What to Look for in a Professional Garage Designer

what to look for in a professional garage designer

You’ve decided that you’re finally ready to renovate your garage and you don’t want to do it yourself. How do you know which professional garage designer is right for you? Of course, you want to know that the person’s business is licensed and insured. However, there are several other factors that will help you decide whether a garage design professional will meet your needs. Here are a few to consider.

Experience

One of the advantages of hiring a professional garage designer, rather than trying to tackle the project yourself, is the knowledge, wisdom and experience that he or she will bring to the project. Every project is different. However, the more renovation projects the person has under his belt, the more scenarios he has encountered. This adds to the person’s overall knowledgebase, which is invaluable on a design project. Ask your potential designer how many projects he has designed. If he has a strong body of work, he should have a substantial portfolio that he is willing to share. Otherwise, your project could end up being where the designer cuts his teeth. Good for him; potentially disastrous for you.

what to look for in a professional garage designer

Testimonials and References

If the designer has a large body of work, then he should also have several happy customers who have given him glowing testimonials. Look for testimonials on the designer’s website. If there are several, that’s a good start. However, how do you know that all of that glowing praise is from legitimate customers? Ask the design pro for references from past clients who are willing to spend a few minutes talking to you. A good designer with a solid body of work, and lots of happy clients, will likely have several.

Work Style and Reliability

When talking to references, don’t just ask about the design itself. Find out what it was like to work with this designer.

  • Was he prompt?
  • Did he deliver on his promises?
  • Was the owner/manager on site?
  • Was the project on time? On budget?
  • Did he clearly communicate about any problems or issues that arose?
  • Was he respectful of their property and that of their neighbors?
  • Did he follow-up promptly with any requests?
  • Have there been any issues since the completion of the project?
  • Would they hire the designer again in the future?

Detailed Proposal

Within a few days of meeting with you and seeing your space, your potential garage design professional should come up with a proposal. If you’ve wanted to renovate your garage for a long time, the moment you get that proposal can be truly exciting. You begin envisioning your new space. Take a hard look, though, at the proposal itself. Is it a simple sketch with few details? Did the person jot down a few ideas on the back of a napkin? A competent garage design professional will provide you with a detailed proposal that clearly defines the scope, timeline and estimated cost of the project.

Customized Solutions

Look closer at the proposal. Does it reflect that the designer took the time to get to understand your lifestyle and what’s most important to you in your garage renovation? Does the proposal make the most of your unique space? Is the designer simply planning to install “out-of-the-box” cabinets and shelves, or are you getting a space designed to fit your specific needs? An experienced design professional will maximize your space by building custom storage solutions that take advantage of overhead space and other areas of the space you probably hadn’t considered. A good design pro will ensure that the renovated space fits your lifestyle and specialized storage needs. For instance, if your family is active and has bicycles, kayaks and other sporting goods, the space will be specifically designed to house those goods.

Service Follow-up Spelled Out in Contract     

You expect, of course, that everything will turn out well on a project. However, it is important to address what happens when things don’t go exactly as planned. What kind of follow-up does the garage design professional offer? Is a warranty offered on the materials that will be used in the renovation, like slatwall, shelving, cabinetry and flooring treatments? Does he guarantee his work? If so, for how long? While such scenarios aren’t pleasant to consider, the possibility of paying for an expensive renovation and being left with shoddy work or materials, and no recourse, is far worse.

Planning a garage renovation is exciting. A well-designed garage can organize your life and beautify your home. However, it is well worth it to do your homework when it comes to choosing the garage design professional that will transform your space.

Would you like to see what an experienced garage design professional can do for your space? Request a consultation today.

Professional Storage Solutions – Cabinets

hercke garage cabinets - lockable storage systems

hercke garage cabinets - lockable storage systemsSlatwall is great for storing tools and equipment that you want visible, but it’s nice to also have the option of a place to keep things behind closed, and possibly locked, doors. Have a look at my blog on open versus closed storage. When it comes to choosing cabinets, all is not created equal.

You can go to the big box store and purchase cabinetry and install it yourself, but you might not be thrilled with the finished product. Let’s talk about the benefits of professionally sourced and installed cabinetry.


Variety

At retail stores, the choices are limited. You’ll either find fabricated wood, plastic or steel cabinets. Fabricated wood is not built to stand up to our Canadian climate. Plastic is not sturdy. It’s prone to cracking and just won’t hold up to long-term use. The steel cabinets available are a low-grade metal.

Nuvo Garage offers three levels of metal cabinetry, which I call good, better and best. Hercke is basic but it is durable, functional and attractive. Onex is a mid-range customizable cabinetry, and CTECH is a beautiful, high-end, lightweight but extremely durable product.


Flexiblity

ctech gasketloc - yellow cabinetAt the big box stores, what you see is what you get. There’s not much choice in colour, size or customization.

The Hercke brand cabinets Nuvo Garage offers has the least flexibility in choice, but is still more versatile than the big box offerings. The big difference comes in the Onex and CTECH brands. Onex comes in 21 different colours and CTECH comes in 9 colours. But both can create a custom-mixed colour for you. Onex and CTECH are also highly customizable. Unlike standard big-box style fixtures, these professional brands don’t just stock standard sized cabinets. This is particularly useful as most garages are not a standard size or shape. The Onex and CTECH cabinets can be custom ordered to fit perfectly along the length of your wall without leaving that annoying 5 inches of unusable wall at the end.  In addition, these cabinets can be customized with hardware, lighting, locks and workshop tabletops to enhance the functionality of a garage.


Quality

ctech cabinet, drawer dividersOnline reviews of the metal cabinet brand offered by the big box guys generally repeat the same complaints: They are attractive at first glance, but are flimsy metal, the screws don’t fit nicely and the finish stains easily.

Hercke, Onex and CTECH are all made of very high quality materials. Hercke, the lowest cost offering, is made of high-quality steel that stands up to heavy use in the garage. Onex is also made of steel but is a lower gauge, which is even stronger. CTECH is aluminum. It’s not quite as strong as the Onex steel but it’s more than strong enough for residential use.

Car enthusiasts are drawn to CTECH because of the quality in the design. Its look is derived from the world of professional car racing and provides a truly unique and stylish look to a garage renovation. Also, little things such as the drawer closing mechanisms of a CTECH MotionLatch make your cabinet drawers much more enjoyable to use as opposed to low quality steel doors, which probably creak, shift and become a chore to close over time.

hercke garage cabinets - beautiful garage storage & workstation

 Along with variety, flexibility and quality, another advantage of hiring a professional is we’ll arrange the delivery and installation of your cabinets. So, if you’re planning a renovation, do some research and consider your options. In my opinion, for the money, the long lasting quality, beauty and enjoyment of professionally designed and installed cabinets far outweigh the do-it-yourself option.

 

Winter Toy Storage

garage entrance to home - effectively leverage space for sports storage

In the great Canadian tradition of celebrating winter, sports equipment that lets you face the elements for pure fun is crucial.  From toboggans and skis to snowshoes, snowboards and skates, there’s a range of winter toys that can enhance your family life when you’re surrounded by snow and ice.

garage entrance to home - effectively leverage space for sports storageThe types and amounts of equipment families have stowed away generally depends on their children’s ages.  When kids are little, toboggans, sleds, crazy carpets and flying saucers are in abundance.  As they get a little older, skis become the most common.

Creating a proper storage solution for your skis, boots and poles is a simple way to protect your investment.  The better you take care of them, the longer they’ll last.  You could store your skis in the house but if they’re not properly dried out, you might end up with wet carpets or slippery floors.  If they are hung on hooks inside the garage, drips won’t matter. Wherever you decide to put them, the best reason to have a designated space is so you won’t have to look around to find everything when the snow beckons.

Hockey gear is another type of sports equipment that can be found in abundance in many households. Ideally, if you insist on bringing your hockey equipment into the house, the ripened under armour, long johns, socks and jerseys would immediately find their way into the washing machine while the pads, pants and gloves would dry out on a laundry rack.  But since late-night ice times are very common, most of the time after the game is over, the sweaty gear gets taken inside the house and dumped in the basement.  Admit it, you’ve done it at least once.

There is a middle ground.  As long as you take your under gear inside, skates, sticks, helmets and pads can be dried out in the garage so the musk doesn’t infiltrate the house and potentially aggravate your housemates. True, your gear will be cooler when you put it into the bag, but by the time you arrive at the rink, it’s more than likely warmed up.  And if you’re playing on a year-round league, for three seasons it’s not even a factor.

One family I worked with didn’t want their young boys bringing their hockey gear into the house.  The optimal solution was to build a locker in the garage for them to hang their skates, pants, gloves and pads using a combination of baskets, shelves and hooks mounted to an end wall.  All the washable stuff went inside with the kids for proper clean up.

Winter is an amazing time of the year.  An organized garage where you can protect your car from the elements, while also accessing everything you need to play in the snow, makes it that much better.

Depending on your budget, needs and taste, I can recommend the perfect cabinets and garage storage systems to accommodate all the athletes in your house.  Our suppliers Hercke, Onex and CTECH offer higher quality and more adaptable products than the typical garage cabinets found in big box stores.  Or if you’d like to discuss a custom storage system for your family’s specific activities which can be a better fit as well as cost effective, I can assist you with a solution to make it easy for everyone to use your garage in a way that fits the lifestyle.

Creating a Man Cave in Your Garage

2 car garage willowdale showcase - 4 post hydraulic car lift, garage cabinets, polyaspartic garage flooring, overhead platform storage, tire storage, satinless steel work station, flatscreen tv fixture

2 car garage willowdale showcase - 4 post hydraulic car lift, garage cabinets, polyaspartic garage flooring, overhead platform storage, tire storage, satinless steel work station, flatscreen tv fixtureMan caves have grown in popularity over the past few years, and while most guys have them in a basement or spare room, don’t discount the garage as a possibility, especially if you’ve got a car that you want to show off while you watch the game.

 The garage man cave isn’t just for car enthusiasts.  An empty bay can be a great place for a poker game with a table that folds up at the end of the night.  However, chances are the client who’s looking for this is a car enthusiast, because he’s looking to convert his garage into an extension of his living space.  In order to create a garage like this, there are a few factors we take into consideration when planning storage solutions.

 Exotic car lovers generally like to take care of their own vehicles, which means we need to figure out storage for cleaning supplies and wax.

 Because the garage is being used as a living space, we want to minimize dust.  This means completely finishing the walls with drywall or slatwall and finishing the floors with a polyaspartic floor system.

 If the client is going to use the space in the winter, a heater is a necessity.  There are many options for either gas or electric heaters and an added bonus is that a steady temperature is better for the paint and the oil.

 Tire storage is also a consideration as a car enthusiast may have multiple sets, including winter or sports tires.

 If a television is included in your plans, you’ll have to have a cable connection.  We can hide the cable and wires behind cabinets so that they are accessible but remain out of sight.

 The beauty of creating a man cave in your garage is that the space can still pull double duty.  It can fulfill all your storage needs – just park one car on your driveway until the end of the fourth quarter.

 

Click here for a recent transformation where we included space for a bar fridge and a plasma TV in the cabinets.

Safely Storing Garden Equipment

garden tools storage - wall organization systems, lockable garage cabinets, hooks, baskets

garden tools storage - wall organization systems, lockable garage cabinets, hooks, basketsSafety is one of the key benefits to having a proper storage system for your gardening equipment and supplies.  Without a system, it’s not uncommon to find tools big and small lying around, presenting a hazard.

 

A garage outfitted with slatwall and professional hooks allows you to hang more than one tool on each hook and know that when you pull one tool off, the hook and the other tools will stay put.  For homeowners who have small children or animals, proper storage of sharp gardening equipment and poisonous chemicals is especially important.  You can bang a nail into a wall but tools are not very secure.

 

Different tools require different storage solutions. I find that garden tools fall into three categories:

 

The first is long-handled tools like rakes and shovels. You can lean them against a wall but they fall over each other and present a serious safety hazard if stepped on.

 

Putting these tools on hooks and pointing anything sharp towards the wall makes it much safer for anyone entering the garage. Plus, once you give it a spot, you tend to put it back in that home.  If it doesn’t have a spot, people are apt to put it anywhere there’s a space.  Another thing to consider is the height of the hook; tools should be hung at eye level and not overhead.

 

Second is smaller hand tools like shears, claws, trowels, etc.  Tools that are used for digging often have sharp edges and present a danger if they’re not stored properly.  To keep them out of curious hands, they can be stored on hooks or in baskets that are six feet off the ground.

 

The third category is electrical tools such as hedge trimmers and leaf blowers.  When both the equipment and their extension cords are left on the floor, they present a tripping hazard.  When they’re hung on a hook, they don’t have a chance of being wrapped around someone’s ankle.

 

Supplies, fertilizers, items for pest control and plant food can also be dangerous if they’re not stored properly.  Lockable cabinets are one solution for keeping them safe, but baskets and shelves are also an option as long as they can be installed out of reach.

 

Having a garage that’s properly organized will result in peace of mind because you know that everything is safety stored.

A Brief History of Garages

carriage house for horses, converted for cars garages

carriage house for horses, converted for cars garagesOver the next few weeks, I’m going to discuss the evolution of garages: from sheds to what have been called ‘Garage Mahals‘, home extensions that contain everything from work stations to interlocking floor tiles to hydraulic lifts.

 

The word garage comes from the French garer – to shelter or protect.  It’s an apt name because that’s effectively what garages do.  They protect our cars from the elements.

 

During the early part of the 20th century, cars weren’t that common because they were expensive.  The first garages were just converted carriage houses that were remodeled to fit cars rather than horses.  Garages that were designed for cars didn’t become common until the early 1920s when car sales increase.  However, demand grew quickly.

 

By 1925, in fact, garages were on people’s must have lists. According to the June 1925 issue of Atlantic Monthly, ” the first question asked by the prospective buyer is about the garage.  The house without a garage is a slow seller.”

 

These garages were mostly stand-alone structures, built away from the main house. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that builders started to incorporate garages as part of the house design.  Before this, drivers had to brave the elements when getting from their garage to their home.

 

Carports became popular in the 60s as a low-cost alternative to a garage – often just roof and four posts, they were popular in warmer parts of North America.

 

The next major change happened in the 80s.  Garages were built to be conspicuous and large, to make room for families with multiple cars. Thankfully today they’re now being built to be less obtrusive.

 

The first patent for an automatic garage door opener was issued in 1937, but oddly enough, it didn’t really become popular until the late 1960s.

 

Fun fact: many businesses have been started in garages, including Hewlett Packard, Walt Disney, Apple Computers and Motown Records.

Not All Garage Cabinets Are Equal

high performance steel garage cabinets onex luxury garage

high performance steel garage cabinets onex luxury garageWhen it comes to cabinets for your garage, the good news is that there are choices.  The bad news is that the quality varies greatly, and you get what you pay for.  At the retail level, there are several types of products available:  MDF (a waferboard),  a Rubbermaid product and steel.

As you weigh your options, the most important thing to consider is the strength of the material.  How secure is it and how much weight can it bear?  Check the hinges as well and make sure they’re solid.  If they’re not, the cabinet may start to wobble.

The advantage of the Rubbermaid cabinet is that it’s impervious to moisture versus the MDF products which will swell and weaken if you have a damp or humid garage.  However, neither are very sturdy, so you run the risk of the shelves not supporting anything of any significant weight.

I believe steel or aluminum cabinets are the way to go.  They’re sturdier and resistant to animals.  They are also lockable, so if you’re storing anything valuable, such as skis and ski boots or tools, you can lock them behind the doors.  They’re also good for keeping chemicals out of reach from little hands.

Some retailers carry a steel product but the material is light weight and not commercial quality.  It looks similar to the appropriate grade steel cabinets, but it doesn’t hold much and can dent easily, losing its aesthetic appeal quite quickly.  In addition, light weight materials may not provide the appropriate level of safety and protection of your valued tools, sports equipment, vehicle and family members.

To find out how strong a steel product is, you have to look at the ‘gauge’. The smaller the number, the stronger it is.

I recommend Onex cabinets.  We install these high performance steel garage cabinets because they last longer than retail products while offering superior weight support.  They’re also lockable, come in various colours and can be adjusted to the height, width and depth of the space.  It provides a high level of utility and quality while giving your garage that luxury feel.

Onex offers a wide variety of cabinets, so we can create a custom storage solution rather than finding something that simply fits into the space.

If you have any questions about cabinets or anything else garage related, please give us a call!

What to Expect When You’re Organizing Your Garage

garage organization project checklist

garage organization project checklistIn the last several blog entries, we discussed clearing the clutter out of your garage.  In today’s blog, you’re going to find out about the process of a garage transformation, getting an estimate and what questions you should be prepared for.

When I’m called in, the decluttering should be nearly complete.  Only the stuff you want to keep should be in the garage.  When we can see the space we’re working with, it makes planning a whole lot easier.

You may also find that there’s stuff in the house such as seasonal decorations that you’d like to store in the garage as well as boxed items like clothes, or tools that are currently in the basement.

Some people have a good idea of what they want or need, such as shelves for storage, tools they want to hang on the wall, cabinets to keep things out of the way.  Most people show me what they want to store and ask for recommendations.

The main questions I need answered are:

  • What’s your objective?
  • What do you want the garage to do that it’s not doing today?
  • How many cars do you want to fit in the garage?

The answers to these questions and the initial visit can last up to an hour.  I get a sense of how the client lives and what they are looking for.  I try and understand their aesthetic priorities versus their functional needs.

Some people like to be able to see everything at a glance.  In this case it could be mostly hooks and shelves.  Other people are a little messy, and I understand that.  Cabinets are great for hiding messes, as well as keeping things like chemicals out of the reach of small hands, for people who have kids.

Within two days of the visit, I’ll send a detailed drawing, proposal and itemized estimate.  It’s not something I can do on the spot as each job is custom, which is one of the benefits of using NuvoGarage.

The transformation can be done in as little as two days, if all we’re doing is getting the garage organized.  If we’re drywalling, that will add another two days and flooring will add a day.

Once you’ve had a chance to look over the proposal and estimate, you have a chance to ask any questions you might have, give me additional suggestions and make the decision to move forward and have the garage that you’ve always wanted.

Seasonal Garage Anxiety Disorder

seasonal garage anxiety disorder

seasonal garage anxiety disorderFor most of us, the garage is likely the largest room in our house.  Our cars are probably our second largest assets.  It makes sense to use this space to house and protect our vehicles.

During spring and summer, however, we leave our cars on the driveway to have easy access to things like lawn mowers, bicycles and gardening tools.

It’s during the first cold snap of the year as we’re putting everything away that we look into our garages and wonder how two cars are going to fit.  Seeing everything that’s filling up the garage, we experience paralysis.  Often, there’s no clear way to start the clean-up process, so it doesn’t get started at all.

I call this Seasonal Garage Anxiety Disorder (SGAD):  All the stuff  is preventing us from using our garages for what they’re meant for and it causes concern.

In the next two blog entries, I’m going to help you cope with your SGAD!  But first, we have to think about motivation:  how badly do you want to get your car in that garage and why?  

If the garage is de-cluttered to make room for vehicles, we can:

  • say goodbye to scraping ice off the windshield before the sun comes up
  • get into a warm car – in the middle of winter
  • worry less about security, especially for those who spend much of the winter down south

One of the main objections to cleaning out a garage is the amount of decision making that has to happen. It requires some tough choices about what to keep and it’s usually a full day’s worth of work.

I’ve encountered garages that were full of furniture – both from parents who have downsized and children who were moving out, seasonal decorations, winter tires, garbage and recycling bins.  Some of the clutter has value, but there is only an emotional attachment to the rest.

The feeling of relief that’s experienced once all the stuff you’re not using is gone, will give a sense of release and freedom necessary to move forward with new activities and projects.

How great would it be to have shelving and storage systems that allowed garden tools, holiday decorations and toys to be found without digging through boxes?  Easy access and storage for seasonal items like paddles, kayaks and canoes and tires?  A discreet space for your garbage bins?

Garage storage systems, whether it’s cabinets, wall organizers, shelving, or a combination, can keep the garage organized all year round.  So when next fall comes, we’re not standing in front of our garage doors, wondering where we’re going to park our cars, we simply drive them in. 

Stay tuned for the next blog:  How to get Started.

Add a Workshop in your Garage

Garage Workbench - Workspace

Whether you’re an avid gardener, car enthusiast or weekend DIYer, it’s great to have a workbench in your garage to work on your projects.  Even if your garage space is limited, there’s likely a way to give yourself a little workspace.

A surface area of 4 ft x 2 ft, positioned about 40 inches from the floor is an ideal minimum size.

 

This workbench, with a tabletop made of plywood,  easily folds up to fit onto the side wall of a one-car garage.  

 

This simple and inexpensive yet very functional corner workbench is made out of plywood.  It provides you with a good amount of workspace as well as extra storage room for tools.

 

The ultimate in garage workspace is this sleek steel workbench with drawers, cupboards and a butcher-block top. 

 

Give us a call. We’ll help you design a workspace in your garage that suits you.

 

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