by Ken Hogshead

First published in Rootes Review 2007

Fred Baum’s thoughts presented in the Rootes Review, Vol. 32 No. 1, January 2006 jarred my memory banks of trying to complete winter projects in an unheated garage. The first memory that popped into my mind was the time during Christmas vacation from college that I was trying to strip and repaint a car in the family garage.

The garage was an unattached single car unit and I kept blowing fuses while trying to run an air compressor, lights and electric heaters all at once. Furthermore, I was not able to get the garage temperature to the paint manufacturer’s recommendations, plus the temperatures varied throughout the garage. Of course the paint job I applied was, let’s just say, less than show quality. The thought of trying to spray volatile lacquer while using open element electric heaters is truly frightening today.

Years later I launched an addition project for my own home.

It included extending the existing attached two car garage into a four car unit and building a separate unattached three car garage.

Upon completion of the framing by the contractor it was my job to insulate the walls and ceiling. Insulating was the easy part. I then wanted to cover the fiberglass roll insulation with some type of wall material. After looking at my options and budget the obvious choice was ½ inch drywall. Installing the ceiling wasn’t that hard, as I had built a framework out of 2x4s. This framework held the 4-ft. by 8-ft. drywall sheets close to the ceiling joists. I could then, using small wedges, locate and hold the sheets into exact position for nailing or drywall screw attachment to the joists. Yes, one can purchase or rent a drywall jack or hoist that raises the drywall sheets, but as the ceiling portion of the project was going to extend over a couple of weeks, I did not want the additional expense.

With the ceiling up the walls went quicker than the ceiling and I was soon ready for the taping and finishing. This was the least fun part of the project. I thought that with the number of joints and seams that were to be finished, I would be a pro by the time the project was completed. Unfortunately, that skill set did not develop and I have happily kept my day job. Anyway, with the walls and ceiling more or less finished, everything got a coat of white paint to maximize the florescent lighting installed and minimize my joint taping abilities.

Now that the garage interior was ready for Sunbeams, how was the winter working environment?

I have a temperature chart recorder that I set up in the attached garage to monitor interior temperatures. With an outside temperature consistently below 30 degrees F the attached garage temperature did not drop below 40 degrees F. I have a couple of options to raise the temperature in the garage. One is to open the door into the house and let the main furnace heat the attached garage. Two, use a 1320-watt electric space heater. The space heater will bring the temperature up to 50 degrees F in a couple of hours. The heating method employed is dictated by the project of the day .

The unattached garage, not having a heat source connected directly to it, absorbs and retains the sun’s rays. Therefore the inside temperature will fluctuate more, but it usually will be 10 to 15 degrees above the outside temperature, depending on the amount of sunshine. Two 1320-watt space heaters will warm the interior to a comfortable 50 degrees.

SAFETY WARNING: Do not leave space heaters on and unattended.

One of my friends went even further to acquire a comfortable work environment. He installed a through-the-wall heating/cooling heat-pump unit. He can heat the garage in winter and cool it in summer. When one considers the number of hours most people are available to use this heat pump in winter or summer, you will not be able to see the additional cost on your electric bill. This is a great option, especially, if you can obtain one of these units as surplus, or in used but excellent condition.