A Man’s House is His Castle, the Garage His Sanctuary.

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Being Green, Racing

Being a racer I’m constantly working on a vehicle, whether it is the racecar, my daily driver, the tow vehicle / trailer, or the wife’s car.  Then throw in the occasional parts car needed for the racecar.  In addition I’m also fiddling around with the house trying to improve its look and efficiency.  In the end I need a decent amount of shop/work space and storage for all the tools, parts and implements required.  This led me to configure my garage so it fits my needs.

1st Improvement: Pitch Dark Garage Day or Night

Problem:  When we first bought our house we had no windows in our garage.  Each time I opened the door from the house to the garage and I did not have the garage door open it was pitch black regardless of day / night.  It then required turning on the garage lights since we have some shelves with items and also keep the often filled recycling can in the garage.  This happened several times a day meaning we’d have to turn on / off the garage lights (they are CFL 48″ ceiling mounted).  Unfortunately a weakness with CFL lights are the quick on / off and repetition significantly shortens their life span – CFL’s best strength is low power consumption when left on for long periods of time.

Solution: I decided I wanted to add some windows to the garage doors.  Upon discussing with two contractors who do garage doors they wanted $1,500+ to install windows in my 16′ and 8′ doors.  Seems they would replace the entire panel to do so b/c they say they could not retrofit them in.  I became skeptical b/c of this theory as I’m pretty sure that the OEM’s retrofit them in the stamped panel.

Diagram of Garage Door Window Assembly

So I found out I had Delden garage doors with steel outside / foam core / vinyl inside.  I looked up who the local Delden retailer is and found Renner Manufacturing. I called them up and asked them for help.  Seems that you can buy the materials and DIY.  I bought 6 sets of windows to install.

Installation was time consuming but quite easy.  I mocked up a cardboard template for the hole needed to cut for the window.  Measured the panels to evenly space them and trimmed the cardboard so it was simple to overlay the template onto the garage door.  I used a sawzall to cut the rectangular holes out and trimmed them.  The installation was a breeze – as the windows have a front / back frame that you sandwich the glass panel in between.  Screw in the back part which simply locks the whole window in place and you are done.

Now when I open the door to the garage from the house I can see and even walk around without needing to turn on a light.  It is also said to help curb appeal of the house by adding another element of customization.

2nd Improvement: HOT, HOT, HOT

Problem: Since I live in Kansas…it gets quite hot in the summer and with the opening facing the West it gets unbearably hot in the afternoon / evening.  I would plant a tree to alleviate this problem but my driveway is there.  My only solution so far is to keep the garage doors closed and open the door to the house to let in cooler air, thus significantly increasing my energy bills.  Other thing I could do was open the doors and crank up my floor fan to high and stay in the breeze.

Solution: I decided that I needed the ability for the garage to recirculate the air.  Since I have 12′ ceilings in it and only one side opens – there was no air flow.  The northern wall of the garage is an exterior wall, thus the idea of windows came to mind.  For this I hired a contractor to install them but I went and bought my own and assisted (I have limited building experience).  Once they were installed and open it significantly allowed more air flow into the garage which in turn helped it cool down faster in the summer.  It also helped with improved natural lighting too.

3rd Improvement: Adding Shelving and Workspace

Problem: I now had storage issues in my garage as I had quite a tall ceiling (12′ high ceiling) but none of the self assembling storage shelves I had could use that space.  I needed storage that would be: Inexpensive, Safe, Accessible, Heavy Duty, and Convenient.  I wanted some really nice cabinets, metal surface, etc. but after costing it out I was well over $2,000.

I did some further research and found that 2×4 shelving might be the way to go (as I don’t mind the rough looks).  As I was trying to figure out how to build them, I stumbled upon a product call Shelflinks and found them at Lowes.  These make installing 2×4 shelving a breeze.

Installation was easy as it was simply buying 2x4x8 for the horizontal shelves and 2x4x12 for the vertical supports (these are free standing) – then stick framing it all together using the shelflinks.  They were very sturdy but I also used 90 brackets to secure the shelves to studs in the wall for that extra strength.

Now came the problem of how to reach the higher shelves.  I was using my 6′ A frame ladder but that got old very quickly especially when carrying something heavy up it.  I needed something sturdy that would lean to the shelves.  I wanted something also to be easy to move along the shelves…like a library ladder.  I found a place that makes industrial rolling ladders but it would cost me again over a $1000 for just the ladder.  Instead I headed to Home Depot to look for something that might work.  What I found was quite startling.  For the railing: galvanized top rail of a chain link fence, extra sturdy angle brackets, lag bolts to hold the brackets to the shelving, carriage bolts to sink it into the top rail yet leave a smooth surface; for the ladder simple 2x6x10 boards with two 3″ rollers for the bottom and two heavy duty garage hooks I inverted to hold the ladder to the top rail.

I also wanted some nice workbenches with varying heights so I can do work comfortably.  I found plans to make up some $20 work shelves and built up a pair (simple 2×4 construction with MDF).

Please note how messy it is…I’m still reorganizing from a very hectic August 2010 and race weekend.

  1. Jason says:

    Always nice to see anothers opnion.

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