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Thread: Crawlspace to workshop conversion?

  1. #1

    Question Crawlspace to workshop conversion?

    Hi all,

    Thought I'd ask something a little different for my first post....

    I currently work (for fun) out of a mostly uninsulated and underpowered two car garage which is always either too hot or too cold, and it tends to attract cars , trash, lawn tools, and mosquitoes. I have a partial basement adjacent to a "duckspace"--called this because there's enough room in there to walk rather than crawl, as long as anyone over 5'7" ducks a little. When we had the house production-built 8 years ago, we could've had a full basement for $3,000, or a walkout basement for $8,000. I'm thinking about hiring a contractor and having the house lifted and the duckspace excavated to create a full basement with about 1/2 of it being workshop.

    I've heard that house movers and foundation contractors do stuff like this, but would like to hear how it went from someone who actually did it. Disconnecting all mechanicals and lifting the house sounds pretty scary!

    Here are the duckspace facts:
    • Dimensions 9'6" x 26'
    • Potential full basement dimensions: 25' x 26'
    • Potential workshop dimensions (includes part of current basement): 13' x 26'
    • 8" Concrete block walls supporting two story wood-framed house
    • 20" high concrete block wall to step up from the basement
    • Floor is plastic/gravel-covered dirt
    • One 26' wall of duckspace is 3' exposed above grade due to slope in backyard. This could allow a small Bobcat access to the crawlspace with a little digging and wall demolition. The access hole would be a convenient location for French doors for walkout access.
    1. Maybe not worth the risk of property/mechanical/dust damage?
    2. Am I crazy?
    3. Any guesses what the cost might be?
    Other options I'm considering:
    • Finishing and heating attached garage and running a subpanel ($2,000-3,000 cost)
    • Moving to a house with a big basement ($10,000-$20,000 min. cost, but we wouldn't mind moving anyway, for other reasons)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Oakdale, CT
    Seems to me you could build a detached shop with more space than excavate your basement and risk moving the house. You would also be keeping the paint/stain/ fininsing smells and sawdust out of your house. See what the cost is, but I would opt for the seperate facility if the dollars worked out. Just my $0.02 worth.
    Bob Nazro
    A Connecticut Yankee
    I've measured this three times and each time I cut it, it's still to short...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Just outside of Spring Green, Wisconsin
    Hey Andy, welcome to the Creek!

    If given a choice, I would most always opt for a seperate facility. Yes, lots of guys have basement shops and there are certain advantages, especially with HVAC. BUT, that same advantage can work against you. Ducts carry sound, fumes and dust. Even without ducts, as in radiant heat, you still have higher levels of the above in the house (typically). Also, unless it's an unusual building plan, your headroom will also be somewhat limited. Probably 8' tops, usually less, depending on style of house and where/how utilities are run. If you can swing it, go to the stand-alone shop!
    John K. Miliunas

    Cannot find REALITY.SYS. Universe halted.
    60 grit is a turning tool, ain't it?
    SMC is totally supported by volunteers and your generosity! Please help if you can!
    Looking for something for nothing? Check here!

  4. #4

    Separate building not possible

    Forgot to mention.... I live in a neighborhood with deed restrictions which prohibit any type of outbuilding. I'd be in hot water if I built a 2' x 4' storage shed.

    When we bought/built the house, I wasn't interested in woodworking at all. I would've made different choices now.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Breckenridge MN
    Andy. Welcome aboard. I also would recomend a seperate shop.
    Those who sense the winds of change should build windmills, not windbreaks.

    Dave Wilson

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    London, Ont., Canada
    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Fox
    I'm thinking about hiring a contractor and having the house lifted and the duckspace excavated to create a full basement with about 1/2 of it being workshop.

    I've heard that house movers and foundation contractors do stuff like this, but would like to hear how it went from someone who actually did it. Disconnecting all mechanicals and lifting the house sounds pretty scary!

    No personal knowledge. However, we have friends in town who had that exact thing done to their house in August of 2004. It was an older (50-100yr) house. The house was jacked, everything disconnected, they had to move out for a few weeks, the old foundation was knocked down. they dug it all out with a small bobcat, poured new footings, poured a new wall, and set 'er back down and hooked things up.

    They now have a lovely basement. Decent sized windows. Tall ceiling. Dry. Now, in their case, it was an older house, with lathe and plaster, and it had sagged out of plumb. The act of jacking the house levelled it in the span of minutes - versus the weeks that is normally advocated for tweaking your teleposts. This resulted in a LOT of plaster damage to the house. They basically had to rip down and replace the plaster in two of the bedrooms.

    It is a huge disruption to the family

    Here is another consideration... I don't recall which magazine, but I have read of of people who dug down their basement about 18" without jacking up the house. (Actually, I think it was in Fine Homebuilding). Less disruption to the house, but a bit more labour intensive. The foundation was replaced in sections.

    I think you can also do it where you dig down without touching the walls, so you end up with a 1-2' "seat" around the edge of the basement, and a deeper section in the middle. No messing with the footings in that case.

    best wishes,

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    South Windsor, CT

    Welcome to SMC.

    If you're in an area where outbuildings are prohibited (which you pretty obviously state), then your choices are limited to the basement or garage. I think you'll find that the cost to raise the house, excavate and put concrete under there will make moving financially attractive.

    • you can move to another house that has a walkout basement,
    • the move is only $20K,
    • you don't mind the move,
    I think you'll be happier with the new house.

    I'd be surprised if you can raise and put a foundation under the house for $20K. I also wouldn't do concrete block - it can leak a lot more easily than a poured foundation.


  8. #8
    If you deside on jacking the house, why not go 9 feet? Give you enough room to stand a sheet of plywood on end, and enough room for a dust collection system.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Milford, MA
    Welcome, Andy!

    It strikes me that the most cost efficient, legal way to get you the shop you want is to put a little money and effort into turning the garage into a comfortable and workable shop.

    We recently moved into a house with a finished basement. I had originally planned on demo'ing some walls and turning the basement into a shop. As I continued to consider my options, I realized that I could take my 24x24 garage and make a heckuva shop. I was facing many of the issues you are talking about: cold, heat, lack of power.

    I designed the shop to be mostly against walls with all tools on rollers. I insulated and called an electrician. While the expense was small, I got a great shop (or at least the work is in progress) and I didn't have to demo half the basement or build another building.

    Give it some thought. There is a design on called Idea Shop 2, which gave me a good beginning and some great ideas. The guys here at the Creek will certainly be happy to give you our .02.

    Have fun!
    Last edited by Steven Shelby; 12-07-2005 at 5:14 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Andy........First....Welcome to the Creek!

    I would be surprised if you can get your house raised and the basement enlarged for $20,000. Then you have to put up with the trials of having a basement shop. What kind of access do you have for bringing machinery and materials into the basement shop? If you have a basement shop, it's difficult to prevent migration of sawdust and finishing fumes from ending up in the living quarters. I know my wife wouldn't put up with the mess and the hassle.

    I'd consider 2 alternatives:

    1. Rework your garage; upgrade the wiring, insulate and install heat. Put all of your tools on rollers. If well planned a lot of people do well with this.

    2. Consider moving to a different house with either a separate shop or an attached shop that utilizes it's own heating and/or cooling system.

    Regardless........Welcome to the Creek and Good Luck with your decision!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Phoenix, AZ
    I would go with either the finished garage option or the moving option. I would be very surprised if you could convert your basement and finish it out for less than $50,000.

    If your your garage is big enough for your needs already then finishing it out would be your least expensive and stressful option. It may not add as much value to your home as the cost though so it would be mostly an expense. (as opposed to a finished basement which could add value but probably not $50K worth).

  12. #12
    Welcome to the Creek, Andy. Add me to the chorus of voices who think raising the house would be the most expensive option (even compared to the new house idea). Back in the mid-80's I was involved in work on some relatively new houses that had subsided, and the contractor was jacking the house and replacing the slab on grade and foundation with a monolithic post-tensioned slab/foundation combination. As I recall, this was costing about $80,000 per house, and that was about 20 years ago. You could do a heck of a garage renovation for $80K.

    - Vaughn

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    East Jordan, MI

    You've probably thought of this already, but is there a chance you could add on to the garage. I've seen some pretty nice add-ons to garages. If you can use part of your garage now, it wouldn't take that much to make a fairly decent sized shop. Don't know what your set-up is, but it would be a relatively inexpensive way to do it.

    John Bailey
    Sawmill Creek is a member supported forum. Click here to donate.

  14. #14
    Thanks all!

    After reading all of these replies, I think I'm going to focus on drawing up some plans for getting the attached two car garage functional as a shop. Moving somewhere with land for a dedicated shop is still a good future option, but we tried to sell for 6 months this year with no offers, and we're done with trying for a while.

    I've been reading many of the previous threads on shop design and layout, and have gotten many great ideas! I think the garage is probably a safer and healthier option than the basement anyway, especially with kids!

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by John Bailey
    You've probably thought of this already, but is there a chance you could add on to the garage.
    John, thanks. I live in a tract neighborhood where the houses are 5' from the lot line. I have a "larger" lot with my house angled due to being on the corner, and the front of my garage is about 15' from the lot line. Adding onto the side would give me a 10' x 8' addition. I could probably add 6' onto the front too. This might free up some space and give me more room to store the non-woodworking stuff.

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