Garage Cabinets 1

When we bought this house I made the decision almost immediately to do some upgrades in the garage. Like most Americans, I have a bunch of junk and I decided that one way to deal with that junk was to store it out of sight in some cabinets in the garage. I also thought it would be a nice upgrade to get some sort of epoxy paint on the garage floor as it would look somewhat nicer and be easier to keep clean.

It has been twelve years since all this work was done. Over the last few years it became clear that there was a problem with the cabinets, as the doors didn’t line up any longer and the door in the corner wouldn’t open. (I managed to take that door off before things got locked in forever.) More recently, it was obvious that the whole thing was coming separated from the wall. And in the last weeks, I was concerned that the center cabinet over the workbench was about to fall off completely. Something needed to be done.

But first, let’s take a look at how we got here.

This is what it looked like when we bought the place. My neighbors tell me that the previous owner did a lot of woodworking in the garage. He certainly didn’t put much effort into shelves or workbench. This stuff is all particle board. Not enough shelving and not very deep. Certainly insufficient to deal with the amount of junk I have.

Here’s the machine they used to prepare my garage floor for the epoxy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the cabinets, but what the heck. They ground a thin layer off the floor to make it smoother and provide a better surface for the paint. Note the cracks the previous owner filled up with … something. I’d forgotten these cracks are there.

This is the best picture I have of the finished product. It’s not quite done: there is no hardware in the doors and they haven’t installed the pegboard above the “workbench”. I’m putting that in quotes now, because it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s not so much a bench for doing work as a tabletop for stacking more junk on.

All this work set me back $2,500. That’s all the cabinets in this photo, the grinding and coating of the garage floor, a somewhat upgraded step into the house, and a set of shelves in the pantry. The previous owner’s pantry shelves were very similar to the shelves in the garage. What we ended up with was a big improvement. I may have a detailed invoice in the archives, but I’m not curious enough to go looking for it. I’ll just guess that the garage cabinets were $1800 and it was $700 for the floor, pantry shelves, and sales tax.

As I said, it has been twelve years. That’s almost to the day between the last picture above and when I started taking them down. So figure the cabinets cost me $150 a year or twelve and a half bucks a month.

I recall being somewhat concerned that I was spending a bunch of money on this project, and I knew it was being built out of particle board and fastened with staples. But I was assured they’d be robust. When it all started coming down, I was sure that it was because of the materials, even though none of the shelves showed any sagging. Not even the ones holding the heavy stuff.

This picture shows most of the issues. Note that the doors on the left cabinet neither line up nor stay closed. The cabinet above the “workbench” is looking quite precarious and if you look closely you will note that the left cabinet has developed a big gap from the wall. The clock is hanging on the pegboard and the face of the trim piece around the pegboard is not quite two inches from the wall, so there’s quite a gap there. The cleat that was holding the top of the center cabinet not only came apart from the cabinet, but about six inches of it broke off each end.

The plan is to have an improved workbench in the middle, under the pegboard. It won’t have any drawers and will be six inches deeper. I have a nice vice that I’ll mount on it. If I’m ambitious, it’ll have a steel top. On each side of that, I’ll have cabinets that are essentially the same size as the ones I took down. I’ll also replace the shallower center cabinet above the bench. I won’t do a cabinet in the corner. Maybe I’ll do a small top cabinet. I salvaged the carcass that held the drawers. That might fit in the corner. This means I’ll be losing 15-20% of my storage space. I’ll have to get rid of some junk. (The cabinets on the side walls will stay.)

I spent an hour and a half each day for three days emptying the cabinets and disassembling them. I now know why the cabinets failed. It wasn’t because they were made from particle board fastened by staples. All the wood stacks up nicely; only a couple of the shelves are slightly bowed. The problem was the foundation.

The garage floor is sort of pan shaped. A careful look at the above picture shows the issue. The foundation that the walls sit on is level. The garage floor is higher in the corner on the left and right than in the center. And it’s higher in the back of the garage than at the doors. This is well done. It’s a garage and there will be water that comes off the cars, and a well-laid floor will allow the water to flow out.

The kickboards on the cabinets aren’t structural. They’re just for show. What’s actually holding the cabinets up (other than the wholly inadequate cleats) are a couple of little 4″x4″ pieces of particle board stapled to the base of the cabinet sides. A couple of these are laying on the floor next to the “workbench” in the picture of the partly assembled cabinets.

I couldn’t know this was the problem until I had everything taken apart, and even if I had known, I don’t think I’m capable of rectifying the problem. I think things were too far gone.

Now that I’ve demolished the old cabinets and all my junk is stacked up on the floor of the garage, there’s no turning back. I made some plans. I bought some lumber and some new tools. I’m about to find out if I can build a better set of garage cabinets.