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Garage Cabinets

Simple & Cheap Or Fancy & Expensive

Garage cabinets can do wonders for turning a junk pile into an organized state of affairs. At a minimum, they'll help you get a lot of the clutter that's sitting around the perimeter of the garage floor up and out of the way, making more room for the cars and fewer booby traps to trip over.

But before you get too ambitious about buying cabinets you'll want to take a bit of time to do some planning first. This isn't simply to figure out where to put the cabinets but to determine the quantity and quality of garage cabinets you actually need.

You see, there's a range of choices available to you and choosing cabinets for the garage is a bit different than choosing kitchen cabinets.

That's because you don't necessarily need to be too concerned about how they look (unless you want to that is). You can buy shiny new cabinets made specifically for the garage or buy older, used kitchen cabinets and hang them up on the garage walls.

Considerations like what you plan to store in them, the amount of money you want to spend as well as the kind of environment you live in all factor into choosing the right garage cabinets.

Whether you want high-end or low-cost, there are plenty of choices for a wide range of budgets and storage plans.

Start With Planning First

For most of us the garage is more than just a carport. Whether it doubles as a utility shed, a workshop or a man-cave there's bound to be more than just cars that occupy your garage. And until we find a way to negate the force of gravity, most of the extra stuff we collect over time ends up on the floor, usually in stacks or simply strewn about. That's why garage cabinets make sense, if for no other reason than to make use of some of that unused wall space.

Photo Courtesy Of Moduline Cabinets

Getting an uncluttered garage and one that fits your needs and budget starts with some planning. A little forethought will help you make good decisions on the type, style and how many garage cabinets you'll need.

  1. Take Stock Of The Stuff That Needs Storage Room
    Take an inventory of what's lying around your garage, or other places like the basement, that can be stored in some garage cabinets. Making a list of these items and estimating the size of cabinet space they'll require will help you determine the quantity of cabinets you'll need.

    Also take note of how heavy these items are. Most household items aren't that heavy but if you plan on using your cabinets to store very heavy items like car parts or large power tools make sure you plan on getting cabinets robust enough for the job.

  2. Determine If New Or Reused Cabinets Will Suffice
    For some of us the garage is utilitarian, where the tools, cars and 'outside stuff' resides. For others, it's furnished more grandly than some kitchens. If you're in the former camp, perhaps recycled cabinets will do.

    On the other hand if your garage is or will be the ultimate workshop, new cabinets might be the best choice. They not only add functionality but some style too, particularly if you go with powder-coated or painted metal cabinets.

    Then there's the in-between; garage cabinets that are new but more simple, made from plastic or wood composite that don't cost a fortune.

    The point here is that there's a range of cabinet choices available to you and you might not need the latest and greatest powder-coated steel cabinet boxes. Think about what will adequately do the job and you might be able to keep your costs low.

  3. Consider Your Environment
    Garage cabinets live in a different environment than kitchen or laundry cabinets. They're exposed to the outside elements every time the garage door is opened or a car is pulled in.

    Rain and snow come in with the car making the garage environment moist and damp. The water that drops off the car can eventually gravitate to the sides of the garage where the cabinets are. It also evaporates into the air and can condense again on walls and other surfaces like cabinets.

    Consider what garage cabinet materials will be most compatible in your environment. Each as their own positives and negatives but there will usually be one that best suits your area.

  4. Measure The Amount Of Space You Have

    Photo Courtesy Of Moduline Cabinets

    Determine where you're going to put the cabinets and the amount of space you have. Base cabinets will take up some floor space so be aware of how much space you have to give. Garage cabinets are made in various depths to accommodate different space limitations.

    Garage wall cabinets are a great way of storing things up and out of the way but make sure they're clear of obstructions like garage door rails and car lifts.

  5. Avoid The Pack-Rat Mentality
    Finally, avoid the pack rat mentality. If you're in the market for garage cabinets that also means you're in "organization mode". Take this opportunity to really think hard about the stuff that's lying about.

    Get rid of (give away, sell or throw out) items you haven't used in a while. Do a little purging and you can cut down on the amount of garage cabinets you'll need. Your wallet will thank you.

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Learning About The Various Choices & Options

There are two ways to obtain garage cabinets: buy new or buy used. "Buying used" actually refers to buying any form of used cabinets, be they old kitchen or bath cabinets or any type of cabinetry for that matter. If you happen to be doing a kitchen remodel you might also be able to recycle your old cabinets.

Photo Courtesy Of Moduline Cabinets

Buying New Garage Cabinets

Buying new garage cabinets means you can tailor them exactly the way you want including material, color and configuration. Just as there are cabinet manufacturers that specialize in kitchen cabinets, there are manufacturers that specialize in garage cabinets.

First let's take a look at the material choices that are available:

  • Plastic
    Plastic, or "resin", is a good choice for garage cabinets because it's immune to a lot of the environmental challenges that other cabinet materials face. Plastic won't rot or corrode and it's easily cleaned. Plastic cabinets can also be had for not a lot of money.

    The downside is that plastic won't have as much load capacity as some sturdier materials.

  • Metal

    Photo Courtesy Of Moduline Cabinets

    Metal garage cabinets come in both aluminum and steel, with some varieties made from stainless steel. Metal cabinets offer rigidity and strength with aluminum cabinets being somewhat lighter in weight that steel.

    These types of cabinets can be painted or powder coated, a process that forms a durable protective coating on the surface, similar to paint.

    Metal's downfall is that it's more expensive and it's susceptible to corrosion, particularly steel, in areas that aren't protected from moisture or corrosive chemicals.

  • Wood Based
    Engineered wood in the form of particle board, MDF (medium density fiberboard) and plywood are typical wood products used to make cabinets for the garage. Some products have an engineered wood core with outer skins made from a laminate or melamine material.

    Wood cabinets that don't have a melamine skin can be painted or stained. Some products like RedLine Garage Gear make MDF cabinets that are powder coated.

    Drawbacks to wood-based garage cabinetry are their weight (MDF and particle board panels can be very heavy) and their susceptibility to moisture. Areas of particular concern are wood cabinets that sit on the floor and are susceptible to water and snow runoff.

Features & Options

New cabinets made specifically for the garage possess various features and options that make them well suited for their role. Some of these features include:
  • Off-The-Floor Construction
    This feature mounts the base cabinets on pedestals or legs which lift them off the floor, keeping them away from water and spilled liquids.
  • Rolling Cabinets
    An extension of the off-the-floor concept, base cabinets on wheels and casters allow you to move them about as needed. Garage Fabricators makes movable storage units that fit inside of a standard 96" wide car trailer so you can take them with you (for such things as car shows, etc.). Some rolling cabinets have locking mechanisms on the wheels to keep them in place when they don't need to be moved.
  • In-The-Wall Cabinets
    One innovation from WG Wood Products is their in-the-wall cabinet. It fits between the studs in an unfinished garage and is available in varying heights. It's a convenient storage option particularly for small garages.
  • Corner Cabinets
    Corner cabinets offer another storage efficiency option by taking what's usually dead space from a cabinetry perspective and making it usable.
  • Modular & Cabinet Combination Kits
    Modular cabinets afford you the ability to combine various cabinet pieces (base and wall boxes) together. Garagemaid and Slide-Lok both make modular cabinets with different attachment schemes that allow you to mix and match so you can tailor your cabinets they way you want.

    Cabinet combination kits are similar to modular cabinets but they come as a completed kit, with a pre-established setup of base and wall cabinets. You can choose from among various styles and configurations that best suits your space.

Reusing / Recycling Cabinets

One of the most economical and "green" approaches toward garage cabinets is to install used cabinets. Recyling cabinets in this way keeps them from filling up landfills and they can sometimes be very cheap.

Sources for these kinds of cabinets include building salvage centers that take in used building materials from remodeled homes. If you or someone you know is planning on remodeling the kitchen, think about installing some of those cabinets in the garage.

You can use both the wall and the base cabinets although you should keep the base cabinets up off the garage floor using some pedestals or casters available at hardware stores.

If you're not hung up about how your garage cabinets should look and are simply looking for storage space, reused cabinetry is an economical alternative to new cabinets.

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Considerations Before Choosing

The following items are some additional points to consider before deciding on which kind of garage cabinets to choose. Use them to help solidify the type of garage cabinetry that will work best for your situation.

  • Be Mindful Of Load Capacity
    That's really just a technical way of saying 'don't overload your cabinets'. When shopping for new cabinets, you'll often see load ratings for both the cabinet box and the shelving, telling you the amount of weight the cabinet can hold.

    If you're reusing old cabinets, just use some common sense and don't think what previously held a stack of dishes will hold your car's transmission.

  • Get The Right Counter/Work Top Depth
    A standard kitchen counter is 24 inches deep and there are garage cabinets with countertops made to this dimension. However that might be too much for some garages. Look for base cabinets in the 16 or 12-inch range for narrower spaces.

  • Remember The Car Door Swing

    Photo Courtesy Of Moduline Cabinets

    Don't forget to consider the amount of room needed to open and close the car doors. When you're measuring, make sure you account for the room needed for the door swing.

    Sure, that cool cabinet might fit between your garage wall and the side of the car but will it accommodate both you and the door as you get in and out?

  • Get Robust Shelving
    Compare the shelf thickness among the different cabinet products you're considering. Thicker is better when it comes to shelving because it'll hold up and be less resistant to sagging under the weight of heavy objects.

    For reused cabinets you can increase the shelf thickness by joining an additional board to the shelf (essentially doubling up on the shelf thickness). Just make sure the cabinet is securely fastened to the wall however. Overloading the cabinet box is still possible even if the shelves can withstand the weight.

  • Look For Garage Cabinets With Back Panels
    Having a panel on the back of the cabinet prevents stuff from falling out and things like small critters from getting in. This is particularly true when installing cabinets against an unfinished garage wall. The cabinet abuts the wall studs but if there's no back panel, things can get pushed off the shelf in the open space between the studs.

  • Think About Whether You Need Locking Provisions
    Being able to lock your garage cabinets or at least some of them may be advantageous, either to keep tools secure or nasty chemicals out of the reach of little hands. Old kitchen cabinets won't have built-in locks but you can easily install some padlock hardware for the cabinets that need more security.

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Where To Get Them

There's no shortage of sources when it comes to finding garage cabinets, especially when you consider that old used kitchen and bath cabinets can do the job, depending on your tastes and needs.

For new cabinets, simply inserting the keyword "garage cabinets" will provide you with a number of online resources. They sell all types of garage cabinets in wood, plastic and metal.

If you'd like to touch and feel before you buy, you can try out any big-box home center in your area as the big chains like Home Depot and Lowes carry various brands of garage cabinets. Another source includes garage specialty retailers that sell all things related to the garage. You can do a local search by inputting the keyword "garage cabinets" followed by your zip code into a search engine to see if there are any sources in your area.

If you think the reused-cabinet route is for you, check with local builders you might know to see if they're in the process of removing any kitchen cabinets from a remodel they're working. Local sources for the salvage of building materials can be found by using the keywords "building materials" or "building material salvage" followed by your zip code in a search engine.

Finally, you can check to see if there is a Habitat For Humanity Restores location in your area. These facilities offer used building materials like cabinets and other items that are removed from remodeled or demolished homes. You can usually find good used cabinets at very good prices.

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Kitchen Cabinet Quality - This article isn't just about kitchen cabinet quality but any kind of cabinet. Discover what to look for to find quality when shopping for cabinets.

Laundry Cabinets - Similar to the garage, laundry room cabinets can be low-tech/low budget or opt for cabinets of similar style and quality as kitchen cabinets.

Buying Cabinets Online - Be they kitchen, garage or laundry room cabinets, this article shows you the online cabinet buying experience and what to look for should you go this route.

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