Monday, April 6

Coronavirus Family Activity: Turn Your Garage into a ... GARAGE

Jacksonville garage with storage AND cars
One of the only real activities most of us have right now is going for a walk. Since most homes are now packed with people, even during the day, the walks I go on result in the need to weave past vehicles parked over the sidewalks in driveways. It seems like many homes have in-laws or other refugees living with them, so our neighborhood feels like it's bursting at the seams. While it might seem like now is a good time to re-purpose your garage into another living space, allow me to suggest you turn it into a garage.

Hear me out on this one. A garage is an attached or detached shed-like structure built to house cars. That's why it has a concrete floor and a door large enough to drive a car into it. I'm not kidding: garages are actually designed for cars. Not couches and TVs or punching bags. Not bars or pet pens. Vehicles. Automobiles. And some storage, sure.

Back in Wisconsin, a lot of people do use their garages for parties in the summer. The way it works is that you drive the car out of the garage, set up some tables, add some slow cookers, bring out the coolers, and you have a party. You might listen to the Brewers on the radio or maybe your favorite audio cassette or CD. Sure, it's old-fashioned, but Wisconsinites have been using their garages as garages AND party rooms for years. 

storage and cars in jacksonville garageWhen we lived in Kansas, people kind of made fun of Wisconsin for garage parties. I assume it's because folks in Kansas ONLY used garages for their vehicles. Or none of them did. I didn't really visit many people's homes there. Either way, they didn't tend to also use them for parties. Floridians probably don't use garages for parties because 1. they tend to store too much other junk in the garage to have a party, 2. it gets too hot in Florida garages to force guests into them, 3. people here tend to store garbage cans in the garage. 

Your car will last longer and look nicer if it's kept in a garage. I have a car from 1986 that still looks pretty good because it's mostly been kept inside. My wife had a car that was nearly ten and looked brand new when it got totaled in an accident because it always stayed in the garage. That's how it works. If you've grown up with all your cars on the front lawn and driveway, you might not believe me, but it's actually true. It's kind of like that couch or TV in your garage: if you left them outside, they'd get pretty messed up, but they can stay pretty nice in a garage.

Some Floridians like the idea of a storage room and don't even have a couch or workout area in the garage. If that's you, I have a suggestion: garage shelves. The previous owners of my house put in shelving all around the perimeter of the garage. I added shelving units to two sides, as well as large storage shelves that drop down from the ceiling. I also added some flooring to the attic area. All told, I have about as much storage as I was accustomed to having in my Wisconsin house (that had a 2.5 car garage and a nice attic above the main living area). Most garages here are much smaller than 2.5 car, so it takes some doing to squeeze the space out of these garages (and it helps to have a small car).

bed used as ceiling garage storage in jacksonville
From a sanitary standpoint, you should keep the garbage and recycling outside. You might be forced to have a water heater and even laundry area in your garage, but I would also recommend against it if at all possible. Mainly, I would say this about house size and storage: if you can't fit your junk in your attic/closet/garage/shed space, then you probably need a bigger house, and parking the cars in the driveway will only make storing all that crap more expensive as you slowly destroy your cars and leave them more susceptible to break-ins. We have found that under-bed storage works well, so prop those beds up. We've also opened up the area under our stairs as a closet, so there's another project for the Covid-19 Time.

Our houses are assessed based on heated square feet. Garages fit into a similar category as  patios, in that it's not considered a living space. Many HOAs will have rules about setting up living space in garages, but it seems a lot of people get around this by just not officially turning the room into an addition. Instead, people will sweat it out or freeze in their man cave-like car sheds. When I had little kids, this wasn't even a thought for me, since those kids would have gotten into my power tools and chemicals. Like ponds and loaded handguns in Florida, garages being used as living space pose real danger. Making the garage into a bedroom might not even be legal, but I'd have to ask my legal team about that one.

It should be illegal to park cars over sidewalks. Kids and old people can fall down and get hurt, and if it happens to me, I'll definitely file a lawsuit, especially if it's because you have a Billy Blanks workout area where those vehicles belonged.

Stuff on Wheels
A lot of exercise equipment and yard equipment is wheeled. I used to have two snowblowers and two lawnmowers in my Wisconsin garage. If I needed to move a car, I might need to move a lawnmower first. And you can wheel your power glider out the one time a month you use it, after you back your car out. Hang your bikes up, stick them on a porch, or just move them around the garage when needed. I do have to admit that our 2003 Florida home has the smallest garage we've ever owned. Actually, it's much smaller than our 1953 house and 1978 house, but it is about the same size as the garage we had on our 1926 bungalow. No matter what size garage I've owned, however, I have always tried to park two cars inside, even if I also have one or two more cars outside. If you are fancy enough to own a car collection, then you should have the money to invest in a 6-car garage. My dad grew up on a farm, and he said that some of his neighbors used to leave tractors outside in the elements, whereas his family always stored them inside. And their tractors, not surprisingly, lasted twice as long as their neighbors'. It's really worth the inconvenience, so go turn your garage into a garage.

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