Are You Storing Trouble in Your Garage?

Your garage can be a fire hazard. Here’s how to minimize the risk.

Organized garage with open door Don Mason/Getty Images

Garages were originally intended to be a space to store and protect vehicles from thieves, vandals, harsh weather elements and other threats. But for many homeowners, the garage has evolved to become a room with a completely different purpose.

Whether attached or detached from the home, the modern garage has been transformed into a storage space; a home gym; an auto repair or restoration shop; a craft or woodworking shop; an artist’s studio; or a game, recreation or sports room.

Regardless of the way the space is being used, it’s important to consider how easily the garage can become a fire hazard simply because of what’s often stored there, from highly flammable products (cleaners, oil, gasoline, paint, propane) to stacks of old newspapers, magazines and other materials.

You may call it a studio, salon or even showroom, but here are a few tips for keeping your garage from becoming a target for disaster.

Make Your Garage a Fire Safety Zone

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the 6,600 garage fires that occur, on average, annually in the U.S. tend to spread farther and cause more injuries and damage ($457 million) than home fires located elsewhere. When it comes to fire prevention, maintaining a safe space hinges on being smart about garage storage and maintenance.

Put Safety Precautions in Place to Avoid Home Fires

First things first: Outfit the garage with a smoke detector, heat alarm and fire extinguisher (or two) that’s easy to access in an emergency.

Shed with various tools and equipment iStock

Avoid Hazardous Storage

Store oil, gas, paint, chemicals and other flammable products in a shed away from your home. Keep items at risk for burning (papers, wood, etc.) on shelves placed well away from appliances.

Follow the Three-Foot Rule for Fire Prevention

If the garage houses your water heater or boiler, keep all items at least three feet away.

Two girls building a birdhouse in a garage while a dog lays down outside Stephen Simpson Inc/Getty Images

Charge Smart for Fire Safety

Plug only one charging appliance into a garage outlet at a time. Avoid using an extension cord for charging. Also ensure electric and plug-in hybrid cars can plug into properly outfitted outlets.

Cleaning up an oil spill on a workshop floor iStock

Watch for Leaks and Hazardous Chemicals

If you routinely park your car, motorcycle or other vehicle in the garage, regularly maintain it and watch out for leaks, which can be hazardous.

Man on ladder installing garage door iStock

Upgrade Older and Outdated Doors

If the garage door has a lot of miles on it, consider replacing it with a new one made with heat-and fire-resistant materials.

For more information about fire protection and free fire-safety resources, visit

Keep reading in: