A home’s garage has traditionally been viewed simply as a place to park vehicles, but the general attitude towards the garage is different today, according to experts from the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry for 52 years. The garage is an integral part of many houses, and there are many things homeowners can do to create a functional, customized space.
Milwaukee/NARI members highlighted a few modern options for homeowners to consider for remodeling the garage.
Many homeowners use the garage in their home for various storage purposes, but the storage capabilities of most garages fail to meet the needs of homeowners.
“Standard garages generally don’t provide easy and convenient access to items stored in them,” said Jim Riedel, CR, of Monkey Bars Storage Solutions in Elm Grove. “Most people don’t know what to do from a storage standpoint to make their garages easier to use and live in, but there’s a solution for every need out there”
In terms of where in the garage to install storage, Riedel explained that the best solution is to focus on wall space.
“Using wall space first is more comfortable for regular use, and more similar to storage in other parts of the home. You can install any combination of cabinets, shelves and hooks on your walls,” Riedel said. “After the walls, ceiling space is a great option for installing overflow or seasonal storage.”
Riedel added that cabinetry and other storage solutions can be customized to meet the individual needs of any homeowner.
“Whether it’s a canoe, a set of golf clubs, or tools, the space can be configured and equipped to handle any storage need,” Riedel said. “Homeowners have been installing custom cabinetry and storage throughout the house for decades. It makes sense to apply the same general idea to the garage.
“Every garage is unique, but any space can be maximized to get the most out of the storage capabilities. With modern capabilities, garages can be more usable and livable than ever before,” said Riedel.
Garages are often not connected to the home’s heating and cooling system, but there is a simple solution for climate control in the garage, said Milwaukee/NARI member Scott Droegkamp of Dave Droegkamp Heating & Air Conditioning in Hartland.
“A ductless mini-split unit is the best option for heating and cooling a garage,” said Droegkamp. “They’re especially nice because you don’t have to tap into an existing heating and cooling system to install them.”
According to Droegkamp, ductless mini-split units offer several benefits. “Since there are no ducts involved, installation is relatively quick,” he said. “There is an indoor unit that installs on a wall, and then receives power and coolant from an outdoor unit via a hole in the wall only a couple of inches around.”
Droegkamp added that ductless mini-split units are also more energy efficient than central heating and cooling systems.
“They’re more efficient than central systems, because you can simply turn them off when you aren’t in your garage,” Droegkamp said. “They’re really flexible in terms of where you can install them, and you can control them by either thermostat or remote control.”
While connecting the garage to a home’s existing central heating and cooling system might seem to be a good option to a homeowner, Droegkamp warned against taking this step. “Furnaces and air conditioners are designed to work with very specific square footage, so adding another room to an existing system isn’t a very good idea,” Droegkamp explained. “Ductless mini-split units are more popular than ever before, and for good reason. Homeowners want to do more with their garages, and efficient heating and cooling are big factors in accomplishing that.”
While installing a climate control unit for the garage is a good option for turning the garage into another indoor space, some homeowners want to use their garage as an outdoor space.
“Many people want to use the garage and enjoy fresh air from outside without having to worry about the some of the downsides of the outdoors,” said Wayne Walker of Joe Wilde Company in New Berlin. “That’s where garage screens come in. They span the entire garage door opening, and they keep bugs and leaves out. And the screens don’t interfere with the operation of the garage door. They lift up on a track, similar to the garage door.”
Walker explained that garage screens offer customizable options that help homeowners get the most out of their garage space.
“There are standard sizes, but you can custom order them to fit your garage’s dimensions. And you can get them either power-activated or manually operated,” Walker said. “They can also include a retractable screen door in the middle, which is a really nice feature for keeping the garage space functional. It allows you to come in and out without either lifting the entire screen or going through the house.”
“A couple of homeowners have reached out to me in the past asking about garage screens to use when hosting Packers viewing parties. They installed flooring in their garage and had a big-screen TV and some couches, but they needed the garage screen to finish off the space,” added Walker.
Finally, installing flooring on top of a garage’s concrete slab floor provides multiple benefits.
“Salt and ice-melt products are more aggressive than they used to be, and they can cause significant damage to concrete surfaces,” said Riedel. “Changing the garage floor also makes the garage look really nice. It’s another thing that makes the garage an usable room.”
Walker lauded the customization available for garage flooring today. “There are several options for flooring, including multiple materials and construction, and different colors and textures. Plastic garage tiles lock together on the floor and create a great look. You can choose from multiple colors and install the tiles in whatever pattern you want,” Walker said. “With the options out there today, you can truly customize your garage space to meet your wants and needs.”
Riedel explained the benefits of installing an epoxy floor coating over garage floors. “These coatings will repair a concrete surface that’s starting to show damage, and protect the surface from any future damage. They make the floor easy to clean, and they look great. If you want a showroom quality garage, an epoxy floor coating is a great option.”
As with any room in the house, homeowners should watch for new ideas for improving the design and functionality of the garage. The garage is a room that should not be overlooked from a remodeling standpoint, and it can be greatly improved with just a few simple changes.
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.
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