There are many things you need to do and know before you can start organizing your garage. One thing you’ll need to do, for example, is clean out your garage and decide what needs to stay and what you can get rid of.
Determining what types of storage will work best in your garage and for organizing the things that you keep in your garage is a great place to start. But your knowledge should go beyond just types of storage. You should also consider what each type offers regarding features, material, mounting options, and price.
Garage Storage Buying Guide
A. Storage Options
There are many different sizes of garages out there, and as such, there is a lot of storage options available to you. Because there are so many options, it is relatively easy to find combinations that will work best for you, your family, and your garage space.
The most commonly used types of garage storage are cabinets, shelves, sports racks, and tool chests.
Cabinets are a great way to begin organizing your garage because they provide a safe place to put things. If floor space is an issue in your garage, wall cabinets will work best for you, but if floor space is not a problem, a base cabinet will work just fine. You can also combine wall and base cabinets to make a set.
a. Storage Cabinets
Storage cabinets are either wall-mounted or freestanding. These types of cabinets come in many different colors and are available in many kinds of materials. Most have a coating that protects them from rust, corrosion, and scratches. Some other options you have with cabinets are:
- Adjustable or fixed shelves
- Pre-assembled or assembly required
- Wheels or no wheels
- Drawers or no drawers
- Lock or no lock
There are three main things to keep in mind when looking for a storage cabinet. First is thickness. You need to consider what items you will be putting in the cabinets. If you are storing heavier items, you will want a cabinet that has thicker shelves.
Second is the environment that the cabinets will be in. If your garage is not temperature or moisture controlled, the types of materials you can get your cabinet in will be limited, as some materials do not withstand the weather or climate as well as others. Metal cabinets are the best choice for you if your garage does not have temperature or moisture control.
Third is the layout of your garage. You need to think about how the cabinets will fit with the floorplan. Know wall-to-wall measurements and be sure to measure while the car is in the garage so you can get an idea of how much space you have to work with.
b. Safety Cabinets
Safety cabinets are made specifically for keeping hazardous substances such as flammable liquids, pesticides, and corrosives safe from fires. In some cases, they can even be used for firearms, to provide a safe, secure place to store them so you don’t have to worry about young children getting into them, which could be disastrous.
Safety cabinets are pretty standard, thanks to regulations. There are more restrictions in some states than there are in others. The door style is one of those restrictions that differ depending on the state. There are three main types of doors:
- Manual: Manual close doors that open 180 degrees and will self-latch when pushed closed
- Sliding: bi-fold door on a spring-loaded track that self-latches and self-closes; has a fusible link that holds the door open and will break at certain temperatures, allowing door to close
- Self-close: self-indexes, self-closes, and self-latches when you release the doors; has fusible links to hold doors open
In some states, door style is a matter of preference, but in others, safety cabinets must have self-closing doors.
Handles are another option that differs based on state regulations. Some states allow any handle that locks, but others require self-latching handles. I will say that self-latching handles increase the safety because they lock automatically. This means you do not have to worry about making the mistake of forgetting to rotate the handle to lock it manually.
Be sure to follow all OSHA code requirements and regulations when storing flammable substances. Federal, state, and local codes and regulations may vary.
c. Complete Storage Systems
Complete storage systems are made up of any combination of cabinets. Most stores require a minimum of three cabinets to make a set, and some sets include more than twelve cabinets.
These combinations can be all freestanding, all wall-mounted, or a variety of both. A lot of combinations give you the option of including a workbench and a pegboard.
When choosing combinations for a complete storage system, you want to be sure you know your storage needs. It is all too easy to get carried away and go overboard—then you end up with more storage space than you know what to do with. Not to mention, you will probably end up with a regrettable hole in your wallet.
Shelves are another great storage solution. Like cabinets, you can mount shelves on the wall or get a freestanding unit. You can also purchase add-ons that connect to each other in various ways, allowing multiple organization options.
a. Freestanding Shelving Units
Source: Home Depot
Freestanding shelves are available in a variety of different materials and can have anywhere between two and ten shelves. These shelves are either fixed or adjustable, but adjustable is the more popular.
Some freestanding units come with bins for you to store things in and others come with caster wheels to make moving it easy.
Like with the cabinets, you want to keep weight capacity in mind, as what you plan on storing will influence what kind of shelves you should get.
b. Add-on Units
Add-on shelves are like freestanding shelves, except they only have two legs, with the other side open. This is because they are made to attach to other freestanding shelves. There are lots of ways you can connect add-ons. Two of the most popular are side-attachment and corner attachment.
Attaching it to the side of the starter unit will make a longer shelf that you can then line a wall of your garage with. Attaching it to a corner of the starter unit will make it into an “L” shape that would be ideal to place in a corner.
c. Wall-mounted Storage Shelves
Source: Garage Organization
Wall-mounted shelves are perfect for small garages that do not have the floor space to accommodate freestanding cabinets or shelves. Some shelves, like wire ones, have accessories that give you the opportunity to attach racks or other storage devices to the underside of the shelf.
Wall-mounted shelves allow you to make the most of your wall space (or vertical space) and keep your stored belongings off the floor. This maximizes floor space, increases overall garage storage capacity, and provides a safer working environment.
d. Ceiling Shelving
Ceiling-mounted shelves are great because they take advantage of that unused space above the garage door. Before you just go out and buy these, though, you need to first measure the space between the ceiling and the top of your (open) garage door. You need at least sixteen inches between the ceiling and the door for the shelving to be functional.
While these shelves are designed to fit between the ceiling and the garage door, you can use them elsewhere in the garage, too. This option allows you to adjust the height of the shelf to your liking and the only limitation would be weight.
With these shelves, keep in mind that you want to store stuff on them that you don’t use very often because you are going to need a step ladder to get to it.
A lot of times, the clutter in our garages comes from bikes and other sports equipment that we have no other place to store. Investing in racks can help with this problem. Yes, you still have to store them in the garage, but they won’t take up as much space.
There is pretty much a rack for everything: bikes and kayaks, snowboards and skis, surfboards and paddleboats, sports equipment; you name it, it’s probably out there. And the great thing is that there are multiple mounting options available so you can choose a rack that best fits the space available to you.
a. Bike Rack
Available in freestanding, wall-mounted, and ceiling-mounted options, there is a perfect bike rack for every garage. The freestanding ones tend to take up more floor space, but can typically fit more bikes in them.
The wall-mounted ones allow you to get your bikes off the floor. Plus, there are many options on how to hang bikes from wall-mounted racks. The ceiling-mounted ones, depending on which kind you get, have the potential to store more bikes than freestanding racks. Like the wall-mounted racks, there are many options available on how to hang a bike from a ceiling-mounted rack.
If space is a problem for you, there are space-saving bicycle racks available in freestanding, wall-mounted, and ceiling-mounted options, although the freestanding space-saving racks only fit up to two bikes.
b. Ski/Snowboard Rack
Ski/snowboard racks are only available in the wall-mounted option, but there are a couple wall-mounted option available. You can either have a rack that stores the skis and snowboards vertically, or one that stores them horizontally.
The wall mounts that offer vertical storage tend to keep your skis and snowboards more secure, as a lot of the horizontal ones work more like tables, meaning your skis and snowboards could easily be knocked out of place. The vertical ones also tend to take up less space than the horizontal ones.
c. Sports Rack
Sports racks, like bike racks, are also available in freestanding, wall-mounted, or ceiling-mounted options. There are many options available to you for each of these types, but freestanding seems to be the most popular because they tend to have more room to store your sports equipment.
The wall-mounted ones have fewer selections to choose from than the freestanding and most don’t hold as much, but there are some that can hold quite a bit of equipment. They have sports racks for golf sets, lawn chairs, baseball equipment, and even racks with nets, made specifically for storing balls in.
The ceiling-mounted ones aren’t as popular and have even fewer choices available to you than the other two, but if floor and wall space is an issue in your garage, a ceiling-mounted sports rack could be the best choice.
d. Kayak Rack
For storing kayaks, you can either choose a freestanding rack or a wall-mounted rack. The freestanding ones aren’t as popular, as they take up more floor space in your garage, especially once you put your kayaks on it.
Some wall-mounted ones can store up to three kayaks, and you can select a rack with hooks to place your kayaks on, or a rack with slings to slide your kayaks in. Some of the sling variations have the option to be hung from the ceiling, but they are considered wall-mounts because the kayak itself is on the wall.
e. Surfboard/SUP Rack
Surfboard racks often double as stand-up paddleboard (SUP) racks. They are either freestanding or wall-mounted, but there are limited options available when it comes to freestanding surfboard/paddleboard racks.
The wall-mounted variety tends to fit more boards than the freestanding ones anyway. Not to mention, it saves some floor space.
f. Fishing Rack
Because fishing poles take up a relatively small amount of room, it doesn’t matter if you purchase a freestanding or a wall-mounted rack for them. Both types will hold a lot of fishing poles, and both will not take up that much space in the garage.
4. Tool Storage
Another thing that tends to clutter up garage space is tools. Some people have more tools than they know what to do with. You can solve part of this problem in the cleaning-out process that you should go through before installing any storage options for Work benches.
The rest of the problem lies with the leftover tools after the cleaning-out process. It is these tools that you must find a space for. Fortunately, there are many tool chests to choose from—and in many different sizes—that will store all those tools that have nowhere else to go.
a. Top Chest
Top chests can have anywhere between one and three drawers to more than twelve drawers, so depending on how many tools you must store, one chest could do the trick. Many top chests have the following feature options:
- Locking mechanism
b. Middle Chest
Middle chests are typically smaller than top chests; as such, they can have anywhere between one and six drawers. They come with the option of having handles and a locking system, but not wheels. This will be a good tool chest for you if you do not have that many tools to store.
c. Bottom Rollaway Chest
Bottom rollaway chests have the most options for you to choose from: wheels or no wheels, handle or no handle, lock or no lock, one to three drawers or more than twelve drawers. They are the most customizable and typically have the most room for tools. The handle and wheels make it easy to move, which is ideal, especially since a lot of tools can make it heavy.
d. Combination Set
A combination set usually consists of a top chest, a middle chest, and a bottom rollaway chest, but with all the different options available for top, middle, and bottom chests, there are limitless possibilities.
B. Garage Storage Materials
It was mentioned briefly in the cabinets section of this article, but the materials you choose to get your garage storage in really does matter. Some materials do better in the weather than others, and some materials have better protection against rust than others. Some are more sturdy and durable than others.
This section of the guide will tell you which materials are best at what to help you narrow down your search.
Metal cabinets or shelves, such as those made from steel or aluminum, are the most popular material type, and for a good reason. Metal is renowned for its strength. It can hold a lot of weight and the chances of if bowing or breaking in your lifetime are slim.
Metal has its limits, however. It may have sharp edges or corners, making it potentially dangerous, especially if you have children. It stands up to water and moisture well enough, but it is susceptible to rust. You should note, though, that most metal products that are used in outdoor environments are treated with rust-preventing agents that will delay the appearance of rust.
Wood is a timeless option, as it is available in many sizes, designs, colors, grain finishes, and styles. And when you get bored with one color, you can simply repaint rather than re-buy. You can cut wooden shelves to fit your wall perfectly
The biggest drawback to wood cabinets is that they are not as resistant to moisture as other materials are. When exposed to these elements, the wood may crack, bow, or break. Also, you would need to maintain the wood on a regular basis to keep it in tip-top shape.
Plastic cabinets offer a cost-effective way to store your belongings. Not to mention that plastic is virtually maintenance free and easy to clean. It is also water-resistant, which means it will do well in garages that get moist. These things make plastic cabinets super durable, adding up to a long lifespan.
The downside to plastic is the adage, “you get what you pay for.” Plastic is cheap, which, unfortunately, means it is also low-quality. Plastic is not designed to take heavy lifting. In fact, storing heavy items on plastic cabinets or shelves can cause splintering, cracking, or even buckling, so if you have heavy items to store, you should look at other materials.
4. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is popular because it is inexpensive but still durable at the same time. Its smooth surface makes it perfect for painting, but also makes it easier to see scratches.
A word of caution though: MDF’s edges and corners are easy to crush, so you need to handle it with care. Also, MDF does not hold up well in moist environments, so if your garage is leaky, MDF may not be the best choice.
This one refers specifically to shelves. Wire shelving is one of the less expensive options. They are also super easy to upkeep and clean. They are also available in many different sizes and shapes, so there is one out there that is perfect for your garage.
Unless you can get them mounted on studs, wire shelves won’t support a significant amount of weight, at least, not for extended periods of time. But the open construction allows airflow to circulate, decreasing the chance of mold or mildew.
II. More Details
There are many ways you can organize your garage, but before you begin, there are some final things you need to consider.
Garage storage costs vary vastly depending on many factors. How many cabinets and shelves do you need? What kind of rack? What kind of tool chest? Then there’s the materials they’re made from, the size selection, the brand, and any extra features you may want to add.
For cabinets, the smaller ones are usually less than $100, but the bigger, higher-end ones can go from anywhere between $250 and $1,000. Safety cabinets can’t be found for less than $250, and complete storage systems can go for more than $5,000. Prices vary depending on the brand of cabinet.
You can find decent shelves for under $100, but those that have special features can go for more than that. Most shelves are under $750.
Most racks are between $50 and $500. The pricing depends on the type of rack (bike, kayak, etc.) you are getting. Also, whether it’s freestanding, wall-mounted, or ceiling-mounted may affect price.
Tool chests can be as little as $250 or more than $2,500; it all largely depends on style and how many drawers you want. Some top and middle chests can be bought for less than $250.
Another thing to consider is whether you are going to install cabinets and shelves that need to be mounted by yourself. If you are going to have a professional do it, that’s an added cost.
B. Key Features
The features that cabinets, shelves, and tool chests offer were already briefly discussed, but here we are going to go over some of the more key features from each one to help you get a better idea of what you want.
1. Adjustable or fixed shelves
This feature is available for both cabinets and shelves. The main thing you want to consider is what you’ll be storing. If it is a bigger item, fixed shelves may not offer enough room to store it. Ask yourself, “do I want to be able to adjust the shelves as my storage needs change?” If the answer is yes, you will want to look for adjustable shelves. If the answer is no, you will want to look for fixed shelves.
2. Lock or no lock
Do you have children? If you do, you may want to consider getting a cabinet or tool chest that locks to keep potentially hazardous substances or dangerous tools away from them.
3. Wheels or no wheels
This was an option that was available for cabinets, shelves, and tool chests. If you want to be able to move these things with ease, then you should consider getting them with wheels. An advantage to getting them with wheels is that you can rearrange their positions in your garage whenever you want, either to accommodate new storage or because you want a fresh look.
C. DIY Options
If you’re a handyman and want to customize your own garage storage pieces, there are many ways to do so. Doing it yourself has its perks. For one, it’s cheaper and two, you can completely customize cabinets and shelves to fit your garage perfectly.
There are many guides online for various DIY projects and even more video guides on YouTube. This link leads to a guide that tells you step by step how to make your own cabinets. This link leads to a YouTube video showing you how to make shelves for your garage. These are only two of the many DIY options out there.