Building a free-standing workshop
Issue: Issue 4.04
Posted Date: 2/25/2003
A woodworker, planning to build a new freestanding workshop, was trying to decide which would be cheaper ... a stick-built or a metal building. By putting in the footings and/or floor himself, he found that he could get the parts for a 25' x 34' Steelmaster building for around $3200 delivered. What did others think of this kind of building as a workshop, and how should he handle the flooring (wood overlaid on a slab vs. raised wooden floor and no slab), insulation, windows, and cabinet-bearing interior walls? To hedge his bets, he cross-posted his question in at least three different forums ... that we know of.
At Woodcentral ... a woodworker, already in the midst of construction, declared that his use of standard 2 x 4 stud walls and gable roof, was cheaper than metal and therefore a better choice. More specifically, another poster described his just-begun construction of a 24' x 28' stick-built shop (with attic storage). He'd determined that metal wouldn't save any money and estimated his overall cost to be just over $5,000. He described how the concrete slab would be poured within a week and the rest of the construction would only take a couple more weekends.
As another forum member explained it, upon looking at his requirements (wood walls, windows, insulation) for a metal building, he realized he'd just be building a wooden building inside. Since he was building a new house and garage anyway, he decided to add a wooden structure above his garage for his shop. He found his biggest expense was a heavy-duty wood floor with 2 steel beams and 14" TJI® joists (1' on center). His framed shop was cheaper (and took up less space) than a freestanding metal building ... but he admitted saving money by spreading out his truss delivery and installation costs between the garage and the house.
Meanwhile, over at the Oak, a woodworker had no opinion about metal buildings, but decided to share an idea he'd had for his dream shop. Using salvaged computer room floor panels, he described how he'd install a false floor some 10" above the slab. The removable floor panels would be ideal for housing dust collection hoses, power cables, air lines, etc., and a great place to distribute the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. Suction cup pullers would lift the panels to reconfigure the shop.
Then back to business -- a Virginia woodworker told the tale of putting up just such a steel building a few years back. The 20' x 25' structure was cheaper, and it eliminated any need for framing and siding. However ... assembly instructions were poor, and there was no help available after delivery ... with approximately 4,000 bolts to tighten, it took four to five guys, four to five days to get the thing up. And to hang anything he had to build an interior framework. So when he needed more space last summer, he stick framed a new 1,500 square-foot shop. Addressing the original poster's slab question, he explained how he installed pressure-treated sleepers over a slab with 3/4" plywood in the new shop. It flexes with his legs while still supporting the heaviest equipment, and provides somewhat of a wire chase.
A third choice was advanced in this thread. A post suggested the use of SIPs (structural insulated panels) as an alternative to either metal or stick-built options. Three years ago, the poster had built a 30' x 30' shop with the panels. Insulation was built in, and the whole structure (6" panels and 8' sidewalls with a scissor truss rafter system) cost $3,200 delivered, and with two guys could be put up in a single day. The 1/2" OSB (oriented strand board) laminated on each side of the panel is stout enough to hold up wall cabinets. In response to a question from the original poster, he provided more details:
- Trusses cost $1,472, plus $110 for delivery and $45 for the crane. (The crane work took only 45 minutes.)
- The panels were from R-Control. Through his dealer he sent a sketch defining window and door locations ... they sent his blueprints back for approval.
- Upon blueprint approval, R-Control shipped all required panels, splines (used to join panels), insulated headers (for the double door opening and over the windows) sealant for sills and splines, and an electrical foam cutter for the windows.
Though too lengthy for this summary, he also describes how he customized the building during construction, installed wiring, and heated the structure. A few subsequent posts also sang the praises of the panels' insulation, labor, and material costs.
Another poster provided a word of caution that any building would need to meet community ordinances, and that he should first check with local building/zoning department and homeowners association. Noting his personal dislike for the look of steel buildings, he also suggested evaluating the effect (positive or negative) a steel or stick building would have on his property value.
For something completely different on Woodnet, a poster described a 55' x 151' Quonset-type hay barn that he was going to soon build with his brother. He thought that type of building (using metal from American Steel Span) would also be a good system for a woodworking shop.
After hearing from friends that metal buildings were noisy, cold, and not so easy to assemble, another woodworker described how he'd built a small (16' x 16'), but functional, stick building. It was large enough to move 10 and 12 footers around without hitting anything. It's got a springy OSB floor; he installed barn doors to make hauling stock inside easier; the glassed gable ends and two skylights provide plenty of natural light. And even though he was happy with his 28' x 32' metal building, another poster declared that if doing over, he'd opt for stick-built or steel-framed, because the metal building was so hard to put up by himself and hard to insulate. Plus his total costs ran to $12,000.
After considering all the responses -- across the boards -- the original poster was convinced to go with a 24' x 36' stick-built shop with 10' high walls.