When we decided to sell our old 1910 Craftsman house, the deal was that Sylvia got a pool and I got to have a "real" shop. Even though I had grown up with a pool and spent more time doing pool care than actually swimming, my workshop was a small two car garage with 7 foot ceilings and I was game for whatever I had to do to get into a space where I could move wood around instead of tools.
As far as building went, I had helped my best friend over the years whenever he needed an extra body on a construction job. So, I knew my way around a construction site, but I was not experienced or fast enough to ever lead a crew.
When it came time to design a shop, I had an engineer draw up plans for me and just got the project started. Now that I'm in the energy consulting field and learning from the very best, I would have done things much differently.
Whether the shop you want is attached to a house or stands alone, there are some very critical decisions that need to be worked out at the design phase. What type of structure do you want to build? Do you want to work on a concrete slab or wood floor? Do you have an option to position the structure for solar gain? What, if any, plumbing would you like in the shop? Do you plan on heating and air conditioning the environment? These questions along with many other questions dealing with code, electrical requirements and load (weight) requirements need to be answered before the plans to the shop are even started.
So let's start with one of the questions. Concrete slab or wood floor? If you can orient the structure for good winter solar gain, a concrete slab will be a big heating benefit. For me, I wanted to have a crawl space, so I could avoid electrical cords and dust collection pipes being a tripping hazard or just in the way of moving lumber or sheet goods around the shop. Plus, I don't care much for standing for long periods on hard surfaces. It is at this stage in the design you'll need to decide where you want plumbing and what type of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) you'd like to use.
On my next building post, I'll discuss the envelope, scheduled plumbing, and HVAC options. Also, as I stated before, I'm not writing a book and therefore am not going to get into all the details. If you have a specific inquiry, please comment or email me.
Laying Out Dovetails with Christopher Schwarz
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