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INSTALLING INSULATION AND DRYWALL IN YOUR GARAGE
Written By Steve Hyde | October 1, 2022 | Calgary, Alberta
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Painting the Walls and Ceiling in Your Garage
If you have gone to the trouble of finishing the drywall in your garage you likely see the value of painting the walls and ceiling. It will make the walls and ceiling a consistent color and significantly improve the look of the finished product. What you may not realize is that painting your finished or fire taped garage will protect the drywall.
Due to the wide range of temperatures and changing humidity a garage experiences over the years, the bond between the drywall compound, the drywall and the drywall tape can degrade. This will result in the drywall tape becoming detached from the walls and ceiling, even falling off. I have seen this in many garages over the years, from starter town homes all the way up to high end luxury homes.
Even if your garage is heated and insulated, when you open the garage door to park in the winter a massive amount of frigid air is let in, rapidly lowering the temperature. In the summer the opposite is true and a massive amount of hot air is let in rapidly raising the temperature. Add to this the humidity that is let in opening the garage door, the humidity that is introduced by parking you wet or snow-covered car inside plus the moisture that wicks up through the concrete floor and over time you have a recipe for drywall compound failure.
Priming and painting the fire taped or finished drywall walls and ceiling of your garage will seal the drywall compound and prevent moisture from degrading it’s bond to the drywall and drywall tape. Compared to the cost to drywall your garage, this is a small expense and cheap insurance for your investment.
Garage Trim and Finishing Touches
Something often overlooked in a garage is the trim and finishing touches. This includes window and door casings as well as baseboard. If you have never taken the trim off around a door or window you may not be aware that there is typically an unsightly gap between the door or window frame and the edge of the drywall. The same is true if you were to remove a baseboard - there is a gap between where the wall ends and the surface of the floor. In a garage the gap between the end of the wall and surface of the floor can be even larger due to the amount of melting snow and water the floor will see. This is to prevent water from soaking up the wall as drywall will act like a sponge to water.
Installing trim in a garage is similar to installing trim in a home. The main difference is that you would never want to use MDF trim in a garage as it will be ruined if exposed to water. Installing trim in your garage will really make it look finished and stand out in a world of bare, fire taped garages.
Installing Drywall in Your Garage
Now that you have a installed insulation and vapor barrier in your garage you are probably noticing that it is a lot more comfortable. Some people stop here but I would strongly suggest installing drywall. While the vapor barrier will hold the insulation in your walls and ceiling, it is really not designed for this. Over time the vapor barrier will begin to sag and bulge out between the studs and joists. In addition to this, the vapor barrier will likely get pierced, cut, ripped and generally beat up over the years. This will of course defeat its purpose and allow drafts and moisture through.
Many people like the idea of installing plywood or OSB on their walls instead of drywall. While these materials are more durable than drywall and make hanging things on the wall a lot easier, they do have their drawbacks. First and foremost, these materials are flammable and in many cases, against fire code to install in place of drywall on garage walls and ceilings.
Drywall is more fire resistant than wood and this is why it is mandated for use on some types of garage walls. Fire rated drywall increases a wall’s fire rating while plywood or OSB is just fuel for a fire. Another benefit of installing drywall in your garage instead of plywood or OSB is that drywall (especially fire rated drywall) dampens sound.
Taping the Drywall in Your Garage
You will potentially be required by the Fire Code to fire tape some or all of the drywall in your garage. The purpose of this is to prevent toxic fumes, smoke and flames from getting between the seams of the drywall boards. In the process of stopping toxic fumes, smoke and flames fire taping is also an added layer of protection for sound transmission!
Fire taping, simply put, is the bare minimum of drywall taping. All the seams between the drywall boards have a layer of drywall tape embedded in drywall compound and all the remaining exposed drywall screws are covered with a layer of drywall compound. No sanding is done, all of the seams and screw locations are visible and can be felt by running your hand over the wall.
While fire taping may not be required for your garage, it is still something you might want to consider doing. When drywall is installed, there are generally some unsightly gaps between the boards. Normally this is due to the structure where the drywall is being installed being out of square and is minimized as much as possible by the drywall installer. Since drywall is typically taped, these gaps are filled and taped over and you would never see them. On jobs where our client specifically doesn’t want tape, we will make sure these gaps are as small as possible. This of course takes a lot longer and therefore costs more.
Another area that benefits from being taped is the outside corners. While tape isn’t used to cover these corners, corner bead is and it is usually installed as part of the taping process. Corner bead is basically metal that protects outside corners from being damaged. Without it, these corners will become beaten up and unsightly.
Finishing the Drywall in Your Garage
As I mentioned, Fire Taping is the bare minimum of drywall taping. To most people it looks unfinished and if your garage is just going to be more than a utility space, you might want to consider finishing the drywall. A finished drywall garage will have smooth walls and a smooth ceiling like you would (hopefully) find inside of your home.
Finishing the drywall in your garage is the same process as finishing drywall inside of your home. Multiple coats of drywall compound are applied to all seams, imperfections and screw holes and sanded smooth. The intention of this is to fill and feather out the seams, imperfections and screw holes out over the surface of the walls and ceiling.
If done properly, finishing the drywall in your garage will not only look great but also add value to your home. Your garage will go from a space where you park your car and store things to a place where you want to spend time.
A garage can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some it is just a place to park their car. To others it is a place to store things, a work shop, a studio or a man cave. A garage can really be almost anything you want. Regardless of what you use your garage for, having the walls and ceiling insulated or finished is a major improvement.
The style and age of your garage will to some extent dictate your starting point. If you have an older house, there is a chance you don’t have insulated or finished walls in your garage. If you have a newer home with an attached garage, it is likely already insulated and has drywall installed. That said, the drywall may only be “fire taped”. In this blog I will go over all the ways we can help you finish your garage and the benefits of each step.
Insulating your garage
Insulating your garage is the best way to turn it from a walk-in freezer in the winter and a walk-in oven in the summer to a usable space year-round. If you have a newer home with an attached garage, it is likely already insulated so you can skip this part. If you have an older house or even a newer house with a detached garage, you may benefit from insulating your garage.
There are a few options for insulating your garage - Spray Foam insulation, Blown-In insulation and Batt insulation. Each of these styles of insulation have their pros and cons but at FT Property Services we only install Batt insulation (typically stone wool), so that is what this section will be focused on.
We recommend insulating both the walls and ceiling of your garage for the best results. While insulating the walls and ceiling may seem pretty straight forward, there are certain aspects of the job that can be tricky. Particularly around things like power outlets, light fixtures and garage door tracks and openers.
The installed insulation batts need to fit just right - tight enough so there are no air gaps but not so tight they bulge past the surface of your garage’s framing. Special care must also be taken while insulating the garage ceiling to avoid blocking any vents in the roof or soffits. To fully insulate your garage ceiling you will also need an insulated ceiling hatch.
As I mentioned, we typically use stone wool Batt insulation to insulate a garage. There are quite a few benefits of using stone wool Batt insulation, below are some:
*Stone wool is made of stone and recycled steel slag. Due to this, it is rodent, mold, mildew, rot, bacterial growth and fire resistant. In addition to this, stone wool repels water, unlike fiberglass insulation that absorbs water.
*Due to its dense composition, stone wool insulation helps cut down on sound transmission. There are a lot of benefits to this, especially if you use your garage for loud activities like using power tools or an air compressor. The high density of stone wool also gives it a higher R value than the same thickness of fiberglass insulation.
Garage Vapor Barrier
After installing insulation, the next most important thing you can do for your garage is to install vapor barrier. The main purpose of vapor barrier is to stop moisture and drafts from traveling through your walls and ceilings. Also, without vapor barrier (or drywall - more on that below), the insulation batts would eventually fall off of the walls and out of the ceiling.
When installing vapor barrier, it is important to make sure that it is continuous. This means that all seams must overlap and be taped with the correct tape. It also means that areas around doors, windows and ceiling hatches must be sealed with a special sealant to stop moisture and drafts from getting in. Finally, all electrical boxes need to be wrapped from behind and sealed to the vapor barrier on the walls or ceiling. Doing this will ensure no drafts from the outside make their way into you freshly insulated garage and no moisture from inside your garage makes it into your walls.