Is It Okay To Use the Garage Rafters for Storage?

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In the pursuit of acquiring more and more stuff, we have fewer and fewer places to put it. We start to need greater storage capacity, leading us to build tool sheds in the back or rent out storage units.

In desperation, however, some of us gaze upward in the garage to the rafters or trusses and see an opportunity to plop some boxes up there, maximizing vertical space. You couldn’t make a worse move. The damage you could do to your house would go far beyond “reimagining your garage.” Here’s why it’s not okay to use the garage rafters for storage—and what you can do instead.

Don’t Overestimate

Perhaps most frustrating is the deceptive weakness of the lumber. Most garage roofs are made of 2x4s, which we associate with strong construction. What we don’t realize is that that lumber is already working hard to support the rest of the roof, even if it doesn’t look like it. Throwing plastic bins up there will push the wood past its limits. Instead, keep those bins on storage racks along your walls. Trying to store something as heavy as detachable Jeep doors in the rafters would lead to certain disaster—you’re better off looking for a dedicated storage method for something that specific.

Picking up Bad Vibrations

In southern California, you’ll still find a lot of old-fashioned garage doors that pull up rather than roll up. In south Florida, you’ll find that many people don’t use their garages at all or use them like most people would use basements. For the rest of us, the garage door rolls its way up the tracks that run above. That movement causes some heavy vibrations, which can rattle around whatever you’ve pushed up to the rafters. Too much movement in the wrong place could send your items tumbling down—a sure way to cause damage or injury.

Aren’t There Any Exceptions?

Is it okay to use the garage rafters for storage if what I’m storing is really light? As a rule of thumb, trusses can support about an extra ten pounds per square foot. If you have cushions from patio furniture that are lightweight and foldable, perhaps you can get away with draping them there for the winter. Anything heavier than that, and you’re courting disaster. You’re better off looking elsewhere for a place to put your stuff.

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