The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Garage Page 2 of 4

Garage Ceiling Goes Cathedral!

Hey friends! Last time I left you with the ranch house garage, it looked like this:


It was organized, but far from renovated. Most of the walls and ceiling are still the original and full of nail holes.

I also left you a lengthy to-do list for our next stage of work in the garage. Most of the things on this list concern insulation:

1. Demo the broken dry wall ceiling
2. Upgrade the lighting
3. A new attic entry
4. Northern wall insulation
5. Finish/paint the northern and southern walls
6. Replace the old window
7. Replace weather stripping and broken trims around garage door
8. Insulate the garage door with a layer of foam
9. Fix the garage slab and replace the old weather stripping under the garage door

You can see that we have already replaced the weather stripping around the garage door and leveled the concrete slab at where it has settled. These steps stopped almost all the winter draft coming in from the garage door, which helps the garage to stay warm in winter. Our next task, is a completely overhaul of the garage ceiling – including replacing the ceiling, adding insulation, and updating the electrical.


Here is what the garage ceiling looks like. The problems are…many. I do not even know where to start. Let us put it this way, I cannot think of anything good to say about this ceiling, at all.


It is a random collection of drywall pieces. You can see that some seams are taped, while others are not.


The drywall pieces are small, leading to many gaps in between. They allow heat to escape in winter. Ever worse, some pieces are completely missing:


The drywall pieces are mostly nailed to the bottom chord. In some places, they are held up by random pieces of lumber:


This ceiling not only seriously lacks form, but also function. There is no insulation whatsoever above the ceiling – just imagine this garage is an abandoned, broken barn.

The electrical in this garage is also a mess. There is only one electrical outlet on the ceiling, and not many light sockets.


As a consequence, all the lights in the garage are interconnected with loose wires.


Last but not the least, allow me to present to you the king of the problem – the attic ladder:


Or I should say, the leftover of the attic ladder:


The bottom of the ladder is broken off and the whole thing is slowly peeling off the drywall cover. If we want to go up, we need to use a long ladder to put on top of the broken attic ladder – a true safety hazard. Unfortunately, due to the “hot” Denver housing market, we did not have the leverage to ask the previous owner to fix anything. We bought the house “as-is”, and this is it…

Although the ceiling looks terrible, the roof structure is no doubt in a good shape. With a new roof over the garage, we feel pretty good about our starting point. We believe that with a completely ceiling overhaul and some new lighting, we can make this garage a really neat place.

Starting last week, Slav started to take down the ceiling piece by piece:


He started from the edge, where there are less electrical connections, and moved his way to the center:



The piece of drywall above the bottom chord is our current attic access. We plan to replace it during the ceiling work. In our city, the code requires the attic access door in attached garage to be 20 minutes fire-rated, and self-closing.

As the ceiling coming down, you can see the stuff stored there and left to us: paneling, screens, and interestingly, a whole plastic bag of receipts.



The roof above the main living area has king post roof truss, but in the garage, we have tri-bearing truss:


The roof pitch is 4:12, which is not steep at all. But over the whole span of the roof, the highest point is over 4 feet above our existing 8’4″ ceiling. I cannot help but thinking how great it would be to keep a cathedral ceiling here, instead of installing a new flat drywall ceiling. It will not only makes this compact garage feeling more spacious, but also save all the effort and cost to drywall and mud. And think about the cool lighting we can have instead of standard can lights!

I had the idea brewing in my head for weeks before discussing with Slav. He was immediately on board! And not in a tolerating kind of way, but in a “Great idea” and “Let us do it” kind of way. 🙂 I am such a lucky woman.

So now the question became: how do we insulate the ceiling, and what do we use to as ceiling finish? We decided to go with the same 5-mm plywood that we used on the garage end wall. It is light and easy to work with, and has a nice finish. We can put fiberglass batt insulation right between the plywood and the roof, just like in the walls. The plywood will not only cover the insulation, but also hold them in place.

I am excited about using the same plywood finish on the ceiling as the end wall. The continuous wall to ceiling treatment should draw the attention up, especially with white walls flanking it from both sides. It should make the garage feel deeper and taller, something like this.

With a solid plan in place, we are just waiting for a warm weekend to tackle the garage ceiling project. As of today, half of the garage ceiling has been removed! So stay toned, friends! The tall ceiling is coming!

Weatherproofing the Garage Door

For a good portion of October, we worked hard to get our garage organized (here, here, here, and here). We tackled one wall at a time, and turned our garage into a series of zones, including a mudroom area, a sport storage area, a paint wall, and a workshop. But our work in the garage is far from over, and the to-do list is still long.

The garage To-Do:

1. Demo the broken dry wall ceiling
2. Upgrade the lighting
3. A new attic entry
4. Northern wall insulation
5. Finish/paint the northern and southern walls
6. Replace the old window
7. Replace weather stripping and broken trims around garage door
8. Insulate the garage door with a layer of foam
9. Fix the garage slab and replace the old weather stripping under the garage door

Most of the things in this list address one issue – insulation. As you can see from the schematic below, The two exterior walls in our garage (southern and eastern walls) came with R-11 fiberglass batt insulation. We would love to have R-13, which should also fit into the 2″x4″ studs on these walls, but the cost of replacing all the insulation and dry wall does not justify the difference between R-11 and R-13. Especially when we have no insulation whatsoever on the ceiling and the other two walls.

Our main living space has insulation on the attic floor, right above the drywall ceiling, whereas our garage has nothing. To make things worse, the garage ceiling are just small pieces of dry wall taped together, ready to fall on our heads.


At some places, the ceiling is completely missing:


With all the gaps and holes, heat in the garage rises right against the roof, and escapes freely through the recently added roof vents. It makes a big impact on our heating bills, because the wall between our living space and the garage was not insulated. That means that our new furnace is not only heating the living space, but also working hard to keep the garage warm, via the heat transfer through the shared wall. At the same time, all the heat was lost through the broken ceiling and roof vents.

The last place that could use some insulation is the garage door. The weather stripping around the garage door was falling apart, and there is a big gap under one corner of the garage door due to the settling of garage slab. We can feel the cold draft coming all around the garage door at night.


Our plan is to add insulation inside the northern wall, in order to decrease the heat transfer between the house and the garage. We also want to insulate the garage ceiling and the garage door, which should decrease heat loss. The last step would be replacing the old window. We hope that when we finish, the garage can stay warm on its own, without stealing heat from the house.

Remove the old weather stripping and broken trims:

Without much budget (thanks to the unexpected water heater breakdown), we decided to do our best insulating the garage without burning a hole in our pocket. An easy start is to replace the worn weather stripping around our garage door.


As you can see, the current weather stripping was held down by a piece of 1″ wood jamb. Not only the weather stripping has crumbled into pieces, the wooden jamb themselves were cracked as well.


There was no weather stripping on the top of the garage door, which left a 1/2″ gap along the top of the garage door. Based on the missing paint, we think that trims and weather stripping were there at some point:


To replace the weather stripping, Slav started by taking off the old door jamb down with a pry bar:



The jamb came down without a fight, leaving many nail holes behind:


Slav filled the nail holes, caulked all along the casing and header jamb to close off any seam between the door casing, the header jamb, and the framing. In this way when the new weather stripping is on, there will be no air gap around the door.


Painting around the garage door

During roof-installation, we painted all the fascia, soffit and trims a coat of bronze color. The area around garage door was left out of the game, because we knew that we would be replacing the door jamb with the weather stripping at some point. And now it is the time! After Slav patched all the nail holes and cracks, he scraped off any loose paint and gave everything a good sand:



After an hour of patching and sanding, everything was smooth and ready for a new coat of paint. I taped around the brick and cracked open the leftover paint can:



We also replaced the broken light above the garage door:


with two new lights, which come with motion-sensitive sensors and a timer!


Installing new door jamb and weather stripping

While I was painting, Slav went out and got new weather stripping for the garage. He did some research and settled on a product that combines weather stripping and door jamb, called garage door system from Royal Moulding. The jamb is made of PVC but looks like wood. And it comes with a dark brown color that really similar to the bronze paint. Rot-resistant, pre-drilled holes for easy installation, and good looking – it is a triple win that we cannot resist.



After an afternoon of work, our garage entry was changed from this:


to this – with freshly painted frames, brand-new weather stripping, and PVC jamb:


A draft-free garage door

With all the caulking and new weather stripping, the only thing we need to do to make our garage door draft-free is sealing the gap between the corner of the garage slab and the door. Eventually, we would like to level the garage slab completely. But it is simply too cold to do extensive concrete work now. For a quick fix, Slav used fast-set concrete patch to create a small bump at the problem corner, right below the garage door. It is not pretty, but it does the job to eliminate the gap between the door and the slab.

We have been monitor the temperature in the garage for a while now. Before weather proofing the garage door, the lowest temperature at night fell around 40 degrees. After the upgrade, we have seen the night temperature hovering above 50! We are eager to know how well the garage holds heat after we insulate the ceiling, which is our very next project. Slav has been slowly taking down the dry wall ceiling which revealed the pitched roof above. I am falling in love with the idea of cathedral ceiling in the garage. Who knows, if I play my cards right and catch Slav at the right moment, I may get him on board!

Garage Organization, Done!

Folks, our garage is fully organized!


The garage has been a dump ground and workshop for us – it held everything we had during the first week, when we removed the main floor carpet. It has since been our tool shed, material storage, and sometimes paint shop. It feels sooo good to see it finally clean and organized.

This is what we started with three weeks ago:


You can see that we had a decent starting point – we do not store random stuff here, just tools. We also have bought a couple tool benches and a cart. But it lacked organization – everything was piling on top of each other and it took on average 5 minutes to find anything.

During the last three weeks, we tackled each side of the wall individually – we put up some paint storage, built a ski rack, added sporting storage, and created a mud area. Most recently, we have finished the end wall with new insulation and plywood coverage:


We had some old pegboard around, so Slav power washed them, cut some to size to fit above the work benches:



He also built a shelf above the kitchen door opening, which houses our house server and router.


And this is what our garage looks like today!


To the right is the southern wall:


We added another shelf to our paint corner for our growing paint and sealant supplies:



We added some storage on the southeast corner:


The freezer and the work shop area occupy the eastern wall:


This is our wood working bench:


The second bench is home to our powertools:


Cables and PPEs are hung behind the kitchen door opening:


The northern wall contains all our sporting equipment and a mud area. Our DIY ski rack houses five snowboards and two pairs of skis/poles, a true work horse:


We enjoy the convenience of the mud area offers:


We are now able to park both of our cars in the garage in case of bad weather:


There is just enough room for the drivers to get out of the car, thanks to all the wall organization:



Not so much room for the passenger though. We are working on hanging all the ladders onto the ceiling to make more room on this side:


Our garage is certainly not done yet. But for this winter, we are thrilled to have everything organized and both of cars into the garage. We can already feel that how much easier our renovation work became with a fully organized workshop and a clutter-free garage. After working every day including weekends for months, we are looking forward to taking time off for the rest of the week, and enjoying some warm fire, cold beer, and conversations on our still-new patio. See you next week, friends!


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