How to Choose the Right Garage Storage Cabinets

My family and I recently moved into a new house. I was chomping at the bit to get my tools set up in my new garage, but as I assessed what we had, I realized that I needed some very different storage solutions than what I had before. I had a vision of what I wanted the garage to look like but did not know the nuts and bolts of what to consider when making a garage cabinet purchase. After some research into what’s out there, here is what I found.   

When ordering storage cabinets for your garage, there are several things you should consider. How are you going to use these cabinets, what they are going to hold, what material you would like them made of, and overall how you would like to fill your garage space. This is what I considered when making my decision.   

How DYou Plan to Use Your Cabinets?   

This might sound like a silly question at first, but it is something to think about. Some options, like the one I ended up purchasing, have a workbench included in the build of the cabinets. If you are not one to tinker in the garage or if you have another designated place to work, this is simply a waste of storage space. If you are not going to have the workbench, I would suggest considering only the tall, upright cabinets to maximize your storage cabinet space. The vertical storage cabinets have shelving that can vary in height and have an optional closet rod if you want to store coveralls, work clothes, seasonal clothes, and the like.  

What Are You Going to Store in Your Garage Cabinets?    

Looking at the collection of tools, kids’ playthings, Christmas decorations, and other ‘stuff’ you have accumulated, you next need to determine WHAT you are going to store in these cabinets. (If you have a lot of larger items, you might get more use out of a storage rack, like these). For cabinets, you will probably want to store smaller items, or less stackable items so you can get the most use out of the shelving. For example, I do woodworking and I really enjoy working on a lathe. I keep my chisels and buffing wheels in one of the cabinets to keep them sorted and keep the buffing wheels clean. Other things that I keep in the cabinets since they store nicely are my chisel sharpener, several of my saws, orbital sander, and various other tools. 

What Material Should the Cabinets BMade of?  

Garage storage cabinets are made of a variety of materials. The three types I found when doing my research were wood, plastic, and metal. Wood cabinets are normally decently cheap, or in the case of my old garage, something that I built myself. Depending on how you use them, wooden cabinets may suit your needs. The ones in our old garage were a little beat up by the time we were done with them. Be aware – wood can absorb chemicals that may have spilled on it, so they can never be truly cleaned once that critical mess is made.   

Plastic is another material that is economical and easy to find. Plastic shelves can look good and can take a beating depending on what you are storing. Living in the desert, I’ve found that temperature and sun exposure can cause issues for plastic. If you are out in the garage often or have the door open a lot you might need to be cautious of this. In addition to sun exposure, depending on what you store and how careful you are around plastic shelving, you can experience cracking, breakage, and all-around degradation of the shelves’ integrity. For long term storage, I would suggest something heartier.  

Which brings me to metal. Of the three materials, this is the one that is certainly the most durable. There is also a range of sizes, styles, and prices to fit whatever your needs are. If you are looking at steel cabinets, the gauge of steel is also something to consider. When doing my research for the project, 18” with 24-gauge steel, or 24” and 18-gauge steel were the most common options. Because of my garage dimensions and trying to have some walkway space when the cars are parked in the garage, I chose the 18” in depth cabinets. The 24-gauge steel is plenty strong for what we need them to do. They do feel a little flimsy for my liking, but I am used to a rolling toolbox with 20-gauge steel. You will need to determine how heavy duty you need the cabinet to be based on what type of tools you are going to put in it. For my woodworking tools, the lighter gauge is perfectly fine. If you are a contractor swinging around concrete grinders, the 18 gauge might be better if you have room.    

Other Space Considerations for Storage Cabinets 

When we initially looked at the floor plans for the house we built, I was thinking of all the different things we could accomplish in the garage with our storage cabinets, racks, and the like. Now that the house is built and we are moved in, those ideas needed to adjust to fit the space. I was initially thinking that the overhead corner racks would be perfect, and storage cabinets covering the back wall. In our situation, we have central A/C, water heater, and water filter, along with 9’ doors requiring me to be more strategic in the approach. Much like a game of Tetris, but you need to make sure you do not impede the garage door from opening.  

 Another thing to think about is where you are going to put these cabinets in the garage. I have a standard two-car garage and only have 15 inches of space on either side of the garage door. If you are lucky enough to have a wider garage and can afford the space, lining up the tall, upright garage storage cabinets might be perfect for your situation. Another option for those that have space in corner cabinets. There are several options you have for this, you can either butt of the cabinets to each other, they have special cabinets made for the corners of the garage so you can maximize space, or they have somewhere the actual workbench is “L” shaped and contours with the corner of the garage. 

How to Accommodate Garage Size with Your Cabinets 

For smaller garages, your options may initially seem more limited. However, there are still ways to be creatively efficient with your space. A row of cabinets may be spaced next to a fold-down bench in the back of your garage for storage. If you have taller ceilings you may be able to line some wall or overhead storage racks around the ceiling to maximize space. For smaller spaces like this, you might like our article on getting the most out of the sidewalls in your garage. Click here for that article. You might be able to hang your workbench and other items so that you can focus on cabinet space in the area that you do have.   

 First, do you park the vehicles in the garage? Will you hit the cabinets with the car doors, or will the car stick out of the garage so you cannot close the door If you give yourself a few inches of walk space so you can get around in the garage? Once you determined if space can accept the cabinet size, you will then need to look at your tools and other items you are planning on storing and see if one size will fit better than the other. Lastly, you will need to determine what you are willing to pay. The larger cabinets with the heavier gauge will be more costly but can be well worth the investment. Here are some links so you can see the difference in cost:   

For Standard Garages, Storage is a Little more Forgiving.   

Here is where you start to get some options on how to design your garage storage. If you are going to park the cars in the garage, pull them in the garage and see how much room around the vehicles you have to work with. (Note: make sure you are not leaving too much room between the vehicles and the garage door. Use the hanging tennis ball trick or something to keep you from pulling in too far but grant yourself all the space you can afford. In a standard 20’ x 20’ garage, you will probably only have space for storage cabinets to be in front of the cars and maybe racks overhead.  In my situation, I wish I could have the tall, uprights for the sidewalls of the garage, but our space is a little too narrow for that and to be able to get the cars in and out of the garage.  Because of that, we are going to look at putting racks along the upper walls and ceiling and use some more condensed storage options for the sides of the garage.    

For Large Garages, the Sky is the Limit  

If you have a large garage, there are not many things holding you back. I just want you to know that I am jealous and would love to see a photo once the job is done.  

Garage Storage Cabinet stands  

I was not initially aware of this when I was originally looking for these cabinets. I went with New Age Products for the manufacturer of my cabinets. You have the option of mounting their cabinets on feet with levelers, or another option is that you can actually mount the cabinets directly to the wall if you are wanting some additional clearance or have a reason for the floor to be clear. Having everything off the ground would be amazing for cleaning your kids decide to play roller hockey in the garage…  

After Making the Purchase and Completing the Setup  

After researching the different options and manufacturers for garage storage cabinets, I went with a company called New Age Products. After getting everything set up, I do wish I would of went with the larger cabinets, I think they would be well worth the additional money. The 24-gauge cabinets I did purchase are great and will serve every purpose I needed them for, but the additional space is always nice, and the thicker metal would be nice to have with flinging around tools and chisels. Now that I have the initial cabinets installed, I will be purchasing some additional racks to put overhead in the garage.

Thanks for reading, and as always, be sure to keep it tuned to The Garage Junkie for all of your garage’s FYI and DIY needs!

Recent Posts