Garage makeovers have been in vogue for years, as homeowners and remodeling professionals have recognized that it's often the largest "room" in a house and capable of being used for more than just parking cars, housing lawn and garden equipment and stashing holiday decorations. "It's fast becoming add-on living space," says designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon of Pensacola, FL.
But now there's another significant trend going on, which reflects a catch-up to what's taken place in the rest of the home landscape: greening.
Instead of using traditional materials, paints and finishes, homeowners are choosing to make sustainable choices, making better use of their existing square footage and also boosting their home's potential resale value. Here are some areas homeowners can go green with their garage.
Work from the Outside In
Garages are hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so start the green-minded upgrades by focusing on the improving the energy efficiency of a garage's shell. Douglas Busch, owner of ecoTECH Design Studio, a sustainable design firm based in Malibu, Calif., recommends installing insulating panels directly on a garage's exterior rather than interior walls to avoid reducing interior square footage. The panels can be camouflaged with siding or shakes. When building a new garage, he recommends fly ash in concrete as a way to recycle and provide good insulation. Planting a green roof is a natural way to improve insulation and keep temperatures down, too, he says.
Consider products from insulation manufacturers that are recycled and make garage walls and ceilings more energy-efficient. Roxul, an insulation manufacturer based in Milton, Ontario, produces wall insulation fabricated from a combination of natural stone and recycled slag, a steel-industry byproduct.
Focus on Interior
Before you start to buy new shelving or storage pieces, consider what's already exists and is affordable. Look in your basement and attic for item that you could reuse in a smarter fashion, says designer Clendenon. Interior designer Leslie Hart-Davidson of Okemos, Mich., concurs and encourages clients to check out merchandise at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, its shop for home-improvement resale items. "Often, you can find good-quality cabinets that you repaint or add new doors or shelves to for storing garden supplies, tools, anything. This helps the environment by reusing what exists and also helps your wallet," she says.
While many homeowners have long looked for garage furnishings constructed from steel for strength and durability, now they have the option of alternative sustainability options like bamboo and durable recycled materials.
Gladiator GarageWorks, a division of Whirlpool based in Benton Harbor, Mich., offers a modular workbench with heavy-duty steel legs and bamboo top. California Closets also has a new product line fashioned from recycled particle boards and no urea-formaldehyde, which qualify it for LEED residential points.
GarageTek, out of Syosset, N.Y., has taken several steps to make its garage components greener. It uses virgin PVC in components to avoid offgassing and also brings cabinetry to homes without traditional packaging that has to be hauled away. The company powdercoats accessories rather than spraying them with harmful solvents; it also manufactures mold-resistant floor tiles.
Clendenon recommends outfitting the garage as you would any room in the house: "Use floor-to-ceiling eco-friendly cabinets," she says, and be sure to have room for everything you might need to put there. Low- to no-VOC paints also help the green upgrades.
Don't Forget the Fridge
Let's face it: A garage really isn't a garage without a refrigerator. However, the extreme temperatures a garage typically experiences can cause old fridges to function improperly. With that in mind, Gladiator GarageWorks, developed a different motor to handle extreme hot or cold temperatures. Dubbed the "Chillerator" and Energy-Star rated, it's constructed with a steel cabinet, measures 19 cubic feet and matches the company's line of cabinetry for a seamless look.