Your garage is the gateway to your home. It’s the first room you see when you’re back from work and the last one you see when you leave.
Why not make it look and feel much nicer? (And it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.)
Since most garages are little more than unfinished boxes for your cars, there are lots of ways you can significantly improve them for less than $50 — sometimes even for free — with no painting or carpentry required.
Let’s explore seven affordable and easy ways to upgrade your garage.
1. Upgrade to Better, Brighter Lighting – $15
Oftentimes, garages come with a single dim, warm light installed in the middle of the ceiling. It’s often around 800 to 1000 lumens and 3000 Kelvin or below.
In other words: weaksauce.
That kind of light is OK for a small interior space with other lighting sources, but it’s wholly insufficient for illuminating an entire garage.
Lack of practicality aside, the wrong lighting can negatively impact your mood. Do you really want to come home to a dim light that says, “Oh, you again?”
Or would you rather be greeted by a big, beautiful light that says, “Welcome home!”
You can fully illuminate your garage — and your mood — by installing just a few 1500-lumen, 4000K+ bulbs: one or two in your garage door opener (if it has lighting) and one in the ceiling.
2. Hang a Tennis Ball Parking Guide – $5
Who needs fancy lasers and judgmental beeping to help you park?
If you’d like to park with absolute precision every time you pull into the garage, all you need to do is install a classic tennis ball parking guide. When your fuzzy green friend gently bounces off the windshield, you’ll know that’s where you need to stop.
S&E Garage on YouTube has my favorite method for installing a tennis ball parking aid. I like his method because it makes it easy to adjust the ball once you staple it to the ceiling.
- Remove your car(s) from the garage.
- Punch a hole through both sides of a tennis ball.
- Push a straw through both sides.
- Run a long piece of string (the same color as your garage wall) through the straw.
- Tie it off at the end and remove the straw, so that you now have a ball on a string.
- Staple the string to the ceiling in a position where you think the ball will tap your windshield — roughly 7 feet from the back wall, 6 feet from the side wall.
- Pull your car into the perfect spot in your garage — one that gives you and your passengers plenty of room, and leaves enough space for you to grab groceries from the back.
- Adjust the ball accordingly by sliding it up the string and tying another knot, and voila!
Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to position the ball over the *center* of the windshield. You can put it right in front of yo’ face on the driver’s side, if it’s easier.
3. Install Some Resin Shelving – $50
I’ve read lots of DIY guides out there that recommend building your own wooden shelves in the garage. Don’t get me wrong, they look gorgeous — and kudos to folks with the patience to build them — but yeah…
As an alternative, Amazon and Harbor Freight sell resin shelving kits for around $50 a pop. They require zero tools and take about 10 minutes to build.
I’m a huge fan of resin shelves because they’re cheap, easy to move around, and surprisingly sturdy. Each level can hold over 50 pounds of stuff. They also have rounded edges so you won’t stub your toe or trip on them. And one day, when it’s time to move, you can even collapse them and take them with you.
The last perk to resin shelves over wood or metal is that if you do happen to bump into them with your car, they have just enough flex to prevent damage to your car or your garage wall.
4. Use a Wooden Pallet for Storing Long Stuff – $0 to $15
Wooden pallets are just 4½ inches thick and are perfect for storing long stuff like rakes and pole axes. Lean ‘em against the wall, hammer ‘em into a stud, and instant cheap storage!
I love wooden pallets as a garage storage solution for so many reasons:
- They’re practical and take up mere inches of floor space.
- The raw wood actually looks nice — but you can always paint or stain it.
- You can easily “customize” your pallet sizes with a saw and/or a crowbar.
But best of all, they’re cheap or free. Look on Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, or Craigslist and you’re bound to find some.
5. Lubricate Your Garage Door Opener – $7
Garage door openers are noisy as hell. Mine sounds like a refrigerator falling down an escalator.
Luckily, you can quiet them down using a $7 can of lithium grease.
You don’t want to use WD-40 on your garage door opener because it’s not a lubricant. WD-40 eliminates squeaks by preventing moisture buildup.
But we want moisture, so the metal-on-metal contacts throughout the garage door are much quieter. That’s why we want grease!
You can buy a can of white lithium grease at any hardware or home improvement store. Be sure to get the can with the straw attachment so you can spray right into those small connections.
For a visual guide, check out this video by HouseImprovements. Shannon does a really good job of showing you exactly where to spray, how much, and how to do it safely.
6. Mount Your Bikes Vertically – $10
My wife and I love our bikes, but they’re a pain to store. No matter where you put them, two adult bikes can easily take up a whopping 25 square feet of floor space, or 30% of a one-car garage.
That’s why it’s better to go vertical. If you hang your bikes on $3 hooks, you’ll save over half the floorspace.
The challenge lies in screwing them in. You’ll need a $20 stud finder and a $50 drill, but trust me, as a homeowner both items will pay for themselves 10 times over.
Once you find a stud on the wall or the ceiling, you’ll want to drill a hole just long enough for the screw tip of the hook to screw in. As for which drill bit to use, start small — probably 3/16 inch.
Lastly, if you aren’t strong enough to lift your bike over your head, screwing the hooks into the wall and letting one tire rest on the ground works great, too.
7. Install Garage Floor Tiles – $3/sqft
Confession: upgrading your garage flooring isn’t cheap.
But it is easy.
Plus, it’ll raise the value of your home and make such a big difference in how your garage greets you.
Now, there are three common ways to upgrade your garage flooring:
- Polish the existing concrete.
- Lay epoxy.
- Install garage floor tiles.
The cheapest option is to DIY epoxy, but it’s difficult, messy, and can result in Sticky Floor Syndrome.
By contrast, garage floor tiles just snap together like LEGOs. No tools, no mess, and you can design cool, custom floors like these:
Now, to fill a one-car garage with tiles will cost around $600 — but again, a beautiful garage floor will raise the value of your home, brighten up your garage, and make you feel better every time you come home.
Upgrading your garage doesn’t have to cost much — or in some cases, anything at all. By following these “garage hacks,” you’ll end up with a gateway to your home that’s brighter, tidier, and an overall happier place to be.
And if you’re looking to put all of your home improvement expenses on one card for maximum cash back, check out our list of the best credit cards for home improvement projects.
Featured image: vipman/Shutterstock.com