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Upgrading Your Garage Workshop

Updated: Jun. 14, 2019

Five great garage improvements that don't cost a fortune

FH10SEP_PGARWS_01-2 garage workshopFamily Handyman
Tips for building the best workbench for auto and small engine repair. Build a grease gun holder and add a central vacuum system to your garage.

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Upgraded garage workshop: The always-clean workbench

garage workshop

Add a metal cover to your existing workbench

Drop auto and small components on the metal workbench cover and blast off the bolts. The drip edge catches the oil spills and the metal cover prevents grease stains.

Catch all the waste oil in a bucket

Clean up by wiping all the oil and grease into the sloped gutter so it will drain into a recycling bucket. Then wipe the metal top with disposable shop towels and you’re done.

Cut-away view of the workbench cover

Drill, countersink and screw the steel plate to any wood top. Then screw down the cover with a few pan head screws covered with a dollop of silicone. Clamp a vinyl tube onto the drainpipe and route it into a bucket.

This sheet metal workbench cover is the first upgrade I made to my garage workshop, and it’s one of the wisest investments I’ve ever made. (Well, it beats my two wedding licenses anyway.) It’s easy to clean (just squeegee the oil into the gutter and drain bucket), and it’s heavy duty enough to handle heavy car parts. All it takes is some measuring and sketching and a trip to a sheet metal shop or a local HVAC shop and steel yard. The whole thing assembles in less than an hour and costs less than $300. Skip the steel decking if you wish, but it does prevent the top from denting and provides a more solid work surface. I paid $180 for the top and $92 for the 11-gauge (1/8-in.) steel plate (cut to size and then whacked into thirds for easy transport).

Jack and jack-stand holder

Jack and jack-stand holder

Free up floor space by storing your jack stands in this wall-hung holder. Then hang up your lightweight floor jack underneath. Your floor is now clutter-free.

Haven’t you tripped over your jack stands enough? Build this brain-dead–simple storage rack and get them off the floor. If you have a lightweight floor jack, add mounting hooks under the holder. Screw a 2-in. PVC coupler onto the side of the rack and a 2-in. cap on the wall near the floor for the handle.

Grease gun holster

Grease gun holster

Keep your storage shelves grease-free by storing your grease gun in this wall holster.

A grease gun is big and, uh, greasy. So don’t slime up your drawers or cabinets with it. Slice up a few sections of 1-in. and 3-in. PVC pipe and screw them to a plywood backer to make this slick grease gun holder. Then slap up a 2-in. coupler and cap to hold a backup tube of grease.

PVC drawer organizers

Drawer organizers on the cheap

Slit some up PCV pipe down the middle and you’ve got stackable drawer organizers to keep all your small tools handy.

When you’re right in the middle of a project, you don’t need to waste time pawing through drawers looking for tools. So keep frequently used tools neatly stacked in your workbench drawer using this handy setup. Cut 1- or 2-in. PVC pipe to length. Glue on end caps and then slit each pipe in half on a band saw. Screw them to the drawer bottoms and load them up!

Central vacuum for the garage workshop

The ultimate garage workshop central vacuum layout

Install 2-in. sanitary tees on the ceiling and drop a pipe near each car door. Install a long 90-degree bend and a stubout to connect the hose. Cap off the stubout with a standard 2-in. pipe cap when not in use.

PVC adapter fittings

Connect the plumbing pipe to the power unit with adapter fittings.

OK, I admit it. This setup is overkill. But once I got the vacuum mounted to the wall, it just made sense to run inexpensive 2-in. PVC all over the place. That way I didn’t have to drag the 35-ft. hose all over the garage workshop. Buy adapters to connect standard plumbing PVC to the vacuum (central vacuum fittings are 2-in. O.D., while plumbing fittings are 2-in. I.D.).

Required tools for this garage workshop project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY garage workshop project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Caulk gun
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw

Required materials for this garage workshop project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1/8-in. steel plate
  • 2-in. PVC pipe and fittings
  • 26-gauge custom fabricated sheet metal cover
  • 3/4-in. plywood
  • Drywall screws
  • PCV adapters