The Cheap Garage Renovation Project: $158!

Over the summer, my better half and I wrapped up our latest renovation project – the garage!

I wasn’t wise enough to take “before pictures” so that I could post a before/after comparison here (yeah, dumb), so let me set the scene for you instead:

– 1.5 car lengthwise, and the 0.5 at the back of the garage was loaded with unused building materials from past projects and a bunch of junk that we ended up taking to the recycling center (plastic bags, boxes, styrofoam, screen doors, fertilizer, etc.).

– weak, rickety, built-in shelving all along one wall.

– only one of the three walls was finished (drywalled) and it had a smattering of 5 different paint colors, a few holes punched in it, and some vintage Garbage Pail Kids stickers for ambiance. Oh, Adam Bomb, how I miss thee.

– insulation between wall studs left uncovered, easily poked and torn, and housing just about every spider species native to Michigan.

– a hole in one corner in the concrete floor that was housing a feisty chipmunk.

It was an unmitigated disaster zone that left us tiptoeing around with zero room to spare, open to insect and critter infestation, inefficient energy-wise, and with a huge red mark for appearance should we ever decide to sell or rent out the place.

If you’ve been around here for long, you know that I am an aspiring minimalist and always looking for ways to declutter the massive amount of stuff that we have accumulated over the years. For some reason, however, I gave myself a pass on the garage. “It’s just the garage, I will get to it eventually…”. And it became a dumping grounds for everything not fit for inside the house.

So, I decided to take a week off of work to tackle the project. That’s no small ask, but let me tell you, I’m glad that I did. 1 day clearing out all of the crap, 2 days putting up new drywall and repairing old, 2 days mudding and taping drywall joints (2-rounds, with 24-hours in between), 1 day priming, and 1 for painting. The mudding and painting weren’t entire days, rather, you need to wait for the mud and primer to dry.

I had never drywalled before, so I viewed the garage as the perfect place to cut my teeth, so to speak.

Here is what I bought for the project:

  • 12 4’x8′ sheets of 1/2″ drywall @$6.50/ea.: $78 (drywall is surprisingly cheap!)
  • 3-gallons drywall joint compound: $10
  • joint-tape: $1.50
  • far too many drywall screws: $20
  • Compound sand paper: $6
  • Home Depot truck rental to move drywall: $20
  • breathing mask: $3
  • 2 gallons of “the cheapest paint you have” (Valspar “cover n’go”): $20

I already had primer, 2 rollers, tray, brush, and paint tape, which saved me about $20 in all.

Total cost to turn an ugly, scary, inefficient, poorly-used garage into a nice-looking, efficient, optimized one? $158.50! And if I ever sell the house, It would likely produce 10-30X returns. That’s some tasty ROI.

Here is the end result:

garage renovation

This project taught me a few valuable lessons that I wanted to share with you:

  1. drywall tapeIf you’re afraid of renovating a room and drywalling, garages or basesments are great places to learn, because the finish doesn’t have the be perfect. The garage, while not perfect, is now a net positive versus a big negative for us and for the next potential homeowner. And I am no longer afraid of drywalling, which opens up my DIY project capabilities quite a bit.
  2. Buy at least a 6″ taping knife (maybe even a 12″) and apply a good amount of joint compound so that your tape edges do not show. You can always sand it down, if needed. You may want to take a class at a local DIY store. If you don’t, the results could look like this (photo to the right). Because it’s the garage and my first drywall project, I just don’t care. Next project, I will care.
  3. Drywalling is cheap. If you need to knock out some drywall to see what’s behind the walls, it won’t cost you much replace it.
  4. Use a breathing mask and safety goggles when you sand down the mud on the drywall joints. Otherwise, that stuff will get all up in your lungs and eyes and you’ll be miserable.
  5. Just because it’s a garage (or basement), doesn’t mean you should get a free pass for loading it with a bunch of shit. It still wears on you.
  6. If you’re trying to prioritize the projects around your house, low-cost, high impact projects like this are a great place to start. They might not be the sexiest of projects, but will almost always produce a positive ROI. Even if they don’t, they reward is worth the effort/cost. One of the most satisfying DIY projects I’ve done was a patio swing restoration that had some MacGyver influences and only required a $15 investment, with great results.
  7. Chipmunks can be vengeful! After I plugged the hole to his home in the corner, he has gotten me back by often taking massive chipmunk dumps on the garage floor.
  8. The worst moments of what many deem to be one of the worst DIY projects (drywalling) were still better than sitting at a desk all day because it provided a new challenge and was fresh.
  9. I knew this before, but DIY projects aren’t always a money loser. At $158, the return here will be staggering, if not in monetary value (likely that too though). DIY has personal finance value.

Reader DIY Stories:

What about you? Share your favorite DIY projects, the numbers behind, and link to any pics to show how badass your skills are.

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