Winterizing Your Garage

Leaving your garage unprotected from the winter elements is like strapping the Abominable Snowman to your car's roof rack. It’s a huge draw on that which accounts for over half of your home's energy costs.

Can you relate to the following scenario? It’s the night before Christmas and you realize the holiday ham is in the storage freezer – inside the garage. Before going to retrieve it, you slip on a full-bodied snow suit so you don’t get hypothermia.

For many homeowners, the garage is akin to an igloo during the cold winter months. It’s easy to measure the immediate, physical discomfort the space causes. What isn’t as apparent, though, is the long-term financial, environmental, and respiratory impact it has.

An energy-efficient garage is crucial for maintaining the integrity of one’s home, and the health of its occupants, especially during seasonal extremes. The good news is, it’s easy to transform the space from a bone-chilling weigh station into a livable extension.

Why Is It Important to Winterize the Garage?

Leaving your garage unprotected from the winter elements is like strapping the Abominable Snowman to your car’s roof rack. Sure, it feels nice and cozy inside the heated car. But being connected to such a giant source of cold air reduces the overall energy efficiency of the entire vehicle. It’s a huge draw on that which accounts for over half of your home’s energy costs.

Other Considerations:

  • An inhospitable garage is wasted space that could be converted into a value-increasing workshop, mancave, home gym, outdoor kitchen, and on.
  • Freezing cold air forces appliances such as garage-stored washer and dryers, refrigerators, electronics, and tools to work overtime, reducing their lifespan.
  • Fuel gels and paints are susceptible to freezing, directly inside combustion engines and tin cans.
  • Cold air forces your car engine to run longer to heat, thus extending the time in which carbon monoxide and gasoline mixes with other toxic and possibly flammable fuels, paints, pesticides stored in the garage.

How To Winterize a Garage

Here are the main components of a winter-proofed garage: 

Garage Door Opener

It’s a harsh wake-up call when you press that button on a frigid, snowy day and nothing happens, leaving you literally out in the cold. Before winter kicks into high gear, make sure you have new batteries in your device!

Windows

From least to most expensive:

  • Make sure the weather-stripping around all windows is in good condition. Replace any worn or cracked seals.
  • Cover windows with several layers of plastic wrap
  • Replace old, single pane windows with Energy Star models

Walls

Many older homes do not have insulated garages. A surefire way to know is the feel check. Place your hand on the interior side of any “common” walls, those the garage shares with the house. Then check the other interior walls, not shared by the garage. If the one is cooler than the other, it’s not insulated.

From least to most expensive:

  • Seal the gaps. First check the area between the lower frames and the floor. Over time, swelling and shrinkage occurs, creating gaps that allow moisture, cold air, and even insulation-eating critters inside. Use a foam sealant, or latex or silicon-based caulk to close the recesses.
  • Also, caulk any holes around electrical outlets or light switches.
  • If the garage walls haven’t been covered in sheetrock, a costlier option is to have foam insulation blown into the wall cavities, ceiling, and/or crawl space.

Even the smallest fissure sucks not only cold air, but noxious fumes from the garage into the home’s interior.

Floor

Concrete garage floors in winter feel like giant ice floes. These are simple options for reducing the cold air absorbed below your feet, from least to most expensive:

  • Power wash the floor and paint it with a protective seal. This resolves any cracks and creates a more uniform, energy-consistent surface.
  • Cover the floor with used carpet slabs
  • Cover with commercial-grade, garage-specific, modular carpet tiles made to take a beating and absorb stains.
  • Install electric heating mats which embed in thin-set cement or gypsum overlays over existing concrete
  • For new builds, install radiant floor heating before pouring concrete

Garage Door 

From least to most expensive:

  • Lubricate rollers, tracks and springs to keep running smoothly, and make sure you don’t leave the door open unnecessarily
  • Hold a lighter around the garage door frame to locate any holes or gaps in weather stripping and replace accordingly.
  • Replace the threshold barrier between the bottom of the garage door and the floor
  • Create an insulation blanket for your garage door. This is a simple, inexpensive D.I.Y. project. Materials needed: An X-Acto knife, liquid nails, tape measure, and either radiant reflective foil insulation, polystyrene foam boards, or batt insulation – depending on whether your door has recessed panels. ($100)
  • Insulate the garage door via a pre-made kit, found at any home improvement store ($40-$400)
  • Replace your old unit with an energy-efficient, built-in insulated garage door. ($1000)

A final option to moderate garage temp’s is to invest in a wall-mounted, electric heater that radiates warm air without blowing it out or raising dust. Higher end options include a mini-split heat pump.

 


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