Garage
Back Home Up

 

As part of my ongoing improvements to my property, I'm cleaning up the garage and converting it into a "man cave" suitable for all the things I do - work on engines/cars/mechanical things, and hang out. It will also make it more suitable for my computer servers (I'm a geek by trade), and make the laundry area more usable for my wife. The basic plan of attack is:

  •  Install enough outlets to plug in every tool I own at once and still have a bunch left unused
  •  Install enough lighting to get a tan while working in the garage
  •  Install an exhaust fan in the laundry area to vent any excess moisture and unpleasant odors
  •  Insulate the walls and ceilings
  •  Install sheetrock on the walls and ceiling
  •  Install ceiling mounted heater to stay warm in the winter
  •  Install a through-wall air conditioner to stay cool and less humid in the summer - servers don't like heat, and high humidity is bad for tools and freshly machined engine parts
  •  Put a nice simple coat of bright white paint on the whole place
  •  Install upper cabinets and lower cabinets with a work surface (aka, countertop) along the side walls
  •  Install cabinets and a slop sink in the laundry area
  •  Add in-ceiling speakers and wiring, a decent stereo system to drive them, and a TV on the wall

The details are more involved, but the basics are pretty simple and easy to grasp. It's not a pure man-cave, as it's mostly a work area, but I do want to be able to enjoy the time I spend working out there and having friends over.

 

Prep Work

Early on in the project, when I took down some previous-owner-installed shelving, I discovered that I had a small leak in the roof that needed to be dealt with. It appears one of the nails wasn't sealed properly, and was allowing water to run down the nail shank, wet the plywood roof deck, and drip into the garage. It was a very small leak and only became apparent in heavy rains or multi-day light rains. That made it hard to track down and fix. Yay.

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After putting in the vent stack for the heater, I found and fixed the source of this leak. At the time of this work, the roof on the house was getting up there in years (another project for the not-to-distant-future), and the shingles were getting brittle. A couple of the nails in this area of the roof had started to push up for reasons unknown and the shingles that covered the nail heads had worn thin and had small holes in them. This let water weep down the nail shank and into the plywood. If we got enough rain, water would drip off the end of the nail inside the garage. For starters, I carefully peeled back the lower edges of the shingles to get at the loose nails and nailed things down properly again. Then I got some roof sealant and smeared it under, and around, and over the nail heads to seal everything up. There were a few nail heads and shingles that were questionable, so I sealed the whole area to be sure. The sealer was cheap, I was already up there working on the garage heater venting, and whatever was left in the tube after sealing the heater vent stack was going to go in the trash, so I went a bit nuts with it. I figured it was better to go a bit nuts with the sealer and have a dry ceiling than be stingy with the sealer and have to fix the roof again later - and replace any drywall and insulation in the garage ruined by the water.

 

Before this whole "make the garage a man cave" project started, I had run some new wires for outlets or some such other fun project elsewhere in the house. It all worked great, but I discovered this little gem when I was cleaning out the rafters to prepare for the ceiling drywall for the work detailed on this page. Apparently, I had run the wire for one of the circuits through a steering wheel that was stored up there. I was in a hurry and didn't pay enough attention on a previous bit of work, and got this as a result. It was too amusing not to capture for posterity. Luckily, the wheel was nothing worth saving, so a quick application of a Sawzall to the steering wheel solved the problem and got the last item out of my rafters. Moral: Don't do dumb things just because you're in a hurry to get a project done. Stupid always comes back to haunt you later.

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Heater

This is the fresh air inlet for the ceiling mounted garage heater. It's basically an insulated plenum in the ceiling connected to the outdoors through a 4" PVC air inlet pipe. It's also the area where the gas line comes out of the ceiling, the power outlet for the heater is installed, and the thermostat wires come out of the ceiling. The grill is a simple 10" x 10" air return grill, and there is 2x6 blocking in the ceiling so I have something strong to mount the heater to later in this project.

I also needed to worry about combustion air for the other gas appliances in the garage - they also needed fresh air inlets added so they were not pulling combustion air from the garage. The main house furnace is gas and already had a simple 2" PVC inlet pipe, so I just plumbed it up into the garage ceiling and over to the side wall of the house to get fresh air. The water heater is a gas powered tankless direct venting style, and gets it's fresh air from the rooftop air pipe - it's a pretty cool pipe-inside-a-pipe design - so no need to worry about that. The dryer is designed to be in a living space, much like a stove is, so I'm not going to worry about that.

Here's the garage heater air inlet install and the final prep work on the drywall above and behind the heater. I couldn't mount it to the ceiling until this was all done and painted, so I just did this small area to get started. This way the heater is able to be mounted permanently very early in the project and I have garage heat while I'm doing the rest of the work on the garage. It also gives me some incentive to finish the insulation and sheetrock - until I do, I'm wasting money heating a very non-air-tight-space...

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This is the final piece of the air inlet work - sealing off the openings between the heater and the ceiling at either end of the heater. This will force the combustion air to come through the air inlet as desired instead of taking in garage air.

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The garage heater itself is a used unit I got cheap off of Craigslist. Its only a 30,000 BTU unit, but that will be fine to keep a 2 car garage at 65 degrees F in the winter after insulating everything. This will be especially true after I replace the main doors with something that is actually insulated and has decent weather-stripping. It's a simple ceiling mount with a vent up and through the roof using standard double-wall "B" vent pipe. the heater itself is a 3" outlet, but I ran the vent stack as 4" to ensure I could upgrade to a larger heater later if desired. I also ran the venting through the garage a bit to get it over to where it needs to go. It was too tight in the ceiling with all the bracing, and this way I gain some passive heating from the exhaust into the garage air right near the inlet fan on the heater. This helps boost the effective heat I get out of the heater a bit at the expense of a little space lost near the ceiling. I can deal with that - it was mostly dead space anyway.

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I got a good deal on a basic digital thermostat from Home Depot. They had a bunch of older stuff on clearance, and for $18 I got a basic digital thermostat. It's not programmable per day; it's got 4 times/temp settings that apply to all days. Meh. For $18, I get the current garage temp, and a nice digital thermostat. Works for me!

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We got some snow shortly after installing the heater, and without the ceiling drywall and insulation done, the heater did a really god job of melting the snow off the roof over the garage and over the hole in the ceiling near the door to the house. Very weird, but also a very dramatic way to visualize the heat loss - and the impact to my wallet...

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The last step for the heater installation was to build a box around the vent stack so that when I add blown in insulation to the attic later on, it doesn't come into contact with the vent pipe. The code requirement for double-walled vent is that is must stay at least 1" from combustibles, and this ensures things stay that way. It's a simple frame of 2x4's installed in the attic with pieces of drywall screwed to them. It's not pretty, but it works. Ideally, I would have done this before installing any drywall, but when you do projects by yourself, sometimes you need to take advantage of a second pair of hands when you have them. I did, and the ceiling drywall went up a bit out of order. Such is life.

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After installing the heater, I realized I really wanted a way to filter the air it was blowing around the garage. As I was doing the rest of the drywall work, the heater stirred the dust up very much badly and made breathing a much less fun affair. To handle the filtering chores, I decided to use two filters - a relatively coarse washable filter on the outside to act as a pre-filter and trap most of the large crud, and a high quality replaceable filter on the inside to grab the fine particles. I found these units online from Amazon.com for a very reasonable price. None of my local stores had 12"x12" filters in stock anyway. So, I built this simple sheet metal box to mount to the back of the heater and hold a 12"x12"x2" think filter stack just behind the fan motor. Think of it as a really short piece of 12"x12" ductwork with a filter on the back of it. If I had to do this again (and I may for a buddy who has the same heater), I would build the entire unit on the ground and then mount it to the heater. Working on it in place was no fun, especially right next to the vent pipe which would get very hot while testing the changes to the heater.

There were a few minor things to get right, the first being the grommet for the wiring to the fan because that wiring needed to go through the "ductwork" section seen in this picture set. That required me to unwire and re-wire the fan from inside the heater to thread the wires through the grommet. The second was the clearance to the fan blades - the lip on the top piece of sheet metal was turned down due to clearance with the ceiling, and it touched the fan blades, so it had to be trimmed back to fit. This wasn't a big deal except that I didn't find out about that unit I was done installing the ductwork, everything was wired back up again, and I tried to test the fan. Oops. I made this with four pieces of 26 gauge sheet metal to make it easier to work with and make the bends using the hand bender I had to work with. It made it a little more fun to get it together properly, but a few sheet metal screws and some foil tape did wonders for the rigidity of this piece. Note the use of a proper grommet where the wiring will pass through the sheet metal!

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Here's the ductwork section mounted to the heater, but before the foil tape has been applied to reduce air leaks after the filters. Due to clearance issues I was unable to tape the top seam; If the heater ever comes down for service, I will tape it then.

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This is the filter holder. This was simple enough that I could make it out of a single piece of sheet metal and bend it up. It's a three sided unit so the filters can be changed later without dismantling everything. There is one tab at the top that wraps around the side so I can screw that down and hold it tight - as with the foil tape, clearance issues to the ceiling dictated the design. The bottom edge is a bit short because I only had a 36" long piece of sheet metal to work with, and adding the 1" lip on the top meant I was going to come up a bit shy on the bottom. That's fine; it holds the filters without any problems. The final funny angled shot is taken from almost right under the heater looking up. You can see the final foil tape and the more-than-enough clearance to the exhaust vent pipe. It needs to be 1" minimum; I have closer to 3". It working fine so far, and has taken a bit of the edge off the high pitched fan noise from the heater. In exchange for that, I have a lower pitched note from the air rushing through the duct. Not a bad trade-off overall, especially considering the radical improvement in air quality I'll get from filtering the garage air.

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I have found that the radical improvement in garage air quality when sanding drywall comes at a price - I completely clogged both filters in less than two days of work. Clogged as in "why isn't the heater keeping the garage warm any more? I guess I should check the filter..." Wow. That was unexpectedly fast - but I guess 12x12 isn't a lot of filter area to load up with drywall dust. I was expecting the washable pre-filter to help more than that, though. I can stock up on filters, or remove them when sanding tons of drywall...

 

Electrical

For basic lighting, I installed 4 recessed ceiling lights and connected them to a pair of motion sensors in the garage. The way, as soon as you walk into the garage, you have some light, even if your hands are full. My wife loves it for the laundry area. I used 40 watt bulbs in them so it's enough to see to walk by, but not enough

For the main lighting, I went with the pure-overkill-on-a-budget approach. I started with four simple 8' fluorescent fixtures, and then added about six 4' units in the middle section of the garage. It works well for minimal cost, and the bulbs last forever and don't draw huge amounts of heat. I wired up a simple three-way from the front of the garage to the entrance to the house.

I added a simple bathroom style exhaust fan in the ceiling and vented it to the outside of the house via the side wall, and put it on a basic timer so we can run it from up to 60 minutes at a time and not have to worry about forgetting to turn it off. It's quiet enough to run when I'm out in the garage and not have it drive me nuts. At 110CFM it won't pull huge volumes of air out of the garage, but it will work. The garage is about 20' x 20' x 8' high, so about 3200 cubic feet. At 110 cfm, the fan can in theory turn over the air in the garage every 30 minutes (3200 / 110 = 29.09), so I figure that should work fine.

For outlets, I basically went nuts and installed them all over the place on multiple 20A circuits, but up high enough to be above the future counter and below the future upper cabinets. The previous owner had added a bunch of outlets in the ceiling for his woodworking tools, so between them and my new wall outlets, I should be all set. I also added a couple of outlets that will be inside the lower cabinets so I could run chargers and the like in there if needed.

For extra lighting, I also ran a separate switched outlet so that I could run under-cabinet lights later on.

 

Air Line

I have an air compressor and various air tools, so part of my finished garage plans included air line drops around the garage. After some research, I opted to go with 3/4" black iron pipe all around, with output fittings coming out of the walls. All of the air line outlets are taken off of top of the feed pipe in the attic and then they drop down into the wall. This ensures that any condensate in the lines does not drip down into the wall outlets. It might get blown down there, but it can't run there by gravity. I also added spacers and blocking to ensure that the main feed line in the ceiling is sloped so that any condensate runs back towards the compressor where there will (eventually) be a place to drain it off and maybe hook up an automatic drain valve of some kind.

This is the drop closest to the garage heater. Note the take-off from the top of the attic main line via what is best described as an inverted P-trap. This helps it clear the roof rafters and stay under the roof at the outside edge of the garage, but the main line stays above the rafters for easy piping closer to the middle of the garage.

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The middle drop on the west side wall.

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The front drop on the west side wall. Note the use of the inverted P-trap even at the end of the run here.

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The main line in the attic. Note the spacers under the pie that cause the middle section to be the lowest. This is where the cross-garage feed attaches, and the water will drain that way via gravity due to the slope.

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The cross-garage feed pipe. Note the blocking that maintains the desired slope all the way across the garage. A 10' section of 3/4" black iron pipe has more flex in it than you might think at first; even more after you add a few joints for things. The upright stop in the middle of the garage will eventually become a ceiling drop point for a retractable air line reel. It comes off the top of the main feed line for the same reason as the other drops do.

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First pressure test of the air line. Pressurized to 100 lbs, it only lost ~2lbs overnight. Not bad.

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The ceiling drop point for the retractable hose reel has been installed.

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Re-testing the pressure loss after adding the ceiling drop point.

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After a quick trip to the store, I added a proper quick connect fitting to the ceiling drop point. Note to self: Harbor Freight female side quick connects leak way too much unless the hoses are perfectly aligned. Spend a bit more a get better units. I got some decent ones at my local Home Depot. The Harbor Freight male quick connect pieces seem to work just fine, are dirt cheap, and I had a bunch already, so I used them.

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The temporarily "T pipe" I created to hook up the feed to the west side of the garage (where the first sheetrock and such is going in) and my air existing hose reel on the east side of the garage. Yeah, it's pretty trashy looking; I built it out of spare parts I had laying around from the rest of the work. But, it works, doesn't leak, will be functional and out of the way for the 2-6 months I need it, and I can re-use the parts after I'm done with it. It sure won't win an plumbing beauty contests, though...

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First attempt at adding quick connects to the west wall air line drop points. These stuck out way too far.

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The goo I've been using on the air lines. This stuff is awesome! Messy because it's a soft-set sealer (aka, it never dries), but it works great for sealing the joints.

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The final arrangement for the west wall air line drops using a single bushing to go directly from the 3/4" female NPT 90 degree elbow to the 1/4" female NPT for the quick connect fitting to thread into. This puts the leading edge of the bushing at about the final sheetrock location, so all you have sticking out is the body of quick connect fitting.

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After previous work on the furnace and gas lines as part of the generator install, there was an abandoned run of 3/4" black iron pipe that went from the garage near the furnace, down through the crawlspace, and out to the side yard. The side yard is a space where a compressed air outlet would be very handy, so I decided to re-use the abandoned gas line feed as an air line feed. To do this, I had to get the line up into the attic and then over to a place where it could be hooked up to the rest of the compressed air line piping in the garage. Due to the sheer volume of things near the furnace, this required some very tricky routing and fitting work, but I managed to get it done. It does have a few small leaks in the line, so I will have to be able to turn this off when not needed, but for a few bucks in pipe and some time, I get a air line drop in my side yard that I can use if needed. I did have to vent the pipe for a bit (via flowing compressed air through it) to clear out some residual junk and the smell of mercaptan (the odorant they put in natural gas so you can smell it), though.

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Insulation and Sheetrock

It's not a man cave until it's warm, dry, and has real walls in it. So, insulation and sheetrock are a big part of the plan. The back half of the garage is already sheetrocked, but with no insulation above it, and it only has a basic tape and mud job on it with no paint on the sheetrock. It's a nasty aged yellow color as a result of no paint, and the mud job is pretty weak and sloppy. Getting decent sheetrock done and getting it painted white will go a long way to brightening up the place, and help on the dust factor. Dust sticks to raw sheetrock very easily compared to semi-gloss paint.

These are the first pieces of ceiling drywall. It felt good to get these up as many other pieces of work had to get done first to be ready to do this. All of the speaker wiring, electrical wiring, and air line work had to be done. I also had to install the vent trays on the underside of the eaves to allow for the addition of blown in insulation later on in the project.

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The first few pieces of insulation. Again, all speaker, electrical, and air line work had to be done first, so this was a big milestone. It also made a dramatic difference in the heat retention capabilities of the garage, as well as a huge difference in sound attenuation. Cool!

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Rocking over the first section of wall. The sheer number of outlets on this wall combined with the air line drops made this quite challenging to get right. We were able to nail it on the first try with careful measuring, and by being very fussy with fitting each piece in place. We also decided to leave a somewhat large gap along the top for mudding later on to make this easier. It better to have to do an extra coat of mud and sanding than to have to re-do multiple pieces of drywall...

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With the ceiling leak fixed, and the vent stack proper boxed in (see above), I could add the final section of vent trays and close up the last piece of the ceiling in this area. It felt good to get to this point!

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I purposefully left the stereo wiring bay until last - it has very tight tolerances and a large number of boxes, and many insulation challenges. By doing the insulation in the middle of the wall first, and putting one small piece of rock over it, I could easily ensure it was done right, and if need be, re-do the rock (in case of error) without a ton of waste. I got it on the first try. I also need to finish this section completely (aka, tape, mud, prime, and paint) and ensure I can final install the wall plate, the insulate behind them, and finish insulation and sheetrock on the rest of this stud bay. I will likely have to reach behind the rock from above and below to coax the wiring into place. There's a lot of wiring in this section. I'll place blown in insulation behind the wiring section to ensure it's well insulated.

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This is a great tool I found at Home Depot to make it easier to open 5 gallon buckets of drywall mud. It was well worth the price! Your fingers will thank you - trust me.

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Since I had to tape and mud the small section of the wall near the stereo wiring, I decided to go ahead and put a first coat of tape and mud on of the other joints and screws at the same time.

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Sanding the first coat of mud; the whole family got into the act. Caitlin wanted to try it, and Deb couldn't pass up the chance to take some pictures. Naturally, then Deb wanted to try it so we got a picture of her doing actual home improvement work to prove she can do it. :-)

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Insulating the rest of the stereo wiring bay and the area behind the living room stereo wiring hookups. Since it was so nuts to insulate, I just put up plastic and hand-packed blown-in style insulation into the bay behind the plastic, then stapled the top edge of the plastic in place. It's slow and dusty work, but works very well for oddball sections like this. You just need to take your time and make sure you pack the insulation into the cavity firmly so there are no air gaps, but not so firmly the plastic bulges out and you can't get drywall on there properly.

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The drywall pieces are installed with some help from Caitlin. Patching in around the condensate drain pipes and the water heater vent pipe was fun.

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First coat of mud on this section. It was even more fun to mud behind and around those pipes than it was to get the sheetrock in there...

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Patching the large hole in the ceiling near the furnace where it was opened up many years ago when the furnace got replaced.

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Here's the first sections of sheetrock after the drywall mud and sanding is done and the first coat of primer is up. A few areas of mud need to be touched up later on, but for now, this is spectacular progress.

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Now, with paint! First coat is up, and it looks to be covering good enough to go with a single coat of paint over the primer. There are a few uneven areas in the wall where the drywall was super uneven for various reasons (patches are a PITA) and there is a lot of mud in there to make it looks good, but overall, it came out quite well. The area over the stereo wiring section is particularly noticeable because it's at eye height and is a fairly tall vertical seam that had uneven edges and required a lot of mud. If the light is right, it's easy to see. I also found a few divots and a couple of noticeable uneven spots - one is near the front ceiling junction box and the other is below the sprinkler timer outlet - that I'll deal with later on.

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Outlet covers and such installed, and a quick touch-up of the trouble spots with drywall mud. It's not a final coat, but it's a start. I'll deal with the final sanding and painting after I do a lot more work in other areas of the garage. As my Dad says, this is "GE" (good enough).

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The wiring going into the rear 8' ceiling light near the furnace. I needed to take it down to work on the drywall in this area, and I need to make sure the wiring still exits the drywall in the right place when I'm done so the light can be properly re-mounted. I need it to be reasonably well sealed as this is inside the speaker box in that corner of the garage.

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Finishing that first wall and ceiling section allowed me to re-organize things (and do a bit of condensing and reducing, though I still need to do more of that later on) and make room for the next section of ceiling work.

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Here's the patch piece for next to the furnace. Getting it cut to fit around all the pipes was "fun". I had to fit it around all of these things:

  1. The gas line for the furnace and water heater.
  2. The compressed air line to the side yard.
  3. The furnace fresh air intake.
  4. The refrigerant lines for the air conditioner.
  5. The vent stack for the furnace.
  6. The combined vent stack and fresh air intake pipe for the water heater.

Tape and mud in this section is going to be lots of fun...

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Taping, mudding, priming, and painting of the west side rear "old" sheetrock is complete, both the wall and the ceiling to about 8' out. With spare mud and paint each time, I also made an effort to do other clear areas that I could get to on the east side of the garage; you can see some of it in the last photo. I also used some spray paint to paint the support boards for the water heater and gas line semi-gloss white so they wouldn't stick out quite so much - see the second picture for details. It was a pretty quick job, but it came out pretty decent, which is all I wanted. The large patches next to the furnace and around the speaker came out surprisingly nice; I did find a couple of nail/screw divots that could use a bit more mud on them later, but overall, this section appears to have come out quite nice. I'll know more after the paint dries and I have a chance to look at it more with non-tired eyes...

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Final paint on the west side rear "old" sheetrock on the wall and the first 8' of the ceiling.

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The second 4' section of west side new sheetrock installed, after the front west side 8' light and speaker have been temporarily removed.

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Two of the rear 4' lights temporarily removed to allow for final tape, mud, and paint in that section.

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First coat of tape and mud on the second 4' section of west side new sheetrock.

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First coat of tape and mud where two of the rear 4' lights were temporarily removed and in one of the seams near the rear attic access opening. At this point in time I was trying to not remove the rear-most 4' light so I'd have some more light in this area while I worked on it, but I ended up having to remove it to do the next step. The difference in light levels in the garage is quite noticeable with three 4' lights and one 8' light temporarily removed!

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The rear attic access opening is blocked in at it's final size, the drywall around it is patched in, and the first coat of tape and mud around it. The plywood sitting above it is just to keep cold air from pouring into the garage through the opening while I was doing this work in the middle of winter. Also, I removed the rear-most 4' light to allow patching in the drywall behind the attic access - it goes right up against the chimney.

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The rear attic access with the 1x2 supports for the cover installed and a thing strip of drywall installed under the supports. If I was smart, I would have done some of this before patching in the drywall in front of and behind the opening as noted previously, but apparently, I wasn't smart. I'll be smarter about the front attic access opening and install the 1x2 support pieces before I install any drywall, though...

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I also installed some 2x4 cross-truss bracing while it was still easy to get into the attic in this area, as well as removing any plywood scraps I was using to lay on and get easier access to various places. At the same time, I also remembered to remove any other stuff that was up here that wasn't supposed to stay up here.

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I installed a 2x12 frame above the opening so that the eventual blown-in insulation can be made full-depth around the access panel and not fall into the opening. I made sure to make it slightly larger than the 2x4 opening so that the cover I build later on can be pushed up and removed without any problems.

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A first coat of tape and mud on the thin strip of drywall the covers the 1x2 support pieces inside the rear attic access opening.

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The front attic access opening with the 1x2 cover supports inside of it (so I can sheetrock it correctly/completely the first time) and the 2x12 upper section to hold back the future blown in insulation.

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The next to last coat of mud on the middle back and second new west side ceiling drywall after sanding. Just a few small divots and low areas left to fill and sand, and it's onward to paint. Observant readers will note the box fan in the attic access opening - while sanding, I was using it to blow fresh air into the garage along with some fans placed to blow dusty air out the front of the garage. There is now a fine layer of drywall dust on my driveway. It looks...weird. Thankfully, it's supposed to rain soon enough - this is Seattle in the winter, after all...

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The first coat of primer on the middle back and second new west side ceiling drywall sections. It looks splotchy in the rear because some parts of it were already primed and painted, while other sections were bare drywall and mud. And, as luck would have it, I didn't have enough primer to finish out the final section. Figures. When you think you have a second can, double check before you decide to work late and assume you'll have materials to make progress. There are also a few areas of questionable mudding that may need touching up; I'll see what I think after I get a second coat of primer on everything. It is looking lots better, though.

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The second coat of primer + a first coat of paint on the middle back and second new west side ceiling drywall sections, plus touching up the patched areas on the west rear section. this looks much better in a hurry - lots more light in the garage now, even with four lights still not installed. It's going to be awesomely bright after I get them all back up again!

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The two center sections of front ceiling sheetrock before any tape and mud is up. Having the attic access pre-build with the 1x2 lip already in place made this a breeze to install that section. Pulling down and re-installing the tracks for the garage doors was a bit of a chore, as was moving enough stuff around to get space to do this work, but in the end, it all worked out OK.

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The two center sections of front ceiling sheetrock with the second coat of mud up. Careful readers will notice that there is an extra box in the ceiling just forward and offset from the round smoke detector box - it's for a network drop in the ceiling previously used by a PC on a desk in the middle of the garage. It was there in the above photos, but hidden behind the drywall due to "pilot error". During the first coat of mud, I had a very mysterious bubble in the ceiling in this area due to completely forgetting about the box and it pushing the drywall down. When I was about to start the second coat of mud, I realized my mistake and had to locate and cut out the hole for that box. That allowed the entire section of sheetrock to "seat" properly, and of course messed up the first coat of mud on the nearby joints and on all of the screws near that new hole. Now, there are a ton of screws in that area, and the joints needed some extra sanding to get things ready for the second coat of mud. Hopefully the third coat of mud will make it all disappear. Hopefully. I may need a fourth coat in a few areas - the joints in this area were pretty funky anyway due to the new and old sheetrock not lining up real well plus a number of obstacles in the ceiling (such as the air line and other boxes), and this just adds to the fun. Whee! It's not the end of the world, just a bit of a pain to deal with.

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The two center sections of front ceiling sheetrock with the third coat of mud up. The cleanup work around the ceiling network jack explain in the previous paragraph is going well at this point. A select few places may need a fourth coat of mud.

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The attic access cover panels. They are a simple 2x6 frame with drywall on the bottom, four inches of rigid foam board inside, a plywood panel on the back, and handles on the top so you can open them from the top when crawling around in the attic. They are not super-light, but will rarely be opened once installed, so that's not a huge deal. More important than a slightly heavier access panel is the insulation and the weather-stripping (not shown here) on top of the mounting lip for these in the ceiling openings. That will help keep these from being a huge heat loss point into the attic, while still maintaining access when needed, and without adding a ton of cost or complexity to the project.

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The first coat of paint on the two center sections of front sheetrock. Some areas did need four coats of mud, and a few really stubborn areas needed a fifth coat of touch-up mudding between the first and second coats of primer. It was almost like doing auto-body work, minus the "guide coat"... Overall, I think this section is coming out pretty good, especially considering how ugly some of it started out as. For a garage, I'm super-happy with the results.

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The second coat of paint on the two center sections of front sheetrock, plus the installed front access cover. I did the mud and paint on both access covers at the same time as the two center sections of front sheetrock.

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The rear access cover painted and installed. It sits a bit high in the opening, but it's tolerable.

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The rear east side of the old ceiling drywall before any work was done on it, but after the ceiling mounted shelf was removed. I still have a bunch of stuff to re-organize to make room to work here, but getting the shelve emptied and removed was a good start to this piece of the work.

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I had to move various stuff to get the large shelving unit temporarily emptied and moved into it's final location. Yeah, I'm a gear head and I have a lot of engines. They're not making Buick 455's anymore, so I have a stash of old ones laying around.

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The space where the large shelf used to be. Man that's a lot of wall space!

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The shelf in it's mostly final location in the middle of the garage. Careful readers (and any friends who know my garage well) will notice the new plywood sides and a plywood back piece on the upper section of the shelf. This helps make it very rigid so it wouldn't fold up onto itself when sitting in the middle of the garage. Previously it was nailed to the side wall to give it strength and rigidity, but I can't do that anymore. The difference in rigidity was pretty amazing.

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The last section of old drywall that was above the shelving unit. Notice how low it is and how messed up it is. Also notice the wiring snake for the transfer panel that needs to be properly routed above the triple support beam/large truss member instead of under it. I'm going to have to cut a section of this out anyway, so I figure I might as well not be stingy with it and make it easy on myself for doing other work in this space, so I'm simply going to remove the first 2' of ceiling on this last piece and patch it back in when I'm done.

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The left and right sides of the large shelving unit - I used these to plan out where I was going to run the conduit on the bench for some electrical outlets so I would have power readily accessible in the middle of the garage.

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The large shelving unit repacked with stuff that had been scattered all over the garage while I was moving the shelving unit and adding power to it. If you look closely you can see the outlets on the left and right posts, plus the conduit across the front of the top 2x4.

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Close-ups of the left and right outlets, plus the one on the back side of the left hand post. The picture for that one is taken looking up at the outlet from underneath. You can see the cord and twist-lock plug for the whole thing in the first picture. Later on I'll add an outlet in the ceiling for this to plug into and run it on a dedicated 20A GFCI circuit. I'm also going to add air lines on this as well so that the air hose reel can be used again.

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The front area of the garage after re-packing the large shelving unit.

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The front area of the garage after pulling most everything away from front two-thirds of the east side wall.

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The front two-thirds of the east side wall with everything moved away from it.

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Same view as the previous picture, this time after taking down the drawer units mounted to the wall, along with a bunch of misc stuff that was hung from the wall up near the break box and transfer panel.

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I needed to remove a section of the old sheetrock to fix the routing of the generator transfer panel snake, the AC lines, and to install the twist lock outlet and air line drop for the large shelving unit. It had been questionably installed to start with, and then it had been poked and prodded a lot over the years, so it was kind of falling down anyway...

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The pegboard over the window is gone, and after a thorough vacuuming to remove dust, cobwebs, and dead bugs, in it's place is a cheap-but-decent-looking set of $20 curtains. Otherwise known as a tension curtain rod and a cheap king size sheet... :-) It'll do until I can rip out the window, and it looks way better from both the outside and the inside than the pegboard ever did.

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Blocking installed for later drywall work...

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The front east corner of the garage after removing the forest of driveshafts plus welding gear that I had stored there, and after vacuuming up the cobwebs and dirt.

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After cleaning up this area, I noticed this disturbing crack in the front sill plate. You can see daylight through it at the right angle. Hmmm. The top plate is also sitting away from the studs, and the side top plate looks to have pulled down slightly from the front one. And this corner (actual, entire side) of the garage has clear signs of old water damage. All in all, this corner looks to have:

  1. Been badly framed to start with; note the error cutout in the top right corner of the main beam over the garage door that was simply nailed back in place - real professional...
  2. Possibly had the corner of the foundation sink a bit over the years.
  3. Had a persistent roof leak in this entire area for a long time - possible before the current roof shingles were installed, since they don't leak now.
  4. Had some goofy attempt to try and fix things by shimming the studs - note the wedge between the top plate on the side and one of the studs.

Also, the foundation looks to have been poured with the sill plate used as part of the forms - the concrete splash on it and concrete overflow all over it clearly happened when the wood was in place during the foundation pour. This is a very funky way to install the sill plate - I've never seen it before. I can only guess that the front one had too much overhang and has now split from the weight applied to it - the front edge seems to be hanging in space. I'll have to get a closer look at this form the outside at a later date and decide how I want to deal with this; it clearly can't be left like this.

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The compressor moved into it's rough final location. It's temporary , but it's pretty much where it will be eventually. I need to run an outlet for it, but for now it's on an extension cord back to the old outlet.

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I finally had a chance to re-route the generator transfer panel snake, so that's one more thing out of the way of the new ceiling drywall in this area. I got a chance to use a new tool for this - an oscillating saw. I used it to cut an access hole in the plywood that was between the ceiling drywall and the real roof sheeting in this area. It was very weird to cut in the plywood from below - I was 99% sure it was not the real roof surface, but it was still a bit of a "if I'm wrong, I'm in big trouble" moments... In the end, all was well, and I was right about the distance available between the two plywood pieces where I made my cut and drilled my hole for the generator transfer panel snake.

When they built my house and laid this section of the roof down, they simply laid down a normal section of plywood to cover the part of the roof on the main trusses (the forward sloping part) that would be exposed a real roof, and they let the plywood "run wild" into what would be attic space when it was all done. Then they installed the part of the roof that projects forward over the front half of the garage. The section that connects the trusses in the forward half of the garage with the main roof is done in custom cut and framed pieces of lumber (aka, traditional roof framing), and they built it right on top of the partially sheeted main roof to create the valley in where the two roof sections meet. After that, they laid down plywood on the front part of the garage roof to finish off the valley, but they only had to cut one set of plywood on an angle, so it saved them time. Unfortunately for folks doing remodeling like me, that leaves a few weird areas like this that have two sets of plywood in them. It'll be fun to blow insulation into these areas... Yay...

While doing this, I found out that the oscillating saw is a way cool tool that works really well for precision plunge cut work like this. I'll be using that in other places in the future. Being able to plunge cut like that is very handy, as is being able to reach in next to things for a flush cut. Realistically, I could not have done this with any other saw, at least not without mangling the plywood badly.

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Air Conditioner

When I get further along in this project, I'm installing a simple through-wall air conditioner in the side wall of the garage. They're only about $400, and I can do the install myself pretty easily. They go for under $200 (sometimes under $150) used on Craigslist, and they show up on there regularly, so I'll likely buy a good used unit over the winter when they're cheap. It will take the edge off the heat in the garage in the summer. Once it's insulated, the servers will be pumping out enough heat to keep it overly warm in there. Running any tools or the air compressor will rapidly make it unbearable, so I think of this as a $400 tool. Since the house is already air conditioned, it also makes using the laundry area easier for my wife. That makes it an all-around win for me.

When I remove the window from the side wall and re-structure it, I'll put in a smaller header (4x6") that spans two stud bays and move it as high as possible in the wall to get the air condition up and out of the way. I'll make the opening generous enough to install any size unit I could possible need down the road when the first one dies. The rest of the old window opening  will get siding on it and be a normal wall. I'll remove the old massive window header and restructure the wall during this to make running air lines and wiring much easier.

 

Cabinets

I'm going to be adding cabinets along the side walls - think of kitchen cabinets, but not as deep on the base units. I will want to be able to park cars in there in the future so as not to kill the resale value of the house. This will add a huge amount of enclosed storage space, plus a countertop that will form a very nice work surface. I will also be adding cabinets and a slop sink along the back of the garage in the laundry area. This will help give storage for my wife's stuff, and we can both use the slop sink for various things.


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Page last updated 01/15/2012 03:42:32 PM