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Garage storage hacks

Author: Allan Britnell
Photos: Lead photo by Dreamstime
Published: February 2024
Garage storage hacks
Garage storage hacks

A collection of tips and tricks to organize what’s often the messiest space near the house.

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I have a rather quirky, very specific memory from one week­end when I was about 13 years old. That Saturday, my parents press-ganged my brother and I into helping clean out the fam­ily’s cluttered two-car garage. After a long day, and several trips to the dump, my dad actually had enough room to park his minivan in the garage. That was the one and only time that ever happened, as the garage quickly became a dumping ground again for anything that didn’t have a home inside the house.

Now, at my own home I have a lovely, extra-wide single-car garage in the backyard. Alas, our car is a little too wide to fit down the narrow, shared driveway between my house and the neighbours’, so our garage is really just a glorified shed for storing bikes, sports gear, gardening tools and our patio furniture over the winter. But I figured if it’s just going to be a storage space, it might as well be an organized storage space.

A garage is a difficult space when it comes to storage. Some items in a garage don’t get moved or used for a year or more. Leftover pieces of flooring you want to keep on hand just in case come to mind. Other items, like bikes and bike helmets, may get used reg­ularly during a specific season. I find it’s best to have a specific location to easily store the more often-used items, and take care to return those items to that spot when you’re done with them. For example, if you or your kids often ride bikes, having cubbyholes for helmet storage and a way to easily access your bikes will work nicely. On the other hand, if you rarely ride your bikes, storing them up high might be the best approach for you, as these bulky and cumbersome items won’t get in the way and regularly fall over. Garage storage is different for everyone.

Keep It Simple
Although this simple hanging rack was purchased, starting with a 2×4 and adding hooks, screws and nails as needed will give you a great place to store all sorts of different tools. (Photo by Dreamstime.com)

Keep It Simple

Out of the Way
Storing larger items, like this car roof box, up high keeps the more easily accessed floor area free to use for day-to-day items. (Photo by Allan Britnell)

Out of the Way

Serious Tire Storage
Tires are big and heavy. A proper rack will go a long way to keeping your garage organized and safe. (Photo by Dreamstime.com)

Serious Tire Storage

Simple and Strong
Plywood and 2×4s work together to create cost-effective, yet virtually bomb-proof shelving. Large plastic storage bins work in tandem with the shelving to store items of many shapes and sizes. (Photo by Rob Brown)

Simple and Strong

Ceiling Bike Storage
Hanging bikes from the ceiling keeps them even more out of the way, though it’s virtually impossible for young kids to take their bike down to use. (Photo by Rob Brown)

Ceiling Bike Storage

Hooked on hooks

The simplest way to store yard tools so they’re out of the way but readily at hand is to mount threaded hooks on the walls. These are perfect for hanging tools with closed handles. They’re available in a variety of lengths. I try to keep my equipment organized by use – snow shovels on one hook, gardening tools on another.
Installation is a snap: drill a small pilot hole and then manually screw the hook in place. The inside of my garage is unfinished, making it easy to attach them to a stud. If yours is finished, you’ll need a stud finder to track down the mounting locations.

Beyond yard tools, I love using wall-mounted hooks to hang all sorts of things in my garage. I hang tennis rackets along with the kids’ hula hoops on one, I’ve tried various types of hooks for hang­ing bikes (more on that in a moment), and I’ve even used one as a jury-rigged paper towel dispenser.

Yard tools without handles

Of course, rakes, brooms and many types of shovels don’t have a closed handle on the end. There are a few different options for dealing with those, including store-bought racks that you can snap them into.
But with my exposed wall studs, the simplest and most cost-effective solution was to mount a piece of 2×4, parallel to the ground, about 3′ up from the floor. With that brace in place, slip your rake, broom, hockey sticks and so on behind it, handle-side down.

For finished walls, you can create individual tool supports from a length of 2″ to 4″ diameter PVC. Cut 3″ or 4″ lengths of pipe, cutting at a 45° angle on both ends. Drill pilot holes through the angled bits to prevent cracking, then drive screws through both holes with the angled bits running vertically along the wall. Again, mount each about 3′ above the floor. When you’re done, slide your tools, handle-side down, through your DIY PVC brackets.

With a bit of creativity, any woodworker could start with a 2×4 and create a long storage rack for larger yard and other miscella­neous tools by adding a series of hooks, screws and nails. Have your yard tools on hand so you can space them apart with appro­priate gaps as you work your way down the 2×4.

Roof box storage

Designing a suspended storage system for our car’s roof box was one of my finest MacGyver moments. We bought the box the year we decided to go on a family ski trip to Quebec, know­ing that it would also come in handy for lugging our camping gear in the summer. But once I bought it, I realized that I needed to figure out a way of storing it when it wasn’t attached to the top of our vehicle. You can’t rest it upside down, and the hooks on the bottom that clamp on to our roof rack bars have to be elevated so they don’t bend. I could have rested it on a couple of 4×4s on the ground, but that would have eaten up too much floorspace.

Then I remembered my tiedown straps. A quick trip to the local big box store to pick up four heavy-duty threaded eye hooks and I was ready to test my plan. I drilled four pilot holes into the rafters, spaced slightly wider than the width of the box, and lined them up with where the hooks on the bottom of the box were.
To mount the box, I loosely sling the tie-down straps around the four hooks under the box and slowly ratchet it into place. I hang it close enough to the rafters so that I, at 6′ 2″, can walk under it without bashing my head. To get the box down, simply loosen the tie-downs until you can lift it free.

If you don’t have a car roof box to worry about, a similar system would also work for storing a number of other bulky items such as kayaks, paddleboards or even a patio umbrella. This type of storage approach works best for items you aren’t going to use too often, as it’s not super simple to put objects up or take them down. Having said that, if the item you need to store is large enough, you might have no choice but to use this approach every time in order to get it off the garage floor.

Tire storage

The same year we bought the roof box for our first family ski trip, we finally took the plunge and bought winter tires. (In retro­spect, that was an expensive holiday!) But, again, I didn’t want to lose a lot of floorspace to store a stack of off-season tires. The sim­ple solution was a store-bought, wall-mounted rack. Since I opted to buy a set of rims for the tires, I needed a fairly heavy-duty rack. When you’re shopping for one, make sure the load rating exceeds the weight of your heaviest set of tires. (Winter tires are usually smaller than all-seasons.)

Bonus advice: One tip I learned while doing some research for this article is that tires shouldn’t be stored near equipment that emits ozone, including sump pumps, battery chargers and electric motors, as the ozone can deteriorate the tires.

Bike storage

For the longest time we had four bikes leaning on each other against one wall of the garage. Invariably the bike that you wanted to use was the one at the back. So, I finally bit the bullet and bought some wall-mounted hangers for them. I opted for a model that mounts high on the wall studs and then you hang the front tire of the bike from it. The wall space I had available wasn’t long enough for me to hang the bikes parallel to the wall, so they stick out from it. The other downside is everyone needs to be strong enough to lift their own bike off the rack if there’s no adult around.

Another approach to storing bikes is a large but simple hook attached to the studs. The front tire can be lifted up and set on the hook, and as long as the rear tire has an even, flat surface to rest on it will likely balance just fine.

If you’ve got a high ceiling in your garage and want the bikes completely out of the way, search for some hoist system options that use pulleys to raise and lower one or more bikes from the rafters.

Cushions and miscellaneous items

The dedicated woodworkers reading this magazine might cringe at the thought of using plastic shelves, but I find their mobility highly versatile. Our patio sofa came with cushions that seem to absorb rather than repel rainwater, so I needed a sheltered place to store them in inclement weather. They all fit on one set of shelves. I have another shelf that I use to store smaller items on, including sports balls, garden tools and our camping equipment, using buckets and bins to keep things tidy. A thick black marker will allow you to label all the bins, though if you think you’ll change what’s in the bins you could always apply masking tape to the bins first and write on it, then remove it and re-label the bins when the contents change.

Of course, feel free to build your own custom shelving but I’ve found that as our needs change – the kids get bigger bikes, we add new patio furniture and so on – this is where these portable shelves go above and beyond as I can just slide them around to accommo­date a reconfigured floor plan.

If plastic shelving isn’t your cup of tea, rough plywood and 2×4s make for some fantastic storage shelving, as they’re relatively cheap and surprisingly strong. They can also be easily cut to whatever length and width needed with basic tools like a circular saw, jigsaw, mitre saw or hand saw.

Ripping the plywood to either 12″, 16″ or 24″ widths will get you started. The width you go with depends on how much depth you can dedicate to the shelving system and how large the items you’re going to store are. Next, use the 2×4s to add some structure to the shelving system. Lap joints, secured with 2-1/2″ long screws, will provide a very strong shelf. Once it’s done, secure it to the stud wall with long, heavy screws and L-brackets.

When in doubt, go stronger. The weight of all the items on the shelves will add up quickly, and the last thing you want is for the shelving unit to collapse from all the weight and have everything land on the windshield of the family car.

Drawers for smaller items

If you’re storing all sorts of smaller items it might be a good idea to add a few drawers here and there. A bank of drawers under a worksurface or shelf runs the risk of becoming a “junk drawer,” though if you keep it organized it will safely and neatly store a lot of things at your fingertips.

Plywood construction might do the trick nicely, though even heavy-duty plastic storage drawers might work. It all depends on the weight of the items in the drawers and how much abuse you think the drawers will take.

Use the rafters

If your garage has rafters, consider using those as extra stor­age areas for long items such as lumber, pipe, etc. In our previous garage I was able to store a hard plastic, 4′ diameter children’s pool up there. Just be careful to not add too much load or you’ll compro­mise the structure.

Also, keep in mind that some materials, such as drywall, will sag so they shouldn’t be suspended from the rafters.

All right, the garage is finally organized. Now get out there and enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Allan Britnell - [email protected]

A long-time freelance contributor to Canadian Woodworking, Allan Britnell is now the Editor-in-Chief of NewsCanada.com.

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