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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County

    Shop Build...should be a fun journey...

    I debated about starting this thread now or later, but decided on now because, well...I might forget something.

    As a little background, at our previous property, I was blessed with a reasonably sized, fully conditioned space for my shop in what was originally a three-and-a-half vehicle garage structure with an upstairs for storage. I had about 700 sq ft of usable shop space on the first floor with only the minor headache of the stairway to the upper level kinda located middle-back of the space. Compressor and cyclone had their own private, sound reduced bedroom so they could do their thing without disturbing the peace too much out in the shop area and the majority lumber was stored upstairs. We moved 9 months ago to our "downsize" property and I set up temporary shop in the "garage". It's a nice space, but way too cramped for the things I like and need to do. Now that the old property is sold, some financial resources necessary for projects here at the new place are freed up so I can move forward with my desire to have a nice, dedicated shop building in the backyard. The target size for the new shop will be 24' wide, 32' or 36' long (depending on building type) and with 10' sidewalls. About 870 sq ft, more or less. One "man door", one larger door for machinery/materials/projects and a few windows for natural light. The building will be color coordinated so it looks appropriate with our home.

    The general project can be broken up, more or less, to this...and I'm sure some things will get modified over time:

    • Tree work - removal of dead trees including one smack in the middle of where the shop will go. The plan is to not have to modify or endanger any live trees and that affected building placement. While I would prefer the building to be on the other side of the half-acre lot, setbacks would require removal of a very large, mature willow tree and that's not going to happen. This work has been completed
    • Survey - the exact boundaries of the property had to be established, particularly because on the side that the building will go, the actual property line is about 8 feet beyond the fence that separates our yard from the neighboring property's driveway and backyard. This is because of a driveway easement created when the property we own was subdivided from a larger space. Minimum lot size at the time (and still is) 20,000 sq ft (half-acre) and that was how it worked out. This is actually a benefit for the building, however, because it will be able to be about four feet from the fence line rather than 15 feet. The 15 foot setback is measured from the actual property line. The surveyor was out on Friday this past week to set the corners/boundaries and he was very nice in also setting a number of points important to this project for both rear and side setbacks and some other things. So this work has been completed
    • Zoning - zoning approval is required for "Residential Accessory Buildings" in our jurisdiction that are over 200 sq ft. Submission for that requires a plot plan that shows all existing structures, boundaries, utilities, etc., plus proposed including "stick figures to indicate motion". I've completed that plot plan and am ready to submit. Of course, there is always a catch. "Normally", the jurisdiction wants the zoning application and the building permit to go in concurrently. The latter requires a plan. The only way to get the plan at the required detail level is to have already made a decision on what to build and who to build it followed by the transfer of a large amount of money. Chicken and egg problem for me because I don't want to commit to a specific building type and vendor yet...still working on that. Fortunately, the zoning/building people for our jurisdiction are "nice" (really) and they can do a zoning opinion/verification letter for a "small fee" which is substantially less than the amount of money I'd have to put out for a building commitment that comes with the required plans for a permit. The zoning application will be going in shortly as soon as I have all my water-fowl properly lined up in a neat row
    • Building Decision/Pricing - I'm considering multiple building types for this project and ultimately, it's likely going to come down to cost. The potential options include both wood and metal post-frame, prefab stick built and stick built. All will include a concrete much as I would love to have a wood floor, the foundation requirements to pull that off would be financially impractical, although I will explore it. I have already started some preliminary quotes to help with the "what kind" question which will be followed by the "by whom" question
    • Permit - the building permit (and resubmission of the pre-verified zoning application) will come once I have "a plan". Literally
    • Ground prep - I will likely do most of this myself with the Big Orange Power Tool, which while small, should be able to handle the task. The area for the building is nearly level and the amount of organics to be removed is surprisingly little. Coordination with the next step is essential to insure jurisdictional requirements are met
    • Concrete - in most cases, I will have to contract for the concrete work independently from the building. Working with a local concrete contractor potentially lowers the cost since a building installer from out of the area would be subcontracting it, anyway, and marking it up
    • Building Structure - stating the obvious...once there's concrete the structure can go up. Caveat...wood post frame normally would go up prior to a floor being poured, even if above ground mounting of the posts is used on poured columns in the ground. So again, the decision on "what" may affect the general order of operations
    • Electric Service - I believe that the best solution for this shop building is a separate electrical service from the house for logistical reasons and to keep it separate from the whole house generator that was just installed. The house electric service is about as far away from the proposed shop building as it can be, making for messy and long trenching, too. Overhead from both the front and back of our property is available and both options will be explored with the local electric provider. My preference would be for service from the line behind the property because it can be straight areal to the building. From the front may require a pole. This decision will affect where the service enters the shop, but I may put a panel at the opposite end from the main service panel for convenience and they can just be flip-flopped. This will be accounted for in the plan submitted for the building permit. The initial electrical will be basic just for inspection purposes. Machine circuits and general lighting work will be completed later
    • Final inspection/CO - can't skip this step...nature of the beast
    • HVAC - it is my intention to install a minisplit for heating/cooling as I had at the previous shop. Uber-efficient and I can go the self-install route to save money
    • Interior - interior work will include insulation, lighting, wall coverings and what not, plus the construction of a sound reduced closet for the DC and compressor as I had previously. I may deck on top for storage
    • Move machines in - "say no more"
    • Electrical, air and duct work - built out to suit final arrangement of machines and work areas

    Sounds like fun, eh? Here' are a couple photos of the target location for the building. Updates will be made to this thread as the project progresses, but it will be slow for awhile because of the zoning, decision and permit process.

    IMG_0971.jpg IMG_0963.jpg

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    In the foothills of the Sandia Mountains
    I’m looking forward to the build Jim. It will be fun to watch it develop!
    Please help support the Creek.

    "It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone."
    Andy Rooney

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Okotoks AB
    Blog Entries
    This will be a fun one I'm sure. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Meredith, NH

    In 2015 I did the same thing that you are about to embark on.
    The shop side of my building is 24' x 36' and the garage side is 12' x 36'. It is stick built using 2 x 8's for the walls and fully insulated with 24" in the ceiling.
    The walls are 14' high in the shop side.
    I highly recommend going with radiant heat in the floor. It's a must have in any shop that is in a cold weather place. Just set the heat at 63 degrees and all is good.
    The concrete floor is 6" thick. I made the floor this thick in the event that a forklift with a heavy machine would be rolling over it - which has happened.
    The shop has its own electrical service which is a code requirement here.
    The garage doors were the most well insulated and sealed available at the time of construction and I am delighted with them. The large door is 10' x 10' which makes it easy to get large things in and out.
    The shop matches the house in style and color.
    Last but not least, a feature that my wife mandated; the shop has a bathroom which is another must have when building new.

    Have fun,


  5. #5
    Your project will be a great opportunity to build what you really want. You are thinking well ahead and you know your steps. That should make things go as smoothly as possible. I hope yours goes faster than mine has.

    In unrelated news, I will be spending the night at my shop because the water line to the house broke…again. It is nice to have a backup plan.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Waterford, PA
    I'll be watching this thread. I'm on the other end, as I'm in what will probably be my last shop which is 24' sq. I'm still happy with most of the choices I made at the time.

    Don't discount you ability to have a wooden floor structure. My shop is of wooden pole style construction, and with a couple of extra poles I was able to have a traditionally framed floor hung above the ground. The important thing is having it all engineered for the equipment load you'll be wanting to put in there. In my case, extra posts were set to allow the construction of two beams dividing the building into 3 approx. 8' spans. The joists were then hung on those beams on 12" centers. There are lots of ways to make a building, the important part is that you get a functional building up and you're back to woodworking ASAP.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Longmont, CO
    should be fun. I am a little further along, we got 144 ton of structural fill today. dirt work starts tomorrow on a 40x36 Lester pole barn with a 10 ft x 36 ft "porch" that will get the tin removed and turned into a greenhouse. permitting is stupid, they would not let us just frame the porch and finish it later. even if we call it a "pergola" we had to put the roof on, so that we could unscrew it later and replace with the greenhouse plastic. the plastic does not meet our 145 mph wind load or our 45 psf snow load requirements.

    local contractor is handling dirt, pole building shell, garage doors, insulating and concrete. I will finish grade, and do all the utilities and interior when they are finished. woodworking is one aspect, but also storage for the big red power tool ( 50 hp Branson) green house and garden support/storage, and mechanic space.

    we wanted to go larger, but are going as large as we can swing with cash.

    I also looked into a steel "red iron" style building and was really leaning that way until I figured out it would be 30% or so more costly because of the foundation/concrete work required to set the building on. got prices on Morton and a few other pole barn companies. Morton was about $65 psf, only advantage is their concrete column system. my contractor with the Lester building is going to be about $45 psf. I am hoping to be around $50 to 52 psf totally finished including the greenhouse and interior.
    My neighbor had my chosen contractor put up a smaller building about a year ago and they did a very nice job on the details. Lester has nice aluminum extrusions and trims that really button them up well and look very professional vs the break metal and wide caulking of the Morton and another I looked at. They were also able to get a building about 6 months faster. I did look into versatube or similar and may still go with something like this for a bit more outside storage for hay and whatnot, but was not impressed with some of the details for a space that will be heated, it also jumps a lot in price when you have the snow and wind requirements we do. I am so happy that my contractor is handling the permitting and whatnot.
    Last edited by Adam Herman; 03-02-2022 at 9:08 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Tampa Bay, FL

    First, congratulations on the house sale. Always a huge load off your mind. It will be great hearing of your progress as this goes along. Nothing like vicarious living.

    Yup, zoning, blech.....

    I'll put in my two sense, again, about buying a used raised access floor so that you can hide the ducting and electrical runs under the floor. It makes for so much nicer a layout, and is infinitely adjustable as equipment changes, and you realize all the boo boos you made on the first attempt at placement. It easily can handle the weight of equipment. These can usually be found for a song used. Anyway, my $0.02 on that.

    Obviously not your first rodeo, and your game plan sounds quite well thought out.

    One quick question. How did you get zoning approval for that birdhouse? It clearly violates the setbacks you mentioned.
    - Its not that Im so smart, its just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein
    - Welcome to Florida. Where the old folks visit their parents

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    I'm looking forward to this project.

    I'm glad I don't have to deal with the wind load stuff like you do, Adam. For post frame (wood) I'm not even considering any "name" vendors like Morton as there are a number of options that utilize "more local" labor from the Amish and Mennonite communities just west of here toward south central PA. I have a contractor neighbor that I'm going to sit with to see if we can come up with an affordable stick built or if he can work with a post-frame (wood) kit setup. There are also a few fabricated-stick-built firms to consider; one swag quote I got was way too high for a "name" outfit, but there are a few "more local" resources for that too. From a metal post frame standpoint, it wouldn't be red iron. It would be "carport" type. They have their own uniqueness, but there is also a certain appeal when the design is right.

    Phillip, for my area, radiant heat isn't as practical because there is a very limited amount of time where it would really shine and the cost is a lot more than a minisplit which also provides AC which I need. No plumbing, either...that would be difficult to get through zoning and permitting and very expensive to get uphill to the street for sewer. Don't get me wrong, I would love having a bathroom in the shop, but it's not going to happen here.

    Lisa, I've gone through a number of scenarios to do the wood floor thing, but the complications and cost could be scary. It's not rulled out, but is a tough row to hoe.

    Thomas, yea, time is what it is. Aside from the jurisdiction dance, the type of building and the lead times therein will be interesting to see. Not including concrete, metal is up in two days. Wood post frame is up in 2-4 days. Stick built...if prefab, a few days; if not, longer.

    Frank and Bruce, I hope I can entertain you well in this venture! LOL

    Alan, that bird house is built with ZipSystem and is made well above code. No worries. The only complaints have been from the squirrels because they haven't been able to bite their way into it. Yet.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Jim, thanks for starting this thread as it's always fun to follow along with someone's shop build and it's very educational too!

    So much to learn, so little time.....

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Piercefield, NY
    I'll be watching with interest too.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    Good luck with the build, Jim.

    Sounds like your zoning process will be a lot better than what it might have been in your previous township. How anybody can build anything in Buckingham is beyond me...
    And there was trouble, taking place...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Blog Entries
    Hooray! The fun begins:-)
    "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".

    Samuel Butler

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Millstone, NJ
    Youre close enough your Amish neighbors can build you something. I would go 6" slab with radiant. Then have them through up the structure. Then fit it out to your liking.

    I would at least look into it they can probably build it for the cost of you buying the wood.

    You say the design comes down to cost. But the primary factor should be happy wife.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Somewhere in the Land of Lincoln
    Sounds like a fun and stressful project ahead at the same time. Because of past experience you will design it to eliminate some of the things you didn't like previously. I second George's opinion on radiant. Radiant heat is nothing short of amazing. A warm floor almost makes you want to go bare foot in the shop. It is amazingly even and consistent. I still need to get my shop so it's air conditioned and am probably going to do mini splits. If you can make a post frame work they are definitely the fastest way. I went with 14' side walls and am happy with that. Shop power is separate from the house. 200 amp service in both off the same feed. Because everything was new the transformer sits outside the shop and feeds the meter base from there. Look forward to seeing the project progress.

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