6 Things in Your Garage You Should Get Rid of Right Now, According to Experts
Garages are extremely convenient. I would know — I have a tandem garage that I love. However, having such a convenient place to park a car can lead to the mistaken idea that anything and everything can be housed in the garage. According to experts, though, that’s an unfortunate mistake to make.
Storing the wrong items in your garage can cause problems with home inspectors and buyers should you try to sell your home in the future. Even if you’re not planning on it, you could be creating more problems than you realize. These are the things in your garage that you should get rid of, or relocate, right now.
Cardboard boxes, books, papers, and magazines seem harmless enough to store in your garage, but these items can lead to two potential problems. According to Bill Golden, a real estate agent and associate broker at RE/MAX Around Atlanta, cardboard can affect your home’s value or readiness for sale.
“If you store cardboard or other moisture-loving materials like it in your garage, they can absorb moisture — which can then lead to mold, which will grow rapidly.” Mold can be an immediate health hazard, though it can also cause problems at the least opportune time. “The problem is compounded if it grows ‘quietly’ out of sight, only to be found by a home inspector when your home is under contract,” he explains.
There’s yet another problem with cardboard boxes. Kari Warberg Block, a pest prevention expert and CEO and founder of EarthKind, a botanical pest control solution company, says that cardboard is a magnet for pests. “Rodents will chew it up to use as nesting material, and cockroaches lay their eggs in the spaces made by the corrugate like a nice little nursery.”
The same goes for books and magazines. “Silverfish and other insects love them; some bugs actually eat the glue used in old book bindings,” she says. Block recommends using hard-sided, airtight containers instead to protect your stored items from pest damage.
I’d guess that you’re not storing your food in the garage, but what about your pet’s food? “Anything from dog food to birdseed to overstock from the big-box warehouse stores should be stored indoors in climate-controlled areas to prevent pest infestation and attraction,” warns Glen Ramsey, senior technical services manager at Orkin.
Golden agrees, and adds that since rodents and insects know no bounds, once they’re in your garage, they’ll soon be in your home as well. “And, yes, you’ll likely soon know this and be able to address it, but rodents and bugs can leave behind damage or at least evidence, which means maintenance issues and potential questions and other remediation during the inspection and sale,” he explains.
In fact, Block says that protein-rich dog food is a mouse’s favorite snack — and it’s popular with moths as well. “If you notice moth eggs or larva, you can freeze the food to kill the moths without needing to throw it out,” she explains. “There may be moth eggs you can’t see in the seams or creases of the package, so make sure to remove extra pet food from its original packaging and store it in hard-sided, airtight containers.”
I get it. When the weather is bitter cold, no one wants to chop firewood or run around trying to purchase it. But you shouldn’t store firewood in your garage. “Firewood can be a food source for termites and nesting material for carpenter ants,” Ramsey says. He recommends that you store it outdoors, off the ground, and away from the structure.
“Creepy, crawling bugs can easily hitch a ride on a bundle of firewood whether you bought it or chopped it yourself,” Block adds. “Insects that may have been perfectly happy outside might get unknowingly carried inside the next time you’re gathering around the fire.” And if you have a large stockpile, she says rodents and other critters could consider it a perfectly sheltered nesting spot.
When you get a new office chair, what’s the first thing you do? Put the old chair in the garage, since you don’t want to throw it away. “But furniture cushions make comfy beds for rodents who will gnaw on them and use it for their nest,” Block says. She recommends looking for a donation center or finding out when your city has bulk trash pick-up days.
Paint and Other Chemicals
“Remediation can become a catastrophic issue if you are a hobbyist or someone who otherwise stores a lot of the no-no items,” Golden warns. One example is storing chemicals that will need to be professionally removed in the future.
“Some buyers might be okay with you having such remediation taken care of, but others will keep moving, especially if they have kids or other family members who could be considered high risk,” he explains.
There’s another potential problem with storing chemicals. According to Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, oil-based stains and paints (and even paint rags) are flammable when left in a closed garage bag. “For example, if a closed bag of flammable paint-stained rags was left next to the garage in the sun, there can be a spontaneous combustion of the solvents in these products,” he warns. “When such items are stored under heat and air concentration, there is a real concern that they can catch fire.”
Garbage and Excess Clutter
If you have bags of garbage that need to go into trash cans, Ramsey warns against leaving them out in the garage. “Go ahead and put these garbage bags in the trash cans, and then close the lid, because waste odors can and will attract pests.”
Clutter in general is problematic, too, and not just because it attracts critters. During a pest control inspection, Ramsey says it can restrict the inspector’s view.
There’s a third reason to avoid cluttered garages: having a lot of stuff haphazardly stored in your garage sends the wrong signal to buyers. “Warning flags may go up for potential homebuyers who think maybe the home does not have enough storage space if they have everything jammed in there,” Golden says. “Worse, they may take haphazard storage as a sign of how the entire home has been maintained, or not — and buyers tend to not want to knowingly take on extra maintenance or repairs.”
Golden offers this final piece of advice: “A smart home inspector once shared the rule that if you wouldn’t store something in your car trunk, don’t store it in your garage.”