Building a workshop

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have no experience building a structure bigger than a small cabinet. Given this lack of experience, it may seem foolhardy to build your own house but I’m taking it in steps.

One of these steps is to build a small workshop. In addition to giving me some building experience, I am creating a structure that I can use for tool storage and some work during construction. The plans are directly from Ortho’s All About Backyard Structures and I started building over the weekend.

The Lumber
The lumber delivery I met on Friday. This is all the lumber I need for floor, walls rafters and roof sheathing. I will need to get some additional wall sheathing.

The Building Site
The building site on Friday afternoon before I started building.

First Skid Built Up
My skids are built up from three pressure treated 2x8s. They came 20′ long and I cut them down to 18′ then nailed them with galvanized 16d short nails. You can see the trench dug for the uphill skid (nearer) and the start of a trench for the downhill skid. My nail gun is also visible in the shot and I’m very glad I had it as I never would have gotten as far as I did if I were nailing everything by hand.

Rocking up the downhill trench
My downhill trench was too deep for the skid. My first attempt to bring the downhill skid to the level of the uphill skid was to put some rocks on each end. This however seemed a bit too unstable for me and I was worried about only supporting the weight at the corners.

Cinderblocks, not rocks
I decided that I really ought to do it right so I drove back into town and picked up some cinderblocks to raise the skid up.

All leveled out
Ah, that’s much better. All leveled out and both skids in place.

The level rock
Ok, so my cinder blocks aren’t quite level…but with the help of this rock, my skids are!

Floor Joist Box
Rim and end joists are squared and nailed. My rim joists are supposed to be 16′ long. I measured the 16′ boards I received at around 16′ 1/2″ and figure that it was close enough…this is a learning experience. The end and interior joists are 93″ long.

Laying the interior joists
The interior floor joists are laid in and nailed. I knew that they were supposed to be 16″ apart and figured that 16″ on center was the same as 16″ from one side to another. I learned my lesson when I nailed down my first 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood and realized that one corner wasn’t supported. The plywood ended right where the joist began. Now I have a much better understanding of how to layout a floor so that the decking that’s supposed to go on top of it gets placed correctly. I was able to mitigate the situation by adding a couple blocks cut from the 2′ cutoffs I had, but it was a bit of a pain working underneath a nailed down sheet of plywood.

The finished floor
And here it is, in all its glory. Two days of hard work and I have a good, level space built entirely by myself on a slightly sloping hillside.

What have I learned?

  • When a piece of wood is supposed to be X feet long, cut it so that it’s X feet long. Don’t just go with it as you received it because it’ll come back to bite you.
  • Make sure of your joist layout and decking coverage before you nail down your decking. Working underneath the decking is not easy.
  • When you’re trying to level something, dig much deeper than you need to and buy lots of gravel. I was trying to save both money and trips into town by making the most of my limited gravel supply and just trying to level the ground with a shovel, but it would have been much easier to just dig deep and use more gravel.
  • Reading about something is not a substitute for actually doing it. I felt like I had a pretty good grounding in what I had to do based on what I’d read, but there’s still a lot to learn by doing.
  • Nail guns are just like many hands.
  • Measure twice, cut once – Whoa, this doesn’t fit at all! Oh, the opening is 14 1/2 inches, not 14 inches…wow…how’d I make that mistake?
  • It takes longer than you expect.

Our woodpiles

With all the clearing we’ve done for the house, a lot of trees have come down. Over the weekend I took pictures of our wood piles.

The softwood pile
The soft wood (pine and fir).

 The hardwood pile
The hard wood (oak).

We have submitted!

Wait, that sounds odd.

We have submitted our plans to the county building department and we have our permit number. Thanks the wonders of the modern world, we can now plug our number into a website and watch our plans go through the various steps required for getting our plans approved. Now we just wait and hope that everything goes smoothly!

Matt did find one potential snag though – our official plans have us using a perimeter foundation rather than a cement slab. Apparently the engineering folks did that part wrong. Matt has talked to our project manager and she’s going to figure out how to fix it. Matt doesn’t think it will be too big of a problem, and I hope he’s right.

In regards to that whole laundry list of things Matt needed to do yesterday, he managed to get it all done. He even squeezed in a couple additional stops for lunch, groceries and a couple other things. The ReStore didn’t have any windows or doors that would work for us, but they did have a lot of other neat stuff. Matt picked up a mailbox for us for $5 and said that it is definitely a place I need to check out.

Today Matt is going to start on his workshed. He still needs to finish leveling the site and he needs to move the lumber around, so he said he’ll be happy if he can at least get the floor in place. He does have the camera, so he should have some pictures when he gets back.

June 9th Picture

Apparently I didn’t spend very much time with the camera last weekend, because I have only five pictures and they are all approximately the same.

At any rate, here’s Matt feeding stuff into the chipper.  It is amazing the volume change between the piles of stuff to be chipped and the wood chips produced!  The pile you see in the lower middle of the picture is the result of at least three big piles of branches.


As you can see, we have our work cut out for us!  The big piles you can see in the back are actually stumps, not branches.  We have yet to figure out what we’re going to do with those.

Things are speeding up

All of a sudden, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed…

The scheduled part of my day tomorrow
– 8 AM – go to hardware store and pay for lumber for a small workshop[1]

– After 8 AM – go to ReStore and see if they have windows and/or a door for said workshop

– 12 PM – meet with a contractor to discuss getting a pump and tank setup for our well and get copies of our site plan

– 1PM – meet with SHS to get our documents for submitting to county (Yeah!) for a permit.

– Before 4PM – submit paperwork with the county

Other things to fit in
– Drop off stuff at storage unit
– Figure out what oil I need for our generator
– Pick up said oil
– Get gas for the generator
– Build ramps to move the generator in and out of truck
– Pick up the generator and other stuff from storage unit to take to the property
– Meet hardware store delivery truck on property (I hope) – there’s a chance they won’t be able to deliver tomorrow
– Meet with someone about a possible office space
– Eat lunch (it’s not pretty if this doesn’t happen)

The only bits that I’m really worried about are actually getting the material delivered and making sure that it doesn’t conflict with either of my afternoon meetings or submitting paperwork.

[1] I’m building a small 8’x16′ workshop to store tools in during construction and to get more experience with actual building.

O Happy Day!

Matt got a call this afternoon from our project manager at SHS and our plans are done in engineering. We are ready to submit! Matt was already going to go up this weekend to work on his workshed, and now he’s going to meet with with SHS, pick up the plans, and submit everything to the county on Friday afternoon.

Yippee, things are moving!

Engineering update

So you know how our plans were supposed be done in engineering by the end of May?  Well, Matt got an email yesterday saying that the engineers were going to work on them this week.  Um, gee, thanks?

We are going up to frolic, err, work on the property this weekend though. We’re all looking forward to being up there again.  The plan as it stands right now is to rent a chipper on Saturday and attempt to chip as much of the slash pile as possible.  I’m not sure what else we’ll be doing while we’re up there, but I’m sure it will involve a chainsaw.  There should be new pictures up early next week.