A homeowner’s guide to garages

home garage


Many people find their garage plays a critical role in the comfort and accessibility of their home. This explains why nearly two-thirds of housing units have a garage or carport. These spaces can help:

  • Protect vehicles and provide a place to park
  • Offer a storage place for outdoor equipment
  • Offer a gaming or gathering space for those who seek fresh air but also a roof
  • Create a workshop for projects too messy to do indoors

If you want to build a new garage or upgrade an existing garage, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about the major components to consider. We’ll also discuss how to design a garage based on your price range and specific needs. 

Whether you live in San Francisco, California or Washington, D.C., here’s what you need to know about your garage space.


Attached and detached garages

To begin, it’s important to note there are two main types of garages: attached and detached. An attached garage is attached to the home. It might share a wall with the house and be to the side or underneath a room in the house. A detached garage doesn’t have this connection. 

Given the proximity of the attached garage to the rest of the house, this type tends to have a greater level of integration with the rest of the home. For example, it might have access to the plumbing or electrical systems. However, a detached garage functions more as a separate structure. For example, if you want a garage with a water hook up, you’ll have to set up a separate system.

This key difference can play an important role in how you plan your upgrades and renovations.


Garage floor surfaces

Most people have concrete flooring in their garage. However, you might want to consider the benefits of using a concrete sealer, cover — such as tiles — or another protective layer that can help minimize the damage done to your garage floor from spills and heavy use. 

Consider the level of activity your garage will see and how easily spills can occur:

  • Fluids leaking from cars
  • Oil spills from outdoor equipment
  • Dirt tracked inside
  • Even water spills that can seep into the concrete

These types of spills can start to damage the concrete, resulting in stains or even causing cracks and other more serious issues. Protecting the floor can help minimize the damage and keep the floor looking great for years to come. 

In addition to using a protectant, you can also help protect your floor by:

  • Cleaning up any spills immediately, with sawdust and degreasers working well to absorb oil, and disposing of oil spills
  • Regularly cleaning the garage floor to prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris
  • Checking for and regularly filling in any cracks you see in the concrete

You also want to consider if you need to pay attention to any requirements regarding strength or thickness. For example, if you want to install a car lift in your residential garage, you can’t have a slope on your garage floor. You’ll also need to make sure that the heavy-duty concrete floor you lay down meets the requirements for the lift, including a strength of 300 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Another important part of keeping your garage floor clean comes from properly installing and maintaining a garage drain system. Let’s explore how your garage drain system works.

Garage drain systems explained

A garage drain system plays an important role in keeping your garage floor clean. A properly installed drain will help prevent water from pooling on the floor of your garage. Keep in mind that water can get in through a variety of ways, such as seeping around the door during a bad thunderstorm or even dripping off a car or equipment brought in from the rain or snow. Allowing water to just sit on the floor can be a safety hazard and even cause nuisances, such as breeding mosquitoes.

One of the best drain systems for your garage floor is a trench drain. This is a drain under a grate that comes in several sections connected together to form a channel. The water flows toward this drain and is carried away. The second more common type of garage drain is a square drain or bell trap drain. These tend to be less expensive and come as a square-shaped top that connects to pipes underneath to escort the water out.

You’ll want to decide which type of drain to install before laying the concrete flooring. The drains also work well if you plan the floor to slope gently toward the drain to make it easier to catch the water. Of course, if you want certain types of extra equipment — like a car lift — you can’t have a sloping floor.

Once you install your drain, check it a few times a year for debris or buildup. If you notice anything in the drain or see that the water drains more slowly, clean out the problem areas. A plumber’s snake can help you dislodge stubborn clogs.


Garage lighting systems

Now that we’ve discussed the important aspects of your garage floor, let’s look at the ceiling. You’ll want to make sure your garage has adequate lighting so that you can use it as a workspace or an area to socialize and relax. Even finding the tool you want or getting to your car is easier with proper lighting.

If you have an attached garage, it’ll typically be connected to your home’s electrical system. This allows you to install different lighting options, including overhead lights.

Garage lighting ideas

When it comes to selecting your garage lighting, it’s important to remember that although the space might feel part of your house, it doesn’t have the same level of insulation as the rest of the home. In other words, your garage will be subject to greater temperature extremes than the rest of the home.

Temperature extremes will impact the type of light you can choose. For example, fluorescent lights — which are commonly selected for garages — don’t work well in very cold temperatures. If you live in a cooler climate where the temperature in your garage regularly dips below 50 degrees, you won’t want fluorescent lights for your space. LEDs are a popular choice for garages for this reason. They not only work better in colder temperatures, but they are also energy-efficient and offer a very bright light.

You’ll likely want to choose a variety of lighting for your garage space. Overhead lighting can help illuminate the space. You might want a hanging light, a light and fan fixture, or recessed lighting to accomplish this goal.

Depending on how you plan to use the space, you might also want to have other light fixtures in addition to primary lighting. This includes a shop light over a particular workshop area, a standing lamp to add additional light to an area used for gaming or socializing, and task lights or clamp-on lights to see in great detail.


Garage walls

As you work on your garage walls, keep in mind that attached garages have fire safety recommendations, and you may also have local codes to enforce them. You’ll want to review these regulations and recommendations before proceeding to keep your home as safe as possible.

As you work on your garage, you’ll likely find that improving the insulation can help make it more comfortable to use and provide better protection, as it’ll limit water coming in. You can also use drywall or plywood to create a more finished look for all or part of your garage. 

With finished walls, you might find that adding cabinets, shelving, and other types of storage can help you organize your garage to fit your needs.

Installing garage insulation

Adding insulation to your garage can help create a more comfortable space. There is a variety of insulation that you can use depending on your goals.

Spray-on insulation

This insulation offers an excellent choice for filling small cracks, which helps reduce water and airflow. If you plan on using your garage as an extra room in the house, this type of insulation is a great choice.

Fiberglass insulation

Fiberglass insulation comes in rolls that can have exposed fibers designed to be covered up by drywall or a similarly finished wall, or rolls that enclose the insulation in paper or another material. You’ll want to use this type if you plan on finishing your walls, as the exposed fibers can cause irritation and trap endless amounts of dust.

Rigid foam insulation

Rigid foam comes in sheets designed to be fit and cut to the desired area of the garage. You’ll want to note the fire rating on any choice you select and opt for one that is fire-resistant, especially if you plan on using the garage as a workstation.


Garage ceilings

Garage ceilings come with a variety of options, including exposed beams or finished looks. Depending on your goal for the ceiling, you can use drywall or similar materials. 

You might also find some creative ideas for increasing the storage space in your garage. For example, you might consider adding:

  • A pulley or lift to help you store items like sporting equipment near the ceiling
  • Shelving suspended from the ceiling to save space
  • Motorized racks that you can raise and lower as needed

These ideas can help greatly increase the amount of space you have in your garage and improve your ability to keep it organized. You’ll have to measure the height of your ceiling and look at the requirements for the products you want to try for your home.

Garage ceiling fans

If you plan on using your garage regularly in the warmer months, a ceiling fan to circulate the air can make the garage significantly more comfortable. You can elect to get a ceiling fan that comes with one of your main light fixtures or get a stand-alone fan.

Whichever you choose, carefully watch your clearance. Measure the height of the ceiling, particularly when compared to any cars or other equipment you park in the garage. If you use ceiling storage options, you’ll want to watch your clearance on all sides and make sure that your fan will safely and comfortably fit the space.


Garage door options

The next important feature will be your garage door, which helps secure your space and complete the exterior look of your garage. You can select the color and style you want based on your vision for the outside of your home. The types of doors include:

  • A sectional door made of panels that connect with hinges
  • A roll-up door
  • A door that opens along the side
  • A tilt garage door that doesn’t bend or roll but tilts out and then moves into the garage along the ceiling
  • A garage door that opens outwardly with hinges, more like a large version of a traditional door

Garage door openers

Many people, particularly those who want to park their cars in their garages, find that a garage door opener can be very beneficial. With a garage door opener, you can open the garage door with a click of a button while still inside your car. This allows you to drive straight into the garage as you get home without having to get out of the car. 

Garage openers use different systems but generally incorporate tension, trolleys and pulleys to open the door smoothly. You have a few choices for garage door openers, ranging from a screw-driver opener — which has the simplest maintenance but also is the noisiest — to direct-drive openers, which produce considerably less noise but also run more expensive than other options. 

You can discuss your options with the company installing your garage door, as working with a professional to install a garage door with an opener is generally the best solution.


How to clean your garage

Now that you have taken the time to plan, design and organize your garage space, make sure that you also keep the area clean. Taking the time to clean your garage will help prevent a buildup of dust and debris. Here are some key strategies to keep your garage clean and well-maintained.

  • Regularly sweep the garage, ridding it of leaves and dirt that easily get tracked in.
  • Have the tools necessary to push any water spills toward your drains, such as a broom.
  • Regularly check for mold, especially in back corners that you might not regularly see. Use a vinegar or bleach solution to clean them.
  • Keep the garage decluttered, using all of your new storage space, so that you can easily see what you have and help prevent damage to your items. 
  • Have sawdust and degreaser on hand to help you clean up any oil spills.


Protect your major home systems with Cinch

Organizing and cleaning your garage is the first step to reclaiming and protecting your space. As a homeowner, though, you have another option to help protect your garage and the rest of your home.

Cinch Home Services offers several home protection plans to help cover major appliances, built-in systems or a combination of the two. Our Built-in Systems warranty plan even helps cover your electrical system, including your garage door opener.

Get the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home is protected. You just spent all this time organizing and remodeling your garage. Isn’t it nice to know that your hard work is protected? Get a free quote now. 

Interested in renovating your garage or building a new one? Here’s what you need to know about planning this important space.