00 Building the shop (Part I)

This entry is part 16 of 28 in the series 00 - Prep/Logistics

I’m not Norm Abrams, but I do have a pretty good collection of tools. In Atlanta (where we lived before moving to northern Illinois) I had a 24×24 room adjacent to our 2-car garage. This became my shop. Back when I was going to build an airplane then, I was going to take down the wall between the shop and garage and use that space for the build. Having cars in a garage in Georgia is a convenience and not a necessity.

When we made the move to our current location, we looked, but we couldn’t find a house with a space for a workshop. We ended up in a house with a 3-car garage. We put the two cars in the garage and crammed all my tools in the remaining space. It was pretty much impossible to use them without spending an hour or so moving things around. And in the winter, it got awfully cold out there.

When the decision was made to build a shop, I realized that some people aren’t into woodworking or need a shop, so I decided to build it as a garage. That way when we sell the house, it can be an additional 2-car garage or a shop. Also, it would be rather difficult to get an airplane out unless there was a 12 foot wide doorway.

I located some plans for a 670 square foot Mechanics Garage on the internet. After doing a site survey and securing the necessary building permits, I start looking for subs. Anything I hadn’t done, wasn’t comfortable doing, didn’t have the tools to do or just plain didn’t want to do, I contracted out. I contracted out the excavation and concrete work since I don’t have a backhoe or the necessary forms used in foundation work. We broke ground in June 2006.

By early July, we had the foundation poured. After this picture was taken, pea-gravel was dumped in the interior area and the backfill was done. As I had never built a building from start to finish by myself, I enlisted the help of my neighbor Ryan. Ryan is a contractor who has built and renovated more houses than I can count.

Here’s me and Ryan discussing if there’s a better (easier) way to put up the wall sections after building the first one on the driveway and dragging it into position and then raising it.

We decided to build on the gravel in the location it would be lifted from. We eventually put down some plywood to provide a flat surface on which to work. The next four pictures are raising the second wall section.


Within a few days, we had four walls.

Next was the hardest part. Putting up the scissor trusses. I could have used a traditional rafter design, but I wanted the headroom that an engineered truss would provide. Normally, these are put in place with a crane. But this is an economy operation and between me, Ryan and another friend, we were able to get all the trusses up in two days without a crane.

The roof was real easy. Ryan put me in touch with his roofer. He showed up the next day, figured out what kind/color shingles I had on the house, came by two days later (with his crew) and in about 3 hours, I had a finished roof!

At this point, I was on my own. No more Ryan. I had told him that I would only bug him until I got the building “dried in”. He did help getting me started with the siding though.

Then I ended up getting an inguinal hernia. What’s really bizarre is that I got this walking on a sailboat. No lifting, no straining, just walking on a slow moving boat. This put me out of the construction business for about 2 – 3 months. By then, the cold weather had arrived. So then everything went into hurry-up mode. Not much time for pictures.

We were able to get the siding put up before it got too cold. My son Steve helped with the windows and siding. Like many teenagers, he’s not real big on having his picture taken, so not many pictures of him.

Then it was time to pour the floor. I wanted to get the floor done before winter set in hoping that I would be able to start the electrical work. Before pouring the floor, I had some additional work to do. I didn’t want a forced air furnace. It takes up a bunch of space and in a dusty environment you go through a lot of filters. So I installed a radiant hot water floor heating system (http://www.radiantcompany.com/).

Over the gravel is a plastic vapor barrier, then 2″ of foam insulation. Next comes the reinforcing wire mesh. Tied to the wire mesh is 7/8″ plastic tubing. In all, about 700′ of the stuff. Hot water (from a flash boiler) will be run through the tubing which will heat the concrete. In addition to being very efficient, There’s no large furnace (the boiler and manifold can be seen in a later picture) and no blowing air.

In November, the concrete contractor poured the floor. I rented a trenching tool and dug two trenches (one for electrical and one for gas/phone/cable/internet).

A side note here: If you ever build a house, have the rocks and old concrete hauled away. Trust me, it’s no fun hitting a 100 pound block of granite when you’re pulling a trencher. I hit the first when I was halfway through digging the gas trench. The gas line is too rigid to detour so for the rocks that were too big to dig out, I had to break them with a hammer and chisel. Not fun.

I had an electrician run a 60amp service from the main panel in the house out to the garage. (I’m okay doing the interior electrical, but I’d never done any outside electrical). Then I had a plumber run a line from inside the house to the buried line outside and connect the other end to a stub inside the garage (I don’t do gas). Once that was done, it was just too damn cold to work for the next few months. The original plan was to have EVERYTHING done by now. But the 3 month medically induced down time prevented that milestone from happening. I tried a couple times to start the electrical but gave up when I couldn’t feel my fingers from the cold.

Series Navigation<< 00 The trip home00 Flow chart – Year end >>