Shop Shopping


The space I frequently refer to as my “shop” is a two-car attached garage. When I moved into that space all 340 square feet felt gigantic. Occasionally, we would park the car in it. Then it came to the point where the car had to stay outside. Now it’s near the point where I might have to stay outside too. I’ve too much stuff. The way I see it, I have two options; sell some tools or build a bigger shop.

It would be pretty trendy to get rid of some tools. I admire the tiny house movement and those who participate in it. Really, who wouldn’t want to live in 200 sq. ft. home with four kids, a dog, and three cats? Getting rid of stuff seems like the logical thing to do, but very un-American.

I’m going with the second option.

Last week I contacted six different builders of metal buildings. The responses have been all over the map. One builder has already sent back a quote with a picture of something that isn’t even close to what I had in mind. Two others have responded with a checklist of things I should do before I contact them again. Still, another two have not responded at all. And the last one has asked for more information in order to give a better estimate. Things are looking good for this last builder.

Depending on how the estimates come in, I’m hoping to build a 1,200 sq. ft. space. It seems like that should be plenty of space for what I want to do, but I already know that I will probably outgrow it too. To plan for that day, I searched to see what kind of financial loss I’ll be taking when I decide to move to a new house to build a larger shop. According to Bing, I’ll lose about 40% of the purchase price; more if I take a loan. Compared to what I would lose if I rented shop space that isn’t bad.

Been there, done that? If you have any suggestions, comments, or things I should be aware of, I’m all ears.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Gav says:

    I had friend who went down this path for a about a100sqm double garage . Times were against him- our economy in WA is boom bust with all the usual appendages, poor quality labour, no labour, increase in base costs of everything, job not big enough etc. The actual steel structure he got complied with all engineering and council requirements and was literally the most minimal construction you could get. To be blunt it sucked. Get something with properly detailed doors and windows, get something with insulation (hot or cold both ends make life hard), get something with a proper damp course and foundation detailing, get something with well set out electrics, get something with enough clearance so a big piece of sheet material or timber can be flipped and moved without taking out the ceiling/roof/light fixtures. Allow for the possibility of deciding a timber floor over concrete may just be worth the effort for your feet and tools. Allow for the water from your roof to be disposed of where it won’t cause other problems. Allow for a layout which means you can get to your house easily if it’s a stand alone structure. Basically make list of all the things that have ticked you off in the past and make sure they don’t get repeated. You never know, it could add value to your property if someone else sees the merit in what has been constructed and you do decide to sell.

    Remember, it is the cheapest exercise to build something on paper first and the most effective to save money long term.



    1. Eric Key says:

      Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated.


  2. Village Woodwright says:

    I, too, am building… in an area of very restrictive building codes. My construction must be attached to the home (outbuilding sq.ft iIs very limited by code) I designed my floor plan first on paper before contacting builders. There’s a bedroom with private bath as a rental to offset our costs (college town – easy to rent a room). It’s situated on the property to permit future addtions. The original design is my “ideal” with a list of what can be cut when we see the estimates come in. Lots of daylight: skylights, windows, doors, high ceilings, enclosed finishing room, separate machine room and hand tool/ bench room. And an office for my bookkeeper (wife)! Security provision between private home and shops is needed since they share a front door entry area. Buildings are designed to maximize distance of the rooms generating greatest noise from the neighbor’s homes. Make sure the neighbors LOVE what you do.


    1. Eric Key says:

      I’ve got a couple of configurations on paper–you know, plan A/B sorts of stuff. At this point I’m weighing all my options. As far as my neighbors go, I don’t think any of them know what I do. Good luck with your building!


  3. Mike Chandler says:

    I built a shop behind my home (it was the main reason I was in favor of the home we bought) that had some restrictions (HOA and county). I designed it in such a way that it can be easily modified in the future to meet someone else’s needs for space. I currently have an 8′ opening in two double doors but the header would allow for them to be removed and a double garage door installed in the future. The one thing I wish that I’d been able to design in would have been for the dust collection system to be outside in a sound insulated closet. I saw this setup in another shop and loved it. Of course you’re removing conditioned air, but the tradeoff is less noise and worry about dust in the shop space. I bought a Dust Gorilla, but find myself hooking it to one machine at a time and in retrospect, probably should have bought a smaller system capable of doing one machine at a time. Everything’s a compromise……………


    1. Eric Key says:

      Everything is a compromise. And I’ve never heard anyone ever declare that they have built the perfect shop. Pretty sure it doesn’t exist. I appreciate the comments about dust collection. I’d like to put my dust collection outside too but it probably won’t be in the budget. Another compromise. 🙂


  4. srm57simon says:

    Why on earth would you want a steel building? You are a woodworker. Surely a Timber frame building would be better looking, more environmentally sound, ( there is nothing remotely environmentally friendly about steel buildings, they will rust, it will be noisier and will need more insulation, more heating/aircon and be more prone to condensation) You even write for a magazine that has just put up a timber frame building.


    1. Eric Key says:

      I’m sorry. You must be thinking of Jim. Yes, I’m sure that were he the one planning a new shop it would be a timber frame building with lots of character. But I’ll still answer your question. I, on this earth, would build a steel building because I’m cheap.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, yeah that’s me. I’ve not yet seen it firsthand though. My shop is an attached brick two car garage. Better than a straw garage, but still not air conditioned!😁

        Liked by 1 person

      2. srm57 says:

        this is the difference between living in the USA and the stiull ,part of the EU UK! In the US whre Timber is cheap,its apparently cheaper to build a steel workshop, whereas in the UK where timber is ludicrously expensive s steel building is even more so! Actually everything in the UK is expensive compared to the US except car insurance.And just about everything in Europe is cheaper except beer! Once Brexit happens of cpourse we will be up **** creek without a paddle and everything contrary to popular belief will be more expensive. We heard today just to add a bit or irony that our new blue symbol of independance passports will be printed in Europe because its cheaper there!

        Liked by 1 person

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