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.

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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…

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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

 

House Design Tips

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in a critique for fourth year architecture students at our local university – Kent State. Seeing the student’s project work, talking with them, faculty and with fellow reviewers was inspiring to me as a designer and a homeowner. The university houses their architecture program in a brand new building that recently opened with the start of the school year. I had seen photos of it in the newspaper, and had driven by it during construction. It was impressive and rewarding to see the building completed and in person. The scale of the building is a bit juxtapose in my mind. The exterior looks grand in its simplicity – conceptually it reads larger but physically my first impression was that it was smaller than I anticipated. Like 7/8th scale. Inside its wide open, which makes it almost seem smaller and large at the same time. Ultimately there is a lot of “unexpected” since the design transcends decades of traditional big university building design thinking – or at least the buildings I’ve had experience with.

So let’s talk about today’s topic. At the end of the crit the evaluators had an opportunity to mention their take aways and advice. This got me thinking on the drive home, what advice would I give as a homeowner who lives in a house that follows many of the tenants the students are learning about – space planning, energy efficiency, environmental sustainability…and also as a homeowner (I was drafted to bring that perspective to the afternoon’s festivities).

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The new Kent State Architecture building as you approach from the northwest.

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Open studios foster collaboration across experiences and disciplines.

Without further ado here are seven of my off the cuff tips for anyone building, buying, remodeling or designing a home, based on our experience living in our current home for four and one half years.

  1. Rainwater collection is by far the smartest thing we did. This includes the gorgeous steel roof on the house. While pricey (~$20K+ for the roof and $13K+ for the rainwater collection system including cistern) it’s without a doubt the way to go in my opinion for your entire water household water supply. It provides independence from questionable city water supplies. The only maintenance cost is changing filters ($30-$50 each) every few months, and keeping the chlorine tank filled (a gallon of bleach a few times a year). Combined with an on site wastewater treatment solution ($300/year maintenance), it’s off the grid living that allows you to be a responsible steward for how water comes and goes from your property.

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    Rainwater harvesting schematic shows how we collect rainwater for ALL of our water needs.

  2. Central living space – kitchen, dining and family rooms – is the way to go for today’s modern family. These three “rooms” are clustered together in our house and we spend 75% of our family time there I suspect. Preparing meals, eating dinner, watching television – our family of four is always in this space. The only downside is it looks like a tornado hit it with all the dishes, toys, papers, etc. but hopefully as the kids get older we’ll be able to reign in the clutter. And they are not huge spaces individually but as a whole we get a high performance livable space without the complexity of the typical new home floor plan. I only wish the family room space was about 2′ longer, maybe a square bay window. Arranging furniture in that space is a minor challenge. As for quiet time, there are other rooms to get away, so there is balance – opportunities to be in the middle of the action in this central space or not elsewhere.

    central-space

    This is where we spend all of our time essentially – kitchen, family room and dining room. Design these three spaces small and combine them for an effective everyday living space. Bonus points for the adjacent screen porch.

  3. Office space doesn’t have to be a dedicated room or even much more than a strategically placed built in. My office, I work from home 24/7, is literally a 5′ x 9′ space that is technically a hallway between the front hall and my art studio. We recently built a 15’x15′ space in the basement for my new office but laziness has kept me from moving down there just yet. I don’t mind my small office that I have now. I have a handy pocket door that I can close if I’m on a call. The rest of the house is “far away” so the kids are usually making noise somewhere else and early do I have to yell “shut up” during the course of any given day. There is built in storage and aplenty and even a place for our fish tank. When designing a house you can carve an office into virtually any space. And more and more people are working from home either part of the week or all the time. Get creative with office space.

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    Office space can be carved out of a hallway; they don’t require a lot of space.

  4. Pocket doors are a fantastic way to partition spaces. When we had our house designed there were several small spaces along the main north-south corridor. All the spaces (laundry, bathrooms, office) have their doors open 95% of the time.If we would have put traditional doors we be walking around open doors all the time and losing wall space. Pocket doors afford us a lot more flexibility in staging the house for when guests come over, need privacy , sequester cats or just don’t want to look at clutter. My tip though is get hollow pocket doors. The solid ones we have are just too damn heavy and difficult to use. Also note that the door needs space inside the adjacent wall to live when they’re open. You won’t be able to hang towel bars in those spaces as well because of the reduced depth behind the drywall.

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    Pocket doors save space and provide more options for partitioning spaces than a traditional door.

  5. Kitchens can be small and don’t have to be traditional. We stole our kitchen design from a picture I saw in a magazine. It basically looks like three pieces of furniture instead of a traditional stock cabinet design you see in every house ever. And because the kitchen is part of that shared space with the dining room and living room, our kitchen is small (8’x13′) but doesn’t act small. Two chefs can work the room without bumping into each other. There’s a deep integrated pantry space (with pocket door) keeping supplies at hand without taking up much space. The island is big enough to serve off of and stand around, and that’s about it. Exposed overhead beams and a painted ceiling define the space and add interest without a lot of cost. Lastly there’s an alignment with the dining room table that really amps up the repetition and flexibility of horizontal surfaces.

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    Three piece kitchen looks more like an assemblage of furniture than a kitchen.

  6. Open kitchen cabinets add an eclectic touch while making life easier. A minute a day spent opening and closing kitchen cabinets? Six hours a year? Four years of living here and I’ve saved a day of my life not spent opening cabinets, right? We never got door installed on our cabinets due to circumstances, and frankly I’m kinda sold on not having them. It doesn’t look too cluttered. If you’re Martha Stewart you can go crazy with really nice dishes and keep everything organized. If you’re us you have a collection of random cups and glasses and it all seems to work anyway. Go for it, live a little and simplify your life while standing apart from every other cookie cutter home experience out there.

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    Open cabinets make getting, and putting away dishes a breeze and add an eclectic feel to the kitchen.

  7. USB wall chargers are a fun little add on. Replace an outlet in the office or kitchen with one of these USB outlets and you no longer have to hunt for adaptors to charge your electronic devices. Eventually everything will probably wireless charging or whatnot but in the meantime you can go old school by installing a couple of these in your house.

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    A USB charging station allows you to plug devices directly into the wall socket without hunting around for adaptors.

 

Some other personal thoughts that I won’t go into detail this time around but keep them in mind – low maintenance is great, low cost / simplicity to keep construction costs down, character in finishes and details, a screen porch / outdoor spaces, circular staircases are your friend, and 4″ diameter ceiling lights as opposed to old school 6″ ones.

There you have it, some quick tips for your home or your client’s home to make it more useable, flexible and enjoyable.

What are your home design tips? Share in the comments below, I really want to hear them.

 

-Chris

New Roof Washer Filters

After four years of living here, our roof washer filters really needed changing. The roof washers wash all of the water that comes off of the roof when it rains. There are two fiberglass chambers in our front yard that the water flows into. As the chambers fill up with water, debris like leaf parts, bugs, and dirt stay on one side of the filters and the water flows through to the center of the filter, into a pipe and down into the cistern for storage.

I had previously taken the filters out twice, they’re like a cotton material, and washed them. I tried getting new ones last year, and through circumstances didn’t successfully get new ones until this year.

I’m very glad the new filters came with new mesh screens inside and out. The screens give the filters their circular shape. The old screens were rusting out. To install, I simply took off the top caps and threw out the old filters, and inserted the new fluffy white ones.

I’m still waiting to get an invoice for the filters, but I don’t imagine they cost too much.

Elsewhere not much is going on. In the 90 degree heat this past weekend I cut the grass and finally spread a few bags of mulch I had purchased in June; spreading them around some of our smaller younger plants we planted in the meadows. The mulch will help them get some breathing room from encroaching meadow grasses and golden rod.

 

 

For a link to one time when I cleaned the roof washers click here.