind three rules of thumb for appropriate garage storage: Don’t store items that could be damaged by extreme or fluctuating temperatures, belongings that could be ruined by moisture and humidity, or hazardous materials that could damage your home. Click through our list of other items you should keep out of the garage.
Finally, don’t risk storing things that are worth a lot to you, either monetarily or emotionally, in the garage. In addition to being more vulnerable to weather, a garage is easier to break into than a house or apartment. So if there’s anything you wouldn’t leave lying around in a hotel room or parked car, don’t leave it in your garage either.