Pimp The PoP’s Garage – Part 1 – Planning

20130728-145116.jpgWell, it’s finally happened. We’re finally ready to call the priest to perform last rites on the water heater we were convinced was on its last legs on the day we moved in. The water heater is old. 28 years old to be precise. Consumer reports pings the average lifespan of a water heater at about 13 years, so yes – the thing is old. And we knew it was quite old when we bought our lovely little house 4 years ago.

Which is why we made a deal…


The Deal

While the rest of our little house is very functionally designed to maximize space and usability, the designers seemed to forget about that goal when designing the garage. So ever since we bought our house we always wanted to make some changes to the garage to make it more usable. But even minor changes ended up feeling like a cookie problem (that’s what we call problems that seem to snowball out of control).

Since one of the things we hate about the garage is the location of the water heater, we made a deal with each other. Once the water heater kicked the bucket, we’d spend some time and some money and really make the garage a more functional space. We just never expected it to take this long.

But here we are. Time to pay the piper on this deal.

On a side note to the water heater – I gotta say, “Thank You, water heater, you have some pretty fabulous timing!” You waited patiently plugging away doing your job while we did some major remodels on the rest of our house, then while we bought a duplex and did some major remodels there, then while we bought another piece of investment property, and then while we paid off over $100K in debt. Thanks for all your hard work and waiting until we really do have time to tackle this well.


He Said / She Said: Our Feelings On Garages

Mr PoP: I grew up having access to a 2 car garage with attached 500sq ft work room, a shed, and a barn for the really big projects. Between my father and 4 brothers the family tool collection was better than some automotive shops and from elementary school on I was either taking something apart, or putting it back together.A garage is way more than a place to put stuff – it’s also a workshop where you can maintain, fix, and create your stuff.

Mrs. PoP: To me, a garage is an ultimate luxury item. Not only do we have 3 bedrooms (for 2 people and a cat), but my car gets its own room to sleep in as well? Amazing! And since it’s so luxurious, I want to be able to use it – not stuff it so full of crap that I’m embarrassed to leave the garage door open for fear of being outed as a secret hoarder.

Garage Status Quo

A totally safe way that we’ve been running electricity for the past 4 years, right? No!

Truth be told, our current garage utilization isn’t horrible. Everything fits. Kindof. It’s just messy. And poorly lit. And has too few electrical outlets (which necessitates cords being run for long distances). But instead of having nice shelving that fits many of our tools, we have awkwardly shaped cabinets that while they look like they offer a lot of storage actually don’t help much since they’re ineffective to use.

So this is what our garage looks like today.

From angle 1, you can see the only clear place to park my bike (except the middle where the car normally is) blocks the doorway. Also, the shelves by the washer and dryer are largely unused because they aren’t adjustable height and most of the tools we have stacked up on the side are too big to fit on the shelves. The cabinets over the water heater are also too high and small. Once things go in there, they seem to get lost in an abyss where we can’t tell what’s inside!

And from angle 2, we’ve got a similar issue where the cabinets and shelves aren’t adjustable, and are awkward sizes for the tools and supplies we’ve ended up with. And can someone admire Mr. PoP’s red tool chest? That thing was NOT cheap (It wasn’t that expensive, its just that were completely broke when we bought it-Mr. PoP) and we’d like to get it in a location where Mr. PoP doesn’t have to climb over 70 lbs of kitty litter (I bulk buy when it’s on sale!) to use it.

Granted, part of the problem is that it’s disorganized. But the shelving and storage that we have right now isn’t very conducive to organizing what we want to store out there. And we have a wish list of items to increase the usability of the garage.

Our Garage Ideas Wish List

  • Epoxy the floors (Mr PoP’s wish) – the floors are ugly, and Mr. PoP also says that epoxy would protect the floor that is already a little damaged in places
  • Paint the walls (Mrs PoP’s wish) – There are actually a couple different colors of paint on the walls and I have no idea where or when this color was ever in another part of the house; may as well make it match while we’re doing everything else!
  • New water heater (need, not wish!) – but we are examining more space saving options (and energy efficiency options) than the one we currently have
  • Utility sink (Mrs) – like this one along with an overhead drying rack installed next to washer and dryer so messy projects don’t need to come inside for clean up
  • More countertop workspace (Mr) – means more space to organize projects and tinker and be able to pause projects in the middle without having to pack everything completely away
  • Bike parking (Mrs) – preferably near the garage door, with a special place for bike supplies and tire pump. Even maybe a garage door remote for my bike, too! (Seriously, how cool would that be?)
  • Adjustable shelving (Mr & Mrs) – to replace the oddly sized cabinets and most of the non-adjustable shelves
  • Lighting, electrical outlets, and a water spicket for the new countertop space (Mr) – This workspace really is Mr. PoP’s first stop in the morning (it’s where he keeps his espresso machine and little happens in Mr. PoP’s day before visiting his Silvia), so he wants to be able to see what he’s doing, have a couple extra outlets, and fill the water on his espresso machine without trudging back into the house half asleep.
  • Nothing on the floor (Mr & Mrs) – Storing things on the floor invites bugs. Specifically cockroaches which make my skin crawl. So (for example) I want to have the option of putting a shelf a few inches off the ground to store paint cans on rather than setting them on the floor.
  • A transitional storage space (Mrs) – By this I mean a spot specifically set aside for supplies being used on current projects. If there’s something in that spot, the project is not done. Looking at these pictures is a reminder that we have too many supplies we bought for projects that we haven’t finished in this garage. Eep! =/

And this is how we’re trying to map out our wish list. (Kitty PoP decided he wanted to sink his teeth into the project as well.)


click to enlarge

Budget & Timeline

We’re not averse to finding used materials on Craigslist or Freecycle, but this project is about making something that’s usable for the long haul. The old set-up was what we cobbled together from found scrap cupboards (Mr. PoP’s current “workbench” is actually a door sitting on cabinets we hauled off a street corner) and it’s been pretty ineffective. So our attitude this time around is that if we need to spend some money to buy some high quality shelving brackets or other supplies that’ll be easy to use and last a long time, we will.

We’re planning on doing most of the work ourselves (though perhaps except for the water heater installation depending), so that means that while we’ll save on money, this project is definitely not going to happen overnight. Right now the goal is for it to take about 6 months, finishing by the end of January, and we’ll track the progress of some of the various DIY projects and spending as we go here on the blog. Estimated cost right now is looking to be $2K – $3K in total, with the biggest variable right now being the type of water heater we end up with. Of course, if we come in under that spending, you won’t be hearing any complaints.


So, for posterity’s sake. Here’s the official “before” picture – a complete panorama of the current garage. (And yes, that’s no mistake there are two lawn mowers at the moment…)

*Fingers crossed* that the “after” picture is going to be awesome!

Is there anything missing from our wish list? Are we being a bit too ambitious with what we want to cram into 350 square feet of garage? While also leaving room for a car?

78 comments to Pimp The PoP’s Garage – Part 1 – Planning

  • I can’t believe that your water heater is that old. We just replaced a THREE year old water heater not too long ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t under any kind of warranty.

    I hope you love your garage remodel!!!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..We’re Back….and Money Lessons from MexicoMy Profile

    • Wow, no warranty? I think most of the ones we’ve been looking at come with a 6-year manufactures warranty for the tanked variety.

  • Sounds like a really fun project! It’s certainly a small space, but I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most of it.
    You have an espresso machine outside? Why isn’t it in the kitchen. I guess I’m just used to everything in the garage freezing up here, but I suppose it could be a more functional area of the house down there.
    CashRebel recently posted..Retirement Really Is SexyMy Profile

    • Ahh, the espresso machine outside because Mr. PoP loves me. =) It actually makes a surprisingly large mess, and I’d go nuts if I had to clean it up in the kitchen 4 times a day! And you’re right that we don’t have to worry about freezing. It’s VERY rare when the overnight low drops below freezing around here.

  • Can’t wait to see the after pictures, you guys have done great so far in your DIY projects. On the floor I would put a varnish after polishing, we put that on the terrace, I think it would hold with the weight of the car, it’s really easy to clean if oil drips again.
    Pauline recently posted..How to Start InvestingMy Profile

  • You guys are incredibly inspiring. I wish I was about 1/100th as handy! Sounds like you guys have a great idea of exactly what you’re looking for, which I’m sure means you’ll be able to handle it no problem. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.
    Matt Becker recently posted..What is a Budget?My Profile

    • “Sounds like you guys have a great idea of exactly what you’re looking for”

      We have had 4 years to imagine what our dream garage would have in it, so I hope so! =)

  • Debi

    If you can fit it in the budget I’d recommend an on demand tankless water heater. They’re very small. You will have to wait a few seconds after turning on the hot water before you get it though but, I’ve found it worth the wait. Once it’s heating you virtually will never run out of hot water, no matter how much you use. Custom storage is key to efficient space usage, so you’re right to want to spend the money to get what fits your needs instead of a mis-mash like you have now. Personally, I can’t wait to replace the utility sink that is like the one you are considering. It’s so deep that bending over to wash something in the bottom gives me a killer back ache. If you have a Habitat Restore close by you, shop there first. Great deals on construction materials.

    • Lucas

      The main thing to consider with tankless ones is that you have to add a higher amp breaker and run new electrical cables to them as they need a lot more peak amperage (for the electric ones that is – it looks like that is what you have from the picture). This can add a good bit of extra expense unless you can do it yourself and/or have easy access to the electrical panel.

      • Yup, we’d definitely need electrical work done to accommodate a tankless, so that would add another $300 or so to the cost of the tankless for an electrician to come out and provide the work. (After getting zapped by a 240V power supply once, Mr PoP no longer DIY’s 240V electrical work.)

        • Do you have gas at all? If you don’t the tankless water heaters aren’t a very good investment. The electric ones need much more power than an insulated tank heater, and so not worth it (unless you count the space savings as “worth it”). If you have gas – go tankless, there is no better option – less space *and* more efficient.
          Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Changing our 529 investing planMy Profile

    • We do have a store like Habitat restore and I’ll be sure to check them out. I’ve also seen some of the utility sinks on Craigslist. The last one I saw on Craigslist was actually a wall mount, so you could mount it a bit higher than the other would normally sit, though bending over doesn’t bother me too much.

      As for tankless, it’s on the list of things we’re considering, but we’re still not 100% decided on it.

      • SLCCOM

        Generally, upgrading the electric supply is worthwhile. It won’t be any cheaper to do it later. And $300 isn’t much. How much will you save over time with the tankless, and how long will it take to get that money back?

        • Still in the midst of trying to get good estimates on the value proposition between tankless and tanked. Seems like these stats are tough to find, actually!

      • Heidi

        I was just about to suggest checking the ReStore, as well as local building salvage places- some of those occasionally get heavy duty shelving if warehouses or businesses are clearing things out.

  • Debi

    One more thing you might consider. Take all the leftover paint you have on those shelves, mix it together and use it to paint the walls. Depending on the colors mixed, you’ll either get something in a grey or brown tone.

    • Ha, hadn’t thought of that. It’d be a strange color, I bet. But we’ll probably just use the same paint we used on the outside of the house, which we have some left still.

      • SLCCOM

        I’d save the leftover house paint for touch-ups myself, and mix the other stuff. If you don’t care what color is in the garage, you don’t have the expense of matching the color later when you need to work on the house exterior.

  • Growing up our garage was always a total disaster. I always envied people who had neat, organized garages. I like the floor idea. Hope it turns out exactly as you hope!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Greater ContributionMy Profile

  • I really want to epoxy our garage floor, so I’m curious to see how that works out. It’s funny that I never really thought about a garage before we built our house. I never had one, so it did seem like a huge luxury.We didn’t paint it for years because it was just the garage, but when we did, it made a huge difference. Can’t wait to see what you end up choosing for the final plan.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Pensions and Investments – When Some People Aren’t Ready to Give UpMy Profile

  • Hope it goes well! Garages can be tricky but its always nice to have extra space for your stuff.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..Why I am Motivated to SucceedMy Profile

  • Our water heater is old too, I think 21 or 22 years old. My mom’s broke after 2 years and it was ridiculous!
    Michelle recently posted..Does your budget suck? – Budget CategoriesMy Profile

  • Growing up in California, our garage was absolutely filled with crap. My parents are not hoarders like on tv, but they have the mentality that they might be able to use it later, so why toss it? Our cars never slept inside!

    If there isn’t enough paint on the shelves to mix together to paint the walls, you can always go to Home Depot. They sell Oops paint, paint that was mixed incorrectly. It might take a few trips to get a color you can live with, but $5 a gallon is much better than $30!

    Can’t wait to read about the epoxy on the floor. I would really like to do this on our floor, too.

    Could you hang your bike from the ceiling? We hang all our bikes, really frees up floor space.
    Mrs. 1500 recently posted..RAGBRAI: Days 2-7My Profile

    • I did oops paint for my bedroom in high school, and the only problem was that the color was just slightly off so things never seemed to be a great match =)

      I think we’ll use up the remainder of the paint from when we painted our house. Hopefully we’ll only need to buy a gallon or so anyhow.

  • Lucas

    Sounds like a good plan. Making storage more effective and efficient is one of the best ways to declutter your house and make it feel bigger. A garage is actually probably the main thing we are missing in our townhouse right now as it does make it more difficult to work on my car or have easy access to bikes, etc. . Good luck with the plans.

    By the way you can make a water heater last a very long time if you replace the anode rod which is very easy to do ($30 for the part on amazon and 15 min – you do need a larger hex driver the first time though). My water heater is 19 years old right now and still running strong (anode rod has been replaced 2 times). I probably need to replace the dip tube as the temp (evidenced by a slight fall of temperature after running a couple min – hot and cold water are mixing to much), but other than that it has been working great. It might be worth replacing the anode rod anyway to keep it running until you actually do the full replacement as an emergency water heater replacement will cost you a whole lot more then a planned one.

  • If you want to feel better about your garage, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you a picture of ours. :)

    I agree with Matt: you guys are inspiring. We’re chipping away at the clutter in the garage. Our short term goals are to sell the ATV & trailer, so we can put our friggin car back in there! And we’d like to put a garage door opener in, too.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Budget PornMy Profile

  • Jon

    While you are at it, you can take a little time and money to insulate your garage door. It’ll almost make it usable to work in during the summer.

    • Hmmm. How does one insulate a garage door? Generally we just keep the door wide open during the summer if we’re working in there. It’s warm, but the cross breeze is nice so we don’t worry about it. We are planning on putting a couple fans mounted to the walls that you can point where you’re working for a more directed breeze, though.

  • We only have carports and parking spaces at our condo, so I envy that you have a garage! I don’t envy the work for the make-over, but knowing you two it will look amazing. :)
    anna recently posted..Liebster AwardMy Profile

  • I’m curious about tankless water heaters too… have you looked into them? I don’t know anything about pricing or requirements but I think they’re so cool!
    Tara @ Streetsaheadliving.com recently posted..When ‘I deserve it’ can get out of handMy Profile

    • We’ve started the tankless research, and we’ll probably do a post on it, but so far the quotes we’re looking at put a tankless at about $1-1.5K more expensive, plus another $300 or so for electrical work to expand our power supply.

      Don’t be shocked if we have a water heater post here in a few weeks =)

  • Your garage looks neat compared to how my parents’ looked before they moved! It was mostly filled with my dad’s stuff – work benches, at least ten toolboxes and one like Mr. Pop has, electrical saws, drill presses, etc. We were lucky to have a little narrow walkway! My dad had old cabinets hanging along the walls as well, and in the middle of the garage sat a really old Honda motorcycle he always wanted to restore and never did. Now that they have a 2-car garage, I hope it will look a lot neater. I’m sure your project will come out fine! Your wish list seems very thorough. Can’t wait for the updates!
    E.M. recently posted..Do You Brown Bag It To Work?My Profile

    • Thanks, EM! I think the pictures make it look neater than it is. Stuff’s really piled up there on the sides and too often we have to dig through layers to find what we’re looking for =)

  • Our garage isn’t insane or anything but it does have some storage purpose. I let J and my brother who rents our suite from us use it as a man cave, haha!
    Daisy @ Suburban Finance recently posted..Rent Vs. BuyMy Profile

  • I’m very interested in seeing the end result. My one thought for the bikes would be the idea of tire hooks on the ceiling. They would let you utilize more of the garage. Of course, this might not work if the ceiling is a bit too high. Good luck on your renovations though.
    Micro recently posted..What to do when receiving advice.My Profile

    • I think we’re going to end up with hooks for the front tires high up on the wall with the back tires on the floor. So there’s going to be at least that on the floor =)

  • Look into heat pump water heaters. My electric company will pay $700 and there is a $300 federal energy tax credit right now (if you haven’t already taken one). The best part? A by-product of the heat pump is an air conditioned garage! That’s awesome down here in Florida.
    Lance @ Money Life and More recently posted..Following Routine Maintenance Schedules Can Save You ThousandsMy Profile

  • That all seems really reasonable. I’d initially thought you were talking about tearing it down and expanding it.

    We actually keep most of our tools in a shed in the back, even though there’s space for them in the garage. I’m not sure why.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..RBOCMy Profile

    • If we had a shed, we’d probably put them there instead, too. But our garage is really the only storage we have that’s not a closet inside the house.


    You can use ceiling space for long-term storage if you put some chain and heavy plywood or OSB for storage. Install a way to lower the thing and it is very useful.

    • That’s definitely an idea we’ve tossed around. We already have some leftover 4′ x 8′ siding that could serve as the base for a hanging storage area. But it’s not 100% in the plan yet.

  • Yeah that water heater had seen better days its time to let it go. At least it seems like you two are working out the differences in the garage space. I like the floors that are easy clean up if oil leaks. I dont remember the name but its what i plan to go with in the future. I like have space in the garage and like you being able to keep the door open without looking like its just our big garbage can.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted..How to Curb Impulse Buying HabitsMy Profile

  • Yeah, I think we should be able to make the space work for the both of us!

  • When we bought our house a “requirement” was covered parking for two vehicles – I think we’re the only people on our street that park two cars in the garage. I know that our neighbors across the street take everything out of their garage about twice a year – and then put it back in… We have a lot of “crap” in our garage, but only rarely can we not park both of our vehicles in it – usually because of a project or something, like varnishing Daughter Person’s table and chairs.
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Changing our 529 investing planMy Profile

  • Would love to see your garage photos once you finish your DIY project. Hope you will have fun while you renovate.
    Rita P @ Digital Spikes recently posted..How to save money with couponsMy Profile

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  • Patrick

    How did you make the panorama shot? Cell phone app or website or computer program? Was it easy?

    • I used an iPhone app by Microsoft called photosynth. It’s pretty easy to use on your phone, then to share it here I had to create an account on their site to store it there. They provide the embed code to view it from our site.

  • Karen

    Re: epoxying the floor, look into how to prevent moisture coming up. One of the floors where I work is coated and sometimes moisture still comes up when it’s really humid out (not a typical office similar to a plant).

    Re: tool chest. Be happy he went with Craftsman. Had he gone with Snap-on or Mac Tools, it woulda been closer to 5k 😉

    • So it’s moisture coming up through the epoxy, not condensation sitting on top due to temperature differentials? Weird. We’re still in research mode on the flooring, so thanks for the heads up!

      RE tool chest. You’re right, but he was quite insistent about getting the craftsman with big ball bearings for the drawer slide mechanisms. Apparently little ball bearings were not sufficient. =)

      • Karen

        After a quick online search…maybe the concrete was coated with epoxy which results in water seeping through since it says concrete can’t be sealed when using epoxy.
        It seems you’ll probably have to epoxy the garage in the winter, “concrete can’t be damp from rainy weather”. :) Maybe that was the problem with our floors.

        • Ahh, I had read about the dampness affecting the setting, but it looks like a lot of expoxies adhere better when the air (and floor) temperatures are warmer. So we’re aiming for warm + dry… fall, perhaps? ‘Cause it’s definitely pretty humid out there this time of year =)

  • I’m with you, Mrs. PoP — giving a car it’s own bedroom seems like the ultimate luxury. But that said, if you’re doing home renovations and repairs, it’s important to have a workspace …. an “office” for your fix-it tasks. I really want to build a toolshed for the same reason — so we have a workshop and a place to keep our tools. (We don’t have the space for a garage).
    Paula / Afford Anything recently posted..Should You Pay Cash for a Car?My Profile

    • Workspace is absolutely important and that’s one of the big reasons we want to do this reno right and make sure we have plenty of space to work on small projects around the car, and have a set up where big projects can take over and exile the car if necessary.

  • trudy

    My garage is an oven in the summer. I’d be interested to know how anyone has fixed that problem.

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