I’ve owned my house for over five years now, and I have never—not once—parked a car in my garage. Honestly I often forget that it’s even a potential option, even though it’s right behind the house and I see it everyday. Both online and in real life, people persistently tend to refer to my garage as a “shed” or a “shack,” which for a while confused me. It has a garage door that faces the street and everything! But then I realized…that I use it as a shed-shack…and think of it as a shed-shack…and more than likely talk about it like a shed-shack while I continue to not utilize the ENTIRE SEPARATE BUILDING that I have ON MY VERY PROPERTY built SPECIFICALLY for the ultra-fancy purpose of sheltering THE THIRD MOST EXPENSIVE THING I OWN, behind my house and my debt, and MAYHAPS I should really start thinking of it as a garage?
Which really conflicts with my evident aspiration to also have a personal lumberyard, so it’s a tough call. I don’t know. We don’t need to dwell on it. We’re just talking about what the shed-shack is like right at this moment in time. To do that, let’s look at where we’ve been. Behold:
This is when I bought the house. The great thing about having such dire before photos is that I can never really feel that bad about how things stand today because, well…look! Evidently, there had been some kind of half-baked effort to extend the garage to accommodate a boat, which—speaking as a person who can barely maneuver my small utility trailer into my own driveway (or any kind of space, really)—sounds patently absurd. Clearly the project was abandoned before it had really gotten off the ground, though, leaving this…weed and trash pit?
Additionally, take note of the little door in that first image, because it becomes relevant shortly. OMG HANG ON, we’ll get there.
SO. When ALL THAT ASPHALT got removed from the backyard (prompting the insane summer of dirt-hauling and praying for the sweet relief of death), so did that cinderblock foundation, which left this charming view! There’s something about an old sloppy siding patch that I’m actually kind of fond of, even though I have NO patience for new sloppy patch jobs. I finally made the connection that the missing window on the back of the garage never actually left the premises, but rather got recycled as the old laundry room window! Which has now also been replaced, but anyway. What an odd choice.
Inside the garage, things had gotten a JUST A LITTLE crowded. Demo over at Bluestone Cottage had left me with piles and piles of wood trim to store until it gets cleaned up and re-installed. My first fencing project had left behind an extra panel. Upstairs kitchen demo supplied a kitchen’s worth of base cabinets and formica countertops, poor decisions granted me a bunch of falling-apart shutters that I intercepted at the dump, a twenty-dollar price tag on a cute art deco dresser had saddled me with…an extra dresser. And so on. You get the idea.
I’m not really sure when or exactly why somebody drywalled the whole interior of the garage, and in retrospect it might have been kind of nice…but it wasn’t in good condition, appeared moldy in some spots, and somewhat interfered with the plan to install new electric in here to run power tools, new exterior lighting, etc.
SO! I gutted all the drywall, exposing the unpainted backside of the shiplap siding and the studs. Rustic? Sure. Rustic.
A couple months before, my friends Kim and Scott over at Yellow Brick Home had put some super impressive work into their own detached garage, including adding these simple and strong wood brackets for storing excess lumber. Their garage is what garage dreams are made of. “Great!” I said. “I’ll do that, too!”
So I did that too.
Except I have a lot more wood than Kim and Scott do. And also a much smaller garage. These are two facts you might think I would have considered beforehand, but evidently I’m incapable of thinking this many steps ahead.
Simple brackets. I can build simple brackets. Here I am, building simple brackets as day turns to dusk. Brackets out of scrap wood to hold more scrap wood.
Turns out there is a real compatibility problem between me and these brackets. You also might think I would have foreseen this, but once again. Too many steps ahead. Lower those expectations PLEASE.
See, each one takes up a lot of space. The space that is a particular issue is that diagonal brace, because once your wood pile gets to the base of that diagonal brace, subsequent pieces of wood inch forward, causing your pile to be weird and uneven, and things to fall, and general mishap. The solution here is obviously to not have so much goddamned wood that the piles ever get higher than the bottom of the diagonal brace, but that’s obviously too much to ask of me at this moment in my life. Someday I will have used up a lot of this wood (I SWEAR I HAVE PLANS FOR ALMOST ALL OF IT PROBABLY I THINK) and this might not be an issue anymore. Even still, though, it’s not an especially space-efficient design.
What I SHOULD HAVE DONE (and later did do on one wall) was suck it up and buy these storage racks, because they’re a) made for this very purpose b) well-designed and very sturdy c) pretty macho. Unfortunately once I started building my simple brackets I couldn’t stop building my simple brackets.
Because I simply must tell you EVERYTHING, demo revealed another now-covered window on the other side of the garage, directly opposite the other window!
Siding is patched over on the exterior, and this window faces the fence that divides my property line from the neighbor’s. Maybe someday I’ll restore it but for now it’s kinda not hurting anybody.
SO. Back to the wall opposite the garage door. At this point there is lumber everywhere so I take a break to use a very small amount of it.
Remember when I said to take note of the skinny door on the side of the garage? It’s only 28″ wide—which is fine for just walking in and out, but try carrying a table saw through it. Or a long piece of wood. Or the lawnmower.
YES there’s a big garage door on the opposite end of the garage, but it’s outside of the fence, doesn’t have an electric opener, and stays locked for security…so using it means making sure the dog is in the house, opening the garage door from the inside, out onto the sidewalk with whatever the probably heavy thing is, back into the backyard through the gate, back into the garage to close it, back to the house to let the dog out who has now eaten something I forgot I left on the table…this was a pain.
Long ago I dazzled you with this beautiful SketchUp rendering of my backyard, which is mostly different than anything I’ve done or plan to do anymore, but adding doors to the back of the garage didn’t change! The idea is that it allows more light into the garage, and provides an easy, convenient, and LARGE access to bring big things in and out. In theory you could put a table saw or a planer in the middle of the garage, open up both sides, and feed a long board through. In practice, thusfar there has always been too much stuff for this concept to become a reality, but I HAVE DREAMS, OK?
So, I invited my friends over for a relaxing afternoon of light framing work and demolition. And by friends I mean Edwin and Edgar, the ride-or-die power duo I rope into pretty much everything I do. We built a header with hoarded lumber and supported it with hoarded jack and king studs. Evil plan in action!
Then we cut a big hole! Light streamed in! Angels sang!
Into the opening, we inserted this set of pre-hung french doors. Pre-hung doors are so simple! So drama-free! A few shims, a few screws, and viola! Doors!
Edgar, who is magic with a circular saw, ripped off the ends of the siding around the door to accommodate a new casing.
The hardest part of assembling the new cashing is, luckily, not very hard! A few passes on the table saw and I had a good replica of the drip cap that sits over the other doors and windows on the garage and parts of the house. Some lumber yards have this piece available, too.
Some more scrap wood and a hefty dose of Bondo later…looking pretty good, doors!
Speaking of Bondo: Bondo is a bit tricky and, I find, unreliable for exterior wood repairs, at least in this climate. Some people swear by it, some people won’t touch the stuff—I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve had repairs fail after just one year on bare wood, although repairs where I’ve used at least 1-2 coats of primer on bare wood before applying Bondo have been fine—for now, at least. A much better product—although more expensive and time-consuming (it takes about a week to cure)— is Abatron WoodEpox. For what it’s worth, although not recommended, I’ve never seen a Bondo repair on interior painted woodwork fail—just outside. It can’t seem to take the expansion and contraction that occurs with exterior woodwork in the upstate NY climate.
SO. Way back when I said I was going to do this, and then a bit later did it, and then neglected to blog about it, there was comment drama about the doors. They are pine. They are made for interior, not exterior use. They are single pane and not particularly weatherproof. I chose them in large part because they were affordable at $377, and I figured worst case scenario, someday I’ll have to replace them into a now-existing standard-sized opening, which isn’t really such a big deal. I stand by it! They’ve been through 3 whole winters at this point and haven’t shifted or shown separation at joints, etc., and I think they should last many more years without issue.
SO. Current Status: TOO MUCH WOOD. In fairness there are many not-wood items like a few large tools, 2 spare cast iron sinks (as one does), various gardening and landscaping accoutrement, roofing shingles for a rainy day (get it?), window sash (pl.), extra corbels, uh…I don’t know, stuff. It’s an overcrowded disaster which I swear is not nearly as disorganized as it might appear. I have a LOT of interior finishing work coming up (THANK GOD. I AM SO TIRED OF FRAMING AND PLUMBING AND ELECTRIC AND INSULATION AND SIDING I COULD SCREAM. I AM SCREAMING.), so I’m kind of perversely excited to see how thinned out I can get this in the coming months. Also, intensely motivated to get this garage back under control because this is driving me nuts. At a certain point the strategy backfires because there’s too much to even see what you have, and fishing it out becomes a big hassle.
Additionally. You may note. That the last two are recent pictures. And I mentioned these doors were installed 3 years ago. There is a simple explanation for this. I never actually finished painting the doors. Because I just did not. The options were to finish painting the doors or do something other than finish painting the doors, and I have consistently chosen the latter option for multiple years now.
Also, they really need hardware. The lack of hardware is an issue.