By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

When you live in the Rocky Mountains, a good garage can significantly improve your life.

If you have ever faced early mornings scraping the snow and ice off your car, you know the advantages of being able to park it in a sheltered space.

Garage Renovation Remodel Garage and Simply organize best uses space

Prepainted steel doors with a composite overlay add beauty to this attached garage and blend with the architectural style of the home.

Take a look at the outside of your garage. In the best of architectural worlds, garages should never be visible from the front of your house. They are best placed behind the house if they are a separate structure, or on the side of your house (with a side entry) if they are attached.

However, in the real world, you will notice that a vast majority of homes have the garages up front and center. So, what can you do to improve the look of your home if this is your situation?

Obviously, the answer is to make the garage the best-looking one you can. There aren’t too many parts on the exterior of a garage — mainly the garage doors and the lighting.

Today, garage door designs come in three categories. The first is real wood. If the entire door and frame are wood, it becomes quite heavy and will require a commercial door opener. Some versions have real wood fronts applied to a lighter metal frame. These doors can be stained or painted, and some maintenance (applying stain or oil) should be done every year.

The second type of door is wood composite. This is made from a durable manufactured material that combines wood fibers and high-strength resins. This material can be molded into many shapes and styles, including planks and V-grooves. These doors stand up well to temperature swings and weather, and they won’t dent, crack, split or rot. However, they must be painted; stain will not work.

Maintenance will include reapplying the paint every 2-8 years, depending on the exposure of the door.

The final type of door is metal construction. Heavy-gauge steel, 24-gauge or less (the lower the number, the stronger the steel) or light-weight aluminum is used.

Panels can be embossed to give different architectural looks. These doors are typically pre-painted with a baked-on factory coating and require little upkeep, other than a good spring cleaning.

Be careful to pick a door style that will coordinate with your house, not just a door you like.

And, as mentioned, updating the lighting is a fairly simple way to improve the looks of your garage.

Make sure the style of the lighting coordinates with the door. Also, try to avoid a common pitfall, which is that the lights are often too small in scale when placed beside large garage doors.

Don’t forget to include your garage in your spring cleaning and fix-up projects! The problem is that garages are often filled with so much “storage,” the car never gets to see the inside.

With snowblowers, lawn mowers, edgers, bikes and camping equipment, garages fill up fast. Storage systems are helpful in containing a lot of what must be stored.

Besides the things that should be your garage, this is also a place that collects a lot of junk. The same simple organizational methods you should use in your home also work in the garage.

Divide everything into three groups: Things to save (here is where the storage systems come in); things to donate to charity (be generous — others may actually use these things); and things to throw out. Most communities have an organized spring cleanup you can take advantage of to carve out a place for your car.

There could be a fourth category — things for a garage sale — but discipline yourself to have that garage sale within a week or two, or you will be right back in the same old mess you’ve been in for years. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Garage Renovations: Remodel garage and simply organize to best use space