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Is your lock-up a heaven on earth or a junk room from hell? If it’s the latter, then make it a late New Year’s resolution that you’ll keep to and do something about it

Are you happy with your man cave, the garage down the end of the drive? A good, well planned out garage is a joy to behold – too bad that, like so many of us, you’re so ashamed of that outhouse every time you open the door! It’s our own fault; we devote all our time, money and affection on our classic car(s) yet a lovely lock-up should be integral with the classic car experience. Alas, too many of us hate to spend a penny on the place and use every shortcut going.

It’s a false economy and you should view any expense now as a worthwhile investment for years to come.

Do it right and you’re sorted for ever! It’s reckoned that less than a quarter of UK motorists use their garages for their intended job but the sheer size and girth of modern motors makes a typical modern family hatchback too big to fit in. Even with a prized classic the trouble is that garages become an inevitable permanent magnet for any junk and spill-overs from the house.

Brutal basic first steps

You must harden your heart. Anything not car-related ideally must be rehoused, perhaps in a new shed, not only to optimise space, but also prevent accidents or damage caused by other members of the family invading your personal space – so, if possible, out goes the freezer, tumble drier, kid’s bikes or fishing gear et al… Good luck but you’ll be amazed at just how much extra space you will no doubt liberate by being so ruthless (and not to say unpopular). Remove items off the floor using wall brackets if domestic items have to remain.

A spot of decorating by painting the walls and floors isn’t a wasted effort, to make the most of natural light. Grey is probably the best colour for the floor with either Brilliant White or Magnolia for the walls and ceiling because not only does it look bright and smart, but it also reflects light best plus is easy to keep clean or repaint when needed.

Painting the floor helps keep dust down but only use proper garage floor paint for this. If, however, you want the ultimate, then consider special interlocking PVC garage floor tiles. They are very easy to lay and take up, exceptionally clean plus they keep the warmth in. Typically, it costs around £350 to deck out an average single garage and perhaps £650 for a double. A cheaper alternative is the similar but lino type flooring (Costco sells it). Both look really great too, unlike some old flowery carpet which will soon deteriorate and looks naff plus has to be thrown out if oil leaks on it – which it will.

The light show is fantastic

Once you make the most out of natural light, supplement it with man-made brightness. Fluorescent strip lighting is always popular and not overly dear (you may find old items at office clear outs-ed) but these can be uprated with far superior LED alternatives (around £30) which also draw less electricity so are cheaper to run. Mobile lights (and rechargeables) are worth having too. Normally, the domestic 240V mains suffices but adding a consumer unit with trip switches is a safety point at £100 plus fitting by a professional electrician.

Play safe at play time

Always work tidily and let someone know where you are. Don’t block any doors and always have an ‘escape route’ if the worst happens. Invest in a smoke detector (around £5) and, as we are dealing with deadly car fumes, a carbon monoxide detector (£20). Add a fire blanket (£10) and a couple of hand-held extinguishers while you’re at it.

Fitting out your man cave

Old household furniture looks tempting and we’ve all used them in the past (and still do) but it’s restrictive as it dictates the layout of your garage. In an ideal world you should park your car in the centre of the floor to choose an optimum working position. If possible, draw a chalk line around the vehicle making it a ‘no-go’ area. Unless your garage is wider than average, the sides should be left clear.

Old cast-off office furniture, such as filing cabinets, is fine and much better than old sideboards while floor-toceiling shelving such as the old favourite Dexion is extremely versatile and adaptable, but you can go the whole hog and have a fully professional set-up installed from the likes of Dura and Machine Mart that really makes you proud of your workshop – if you have any money left over from Christmas, that is! Even if you can’t afford their stunning wares, obtain a copy of the numerous catalogues for some inspiration. Talking of which, a dedicated workshop installer (or an interior designer) may, for a reasonable fee, find novel ways of freeing up a lot of extra hidden space you wouldn’t even think of liberating and as a result find you enough added room that you may think twice about any garage extension you were half contemplating and so save thousands of pounds in return.

Old furniture (home or office), is rarely strong or adaptable enough for working on major, heavy components such as an engine meaning a good workbench (usually around £50) is a must as it’s the centre of any workshop.

Ideally, a bench should be framed with drawers and cupboard space or an open area to store jacks and axle stands.

For this reason a proper professional bench is money well spent. Complement it with a peg-board fixed to the wall so any tools can be neatly stored in order by the bench. With each tool in place, use a permanent marker to draw silhouettes around them so at the end of the working day, you can tell exactly which tool is missing at a glance. Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made for around £40, while fully self-contained cabinets start from around £120. Again, look at it not as an expense but as an investment.

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