I’ve never had a decent garage.

That isn’t to say I haven’t had good shop space to keep cars in over the years, because I certainly have, but that is different. Of course I’m thankful for that ability, but I’ve always wanted a garage to keep cars in at home. Not just to easily grab something and go for a ride, but also the ability to wander out to a garage with a cup of coffee before everybody is awake. A place to hang out, have a few buddies over on a nice night and tell tall tales … err, I mean all true stories. All things a proper car-guy garage is used for.

Some history

When I rented my first apartment, it only had an outside parking spot, and we all know nothing good ever comes of those. So I only parked whatever beater I was driving there and kept my “good” car at our family’s farm, making for a 120-mile round-trip if I wanted to drive or work on it. And, for those of you familiar with barns in the Midwest, well, at best I was working on a dirt floor that smelled like cow manure and had to work hard at keeping the mice away from wiring harnesses. At worst it was 20 below zero, smelled like cow manure, and I was repairing mouse-chewed wiring.

My first house fixed some of this with its two-car garage and two outside parking spots. But it wasn’t a good neighborhood, and I was also restoring cars in there for people, so my own stuff was still stashed with family or friends.

After that came one stall in a shared duplex garage, and then another small two-car garage whose best attribute was its ability to keep most of the rain out. And then I moved into the house we live in today — a tiny little 80-plus-year-old house that I should have bulldozed but couldn’t because it’s cute. It has a matching tiny garage that, despite my best efforts, seems to be the local Hampton Inn for mice. It’s too small for anything bigger than two intermediate-sized cars.

In spite of all this, somehow it has sufficed for 12 years, mainly keeping our daily drivers out of the weather — if not mice, including the more genteel (in appearance only) Wisconsin shrewmice. Hungry little bastards all.

Garage time

So roughly five years ago, I bit the bullet and had plans drawn up for a new garage at home. Nothing fancy, but it would hopefully be warm, dry, rodent-free and have room for about five cars. Our local village board rejected it. I revised the plans, only to have it rejected again. Apparently anything more than a three-car garage is deemed “unnecessary” by our little village.

So I had an idea. A building in the style of a gambrel-roof barn with three deep bays, a small second floor for a home office/library, and the best part: a basement that could hold more cars.

So on the surface it looked like a nice little barn with three garage doors, but hidden from view was additional space. We drew up some new plans, and the “car barn” was approved. Hallelujah!

I finally had that dream garage in sight. And still do, because it’s been under construction for over a year. Like anything, of course, even though I thought we had it pretty well figured out before we started, it has been constantly evolving as we go. It is amazing how details you’ve never noticed before — a hose reel location, or the height of garage-door tracks — suddenly become monumental decisions.

As for the amenities, I tried to incorporate certain things I’ve always dreamt about for a garage. Outlets everywhere. A bathroom. A central dehumidifier. Compressed air piped throughout. Good lighting. A stall to wash cars inside with conditioned water and a floor drain. But the biggest splurge was perhaps the one I’ll appreciate most come winter: heated floors. After decades of walking and lying on freezing-cold concrete, I may not know what to do with a warm floor. Plus I know the cars will like the dry, warm air under them as well. It isn’t Arizona, but it will be a lot better than that old barn. And if I see one mouse, I’m getting 10 cats immediately — and I don’t like cats.

Thankfully it appears the end of the project is in sight. I know there will be things I wish I had done differently, or great ideas I’ll see a little too late. But none of it will matter, because going to the garage will no longer mean going to work. And I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

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