Garage Work Shop

A couple weeks ago I was at a party and my brother-in-law asked me if I had any projects going on around the house. I had to answer “no” because I haven’t had anything going on for quite a while. Work had been slow so funds were non-existent for home projects. And as you all know we’re always knocking around the idea of moving, so why bother. Well the last couple months have found me with a couple extra dollars in my pocket, and a raging desire to do something constructive. I have a mental backlog of projects I’d like to do:

  • garage organization
  • basement ceiling
  • storage room lighting and clean up
  • bar on the screen porch
  • paint the laundry room and bathroom
  • paint the trim and doors in the basement
  • finish staining the porch and sand box

Probably a lot of other little projects I can’t think of right now. I decided to start tackling the garage because it would be nice to fit two cars in there, and we just recently built that storage loft, so let’s get ‘er done, right?

I’ve started drawing up plans for a workshop in the garage, back in September of 2017.  Here:

Workshop Model 181101

The storage loft covers the entire half bay. Below that I’m going to infill with a variety of work benches and shelves made from 2×4 lumber and plywood. These will replace the existing hodge-podge of store bought metal shelves. The red thing in the rendering is my tool chest and the silver thing is a wicked cool little mini fridge that holds frosty beverages.

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This shelf has served me well for over 18 years but maybe it’s just time, you know.

I modeled up and drew plans for the secondary work bench on the far left in the rendering, and the larger “L” shaped work bench on the far right. Budget wise the cost for lumber and screws to make these two came out to about $250 total including delivery of the wood to my place.

I put 1/2″ OSB on the shelves, and 3/4″ pine plywood on the work bench countertops. The countertops are all at 36″ height from the floor. I spaced the lower shelves to accommodate my plethora of plastic tool cases I’ve collected over the years. I ran 2×4 supports from the floor to under the loft rim joist as an added measure of support for the loft above. I’ll connect these supports with “L” brackets at the top and bottom. I screwed the shelves and countertops not only to the supports but also the wall where I could. Everything seems very solid. The “L” shaped workbench does not have a center support, but I think it’ll be strong enough as is (look at the photos). I wanted that corner open and easily accessible.

It took me one day to build and install everything. I think it works and looks great. I have counter space for my bandsaw, drill press, sander and other tools. And something neat: I finally unboxed a scroll saw we bought 18 years ago at Sears which has been sitting in a box because we never had space for it. I did lose some small shelf space, but I plan on installing pegboard and smaller shelves or cozies for small items and fluid bottles.

unboxing scroll saw

I finally got to unbox the scroll saw after picking it up on sale at Sears 18 years ago!

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Garage Loft Support

Earlier this month I noticed the 4×4 post near the center of the loft was bowed in two directions. Could there really be that much weight up there? As you may remember, we built the loft back in October. So here we are in May, five months later and now the post is bowing.

I was worried the whole thing would come down, so I had a friend come over and help me unload some bins I had stored on the loft. We installed a temporary 4×4 to help support the bowed post.

This past weekend I was able to run up to Lowe’s and drop about $50-$75 on some lumber, brackets and construction adhesive. The plan I made was to install two wing walls at each end of the loft. Each would provide 24″ of support under the LVL header. These wing walls will basically disappear once I complete all of my wood shelves I want to build along the perimeter of the garage. The primary part of my plan though would be two 4×4 supports in the middle of the loft. These two posts would be 3′ apart, leaving 9′ of open span to each side to the next 4×4 post against each wall.

I built the 2×4 wing walls on my saw horses and installed them. Under the bottom plates I used construction adhesive, then secured the plates with concrete fastening screws. I screwed the wing walls to the existing 4×4 posts that support the loft where it meets the walls. And lastly I screwed the top plate to the underside of the LVL.

In the center of the loft area I placed a 3′ bottom plate on the cement and a top plate on the underside of the LVL. Between the plates I inserted two 4×4 posts. I secured everything to each other, using metal brackets to help reinforce the 4×4 to plate connection.

I don’t think these new supports will hinder access to a parked car. I can’t imagine the loft is going anywhere now.

What I really believe is the single 4×4 post just warped as it dried out. I don’t think there was any danger of the loft collapsing, but it was scary at first until I could really assess the situation and reinforce it.

Pictures below. Enjoy.

Garage Storage Planning

Now that I have the storage loft in the garage, here comes the fun part. I’m starting to plan out the storage shelves and “counter tops” I’m going to build for the back wall and work shop area.

Construction will be 2×4’s mostly, just like the work bench / spray booth I created in the basement. 

I still have to measure the area and inventory what I want to store, and what I want to use the spaces for, but that didn’t stop me from starting to sketch out my ideas on what I envision it looking like.

Once I have a plan I can work up a lumber list and see what the cost will be. I’m hoping to do this this fall or winter because I’m chomping at the bit. I really enjoy working on this type of project. And of course the organization will be awesome and mind-easing too.

-Chris

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Concept sketch of the work shop elevation.

garage-sketch

Garage Loft Day

I’m really happy with what I accomplished today, with a little (a lot of) help. Today was “Garage Loft Day” and the garage loft is complete!

Cost was right around a thousand dollars, and took two people (my brother and I) five hours to complete start to finish. It’s about 7′ x 21′ in size. All the framing is 2×8’s except for a 9-1/4″ LVL header across the open end of the loft.

We started out by chalking a level line on all three walls. Then we located the wall studs and transferred those measurements to the main long rim joist. With the joist on saw horses we installed metal joist hangers and predrilled holes for our 3×5/8 Ledgerlok Screws. The Ledgerloks were used to attached the long rim joist to the studs. We also used them to fasten the two LVL’s together. After everything was marked we installed the long rim joist against the wall studs.

Next we installed the first two floor joists, the ones that go against the short run against the wall. We used a blind joist hanger at the one end and a couple Ledgerlok’s at the other end to secure these shorter rim joists. They only need to bear the weight above them, not the whole assembly so no need to lag them into every stud.

With the LVL on the  saw horses we attached the remainder of the joist hangers to the board. A blind joist hanger at each end. The LVL was then lifted up and secured to the shorter rim joists with nails and ultimately a pair of lag bolts at each end.

To support the LVL header we installed three pressure treated 4×4 posts. Each post rests on a metal bracket that was mounted to the cement floor using 1/4 x 2-1/4 tapcon bolts. A 3/16″ x 4-1/2″ tapcon bit was used to drill the holes.

Once all the framing was complete we installed treated 5/4 boards, 12′ and 16′ lengths minimized the number of joints we had to deal with. We used #8 x 2″ deck screws to fasten the floor boards. The boards will shrink creating gaps between them which will help when I go to sweep the floor up there, allowing debris to fall through the cracks.

I’m very excited to have completed this project. It give us an “attic” that is easily accessible via a ladder. The loft has great capacity for holiday decoration and flea market bins, as well as other items that we don’t need that ofter, or can’t bear to get rid of. Looking at you original Jeep rims, when I say this.

The next project will be to design and build storage shelves along the back wall, as well as work benches and shelves for my shop below the loft.

Check out the photos below to the various steps in pictures.

-C

Garage Loft

Alright, I’ve got a new little project in the works. I want to build a storage loft in the garage above the 1/2 car bay. We have a ton of “stuff” in the basement and garage that needs to be stored somewhere so I can take back both spaces and restore some semblance of sanity in my home after five years of living here.

Here is the plan:170924 garage plan

This is what the garage looked like during construction:

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The garage before it was sheeted back in 2011. You can see the man door and side window.

 

This is what it looks like now:

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The mess in the garage that will hopefully be cleaned up once I finish my loft project and workshop project. (If you want that red Toro lawnmower, let me know.)

 

My plan is to lag in 2×8 rim joists around the perimeter, just above where the 3-1/2″ window trim would go. And we would mount an LVL or similar type beam the entire length of the open side, with posts at each end, and one in the middle to support it. The decking will be 5/4 boards with gaps between them so I can sweep up there easier and it’ll look nicer, not be too claustrophobic.

My labor is free, so I just need to pay for lumber. I’m hoping it comes in at under $1,000 worth of material.

Once the loft is complete, my next project will be constructing my typical 2×4 workbenches and shelving units under the entire loft, creating a full blown shop for myself.

-Chris

Storage Room Workbench & Coat Rack

Finally I had the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and build something for the house. Work and life have been beyond crazy, but I was able to carve out a Saturday and Sunday to work on a couple storage and workspace solutions for the basement storage room.

The first unit is a workbench for the wife. She’s a paper artist and sometimes needs to spray glue large pieces of card stock so there is a spray booth in the middle of the workbench. No more spraying on the floor. To the right is a baker’s rack style set of shelves. And to the left of the booth is a small work bench with pegboard backdrop. I purposefully left space to the left of the unit to access existing storage shelves, and possibly tuck away loose and bulky storage room items.

The other unit I made is a coat rack. In winter we have a ton of boots and coats, but once summer comes we have no place to put them. This two level unit will hold a ton of winter gear. There is also a shelf and under shelf space for winter boots and unused shoes.

It was a very satisfying project to work on. It’s my therapy, meditation or whatever you want to call it. Challenging enough that it takes some planning, but mindless enough to be satisfying. And no one tells me what to do. I can do it my way. Which anyone who’d reached middle age can tell you, is a rewarding situation.

The storage room looks great now. We’re more organized and have some useful work space. We also took the opportunity to move the cat’s litter boxes to an open area in the room instead of in front of the storage room door. It’s all a wonderful monkey to get off of my back, and allows us to focus on the fun, “living” part of life instead of the “ugh, we still need to do that” part of life.

Overall cost was about $117 for lumber, and $40 for screws and misc hardware. It took me about four to six hours to cut, assemble and install everything. The 2×4’s are definitely overkill – but trees grow back, and it’s easy to find lumber in this size at a reasonable price. Plus it’s straight; 2×3’s or 2×2’s tend to be crooked. The units are screwed into the ceiling above when possible. The Superior Walls are difficult if not impossible to fasten into. At the bottom I placed plastic shims to level everything and I will add metal brackets to tie the units into the cement floor so they don’t fall over.

Eventually we will add lighting to the storage room. I’m thinking three overhead linear LED work lights, and then maybe task light bars over the bench work spaces.

Let me know what you think, and what you’re working on, in the comments section. Here are some pics, ask questions in the comments too…

-Chris

Garage Door Openers

After four years, we finally pulled the trigger on buying garage door openers for our two garage doors. With our fifth winter looming and a “twelve month same as cash” deal at Lowe’s now was as good of time as any.

At our old house we had a Genie garage door opener installed shortly after we moved in. This time around I researched openers a bit and decided to switch brands and go with Chamberlain because they got better customer review ratings from the various sites I looked at online. We purchased two 1/2 horsepower belt driven Chamberlain Whisper Drive openers at about $168 apiece. Since our garage doors are 8′ tall, not the normal 7′ tall, I had to buy two extension kits as well as some hardware, and L-shaped steel material to create a hanger for each opener, about $164 in extra materials. Also turns out I had to spend around another $20 for longer power cords, but we’ll get to that later.

Lowe’s offers installation starting at $119 per opener plus any extra for materials, or extra labor. After talking to the guy at Lowe’s I decided I could probably handle it and save some money. That’s kind of a funny thought in hindsight but first, the installation…

garage-door-opener-l-hanger

Metal L-channel for hanging the openers from the ceiling.

What I thought was going to take a couple hours per door quickly turned into a three day ordeal over the course of the last month. Every little thing that could go wrong sort of did go wrong; although catastrophic deal breakers were limited and obviously I did get the job done. Eventually.

The biggest challenge I faced was that our garage is 14′ tall inside. Which means I only had one ladder tall enough to even get close to the ceiling. It was a precarious job often spent with me on a tall ladder envisioning, not my death, but rather my breaking my neck, peeing myself and laying hopelessly on the cold hard cement until hours later when my wife comes out to see if I’m “okay”.

I managed to get the first opener assembled. I mounted a board to the header above the door to attach the track to. That was it for day one.

first-opener-halfway-done

Late in the night of day one, I finally have the track attached to the front header. I had to scrounge wood, and then attach the board to a seemingly stud free wall. All in an attempt to get the height just right.

The next day I propped the opener up on the ladder and realized no way could I prop the opener on there and still be able to access the ceiling to install the L-shaped metal channels that create the hanger assembly. So I spent an hour fabricating a wooden stand, about ten feet tall to rest the opener on while I attempted to mount it. Here are some pictures to behold my craftiness.

Okay, with the opener finally resting level, it was time to install the metal hanger assembly. This took awhile because I kept dropping hardware; up and down I went on that ladder about a million times. I could just barely reach the 14′ tall ceiling to find ceiling joists and mark them without falling over. One way or another I got the hangers installed, including one at an angle to keep things from racking.

Next up was wiring the unit and plugging it in.

The only problem there was the electricians who installed the garage wiring totally screwed me. The outlet was too far away from the opener. So I’d either have to get the outlets moved, or, after some thought, put longer cords on the openers. Turns out I went the longer cord route. But in addition to that they didn’t run the low voltage wires long enough to reach where the openers needed to be mounted. They basically installed everything for a standard 7′ tall door, without actually accessing our garage’s real world situation. So there I was four years later cursing up a storm to empty air.

So I adjusted the ladder and clambered on up into the attic hoping I wouldn’t have to run new low voltage wires or have to splice anything. Turns out what I did was undo the staples that held the low voltage wires in neat ninety degree runs from the walls to their holes in the ceiling. This allowed enough slack in the lines that they would then reach the garage door openers. So while it may not look pretty in the attic, and I don’t know if that breaks some code, I truly do not care because the problem was solved and I didn’t have to splice or re-run wires.

I am, by no means, an electrician but eventually I was able to figure out how to wire the wall switch as well as the electronic eyes that prevent the unit from closing if something like a kid or small animal is in their way. I plugged the first opener into an extension cord and sure as shit it worked. I was as shocked as anyone.

End of day two.

Only one opener to go.

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The first wall button installed.

I took a few weeks off to mentally prepare for installing the second opener. In the meantime I went to Lowe’s and bought two 8′ long appliance cords. I asked the guy if I could simply change out the cords on the openers instead of fussing with moving outlets. He was a older gentleman, and I just loved his response of “Let’s not overthink every damn thing. Just change out the cords.” So that was good enough for me. The cords I got had three wires to match the three wires on the units – green ground, and white and black.

After assembling the second unit I started to mount it, but then realized quickly that it’d be easier to change the cord on the ground.

What a royal pain in the ass.

Once again I was soon bitching out my electrician for putting the outlets in the wrong spot as I worked over my perfectly new garage door opener; taking it apart, having it flop around in my hands. By the way, the cover is held on with eight screws that can only be removed with a 1/4″ wrench because they are so tightly secured. Eventually I got the cover all thinking: “There’s no way this is 1) ever going back together, and 2) ever going to work again. $168 dollars down the drain.

I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to free the cord from the unit. An injection molded grommet had a death grip on everything. With a little flat head screwdriver love I got the grommet out.  The wires on the original cord were nice because they had little loops and prongs for easily connecting them. My generic new cord just had wires, but I did the best I could to attach them. I even got the grommet to go back in, using a big pair of pliers to squeeze it tight as can be on the power cord, allowing it to re-enter its hole. Eventually the cover even went back on and everything looked okay.

Don’t forget, I still have to install the new cord on the first opener, except that one is ten feet in the air. Not looking forward to that.

Once the power cord was installed, the rest of the installation went relatively easily. Having installed the opener once already, the second install was infinitely easier. Plus I had prepped a lot of the wiring ahead of time when I did opener number one.

Does it feel good to have garage door openers?

Yes.

Was it worth it?

Monetarily? No. If I worked billable hours for half the time I spent playing with the installation I would be way ahead.

Mentally? Not at the time because it was a headache I didn’t need.

But now that it’s over it was rewarding to finish the job. And now I know how to install garage door openers. Still I’m not that quick but I do know the ins and outs of them and how they are installed. So that’s a worthless skill I can add to my heap of worthless knowledge.

I will get the satisfaction of knowing I did it all by myself whenever I go in and out of the garage. So I’m ultimately happy. And now after four years we finally don’t have to manually open our garage doors which will be great in the winter time. Now I just need to clean out the garage.

-Chris