Last week in Part 1 we looked
at some of the decisions that need to be made before building a large home
workshop. As I described, I have chosen a 14 metre by 6 metre wide Colourbond
shed with 3 metre high walls.
Here are the first stages in how it was built.
The first step was to gain planning approval. In
fact, I didn’t get approval before starting the shed purchase and earthworks,
but I talked extensively to the local council until I had a very clear idea of
what would and would not be permitted.
While this sounds backwards, planning approval
cannot be gained until you have the shed plans in your hands; you can’t have
those until you’ve effectively bought the shed! Ditto with the concrete slab,
which in the case of my workshop, needed additional engineering over the
standard slab plans provided by the shed manufacturer.
Planning approval required submission of:
To be honest, I found the whole process complex
For example, one council requirement was a contour
plan of the block - this would have required engaging a surveyor and would no
doubt have cost a helluva lot. However, when I talked directly with the council planners
who would be evaluating the proposal, they said they just needed a simple
Under the current local planning legislation, the
size of shed (84 square metres) is not permitted on the size of my block (1105
square metres). However – and again very confusingly – under a superseded (but
still able to be used!) planning act, the shed could be passed.
As I said, before you even start to consider
building options, really good oral communication with the appropriate planning
authority is highly advisable.
The council fees were AUD$650.
Widening the Gate
The shape of my block is rather strange, and so
despite the workshop being built in front of the house, it is actually placed
more in a side yard than a front yard. However, new front access still needed to
be provided so that not only could car access to the workshop be eased, but also
so that a concrete truck could easily reverse up to the shed site.
A local contactor was employed to double the width
of the existing driveway. This required the laying of a 2.5 metre, 30 cm
diameter concrete pipe for stormwater run-off along the edge of the road, and
then placing compacted earth on top.
I only realised late in the timeframe that this
work would need to be done: it would have been far cheaper if it had been
completed at the same time as the shed site earthworks described below.
Quotes varied from AUD$980 to $660 – I knocked
down the lower quote to $600 neat.
Extensive earthworks were needed. Not only did the
area need to be cut and filled, a pad needed to be created for a new rainwater
tank, a large tree stump removed and two rock retaining walls built. One, along
the upper side of the slope, comprised a 20 metre, ~1 metre high rock wall,
while the lower one was shorter in length.
Interestingly, during excavation of the site, a
large number of boulders were dug up – these were used (with additional rocks)
in the retaining walls, so not increasing the overall earthworks/wall building price despite the fact that more
retaining wall was needed than was included in the original quote.
The one company did both the walls and the
earthworks. The bill was $4,422.
Here is the site before the earthworks and
retaining walls were built...
And here it is after. (Despite appearances, the camera is positioned in just the same location as for the pic above!)
A large rainwater tank was installed at the same
time as the earthworks were done - many hands making light work. (Our house is
on tank water only; the new workshop almost doubles the rainwater catchment
area, so explaining the additional tank.)
There is no recommended minimum time between the
completion of the earthworks and the pouring of the concrete slab, however I
decided to wait as long as possible to allow the soil to settle. That amounted
to about 10 weeks.
The concrete slab was a tricky one. Because the
slab was to be half on ‘fill’ and half on excavated ground, it needed piers to
support the section of slab positioned on the fill. These ‘poured’ piers needed
to extend down to the level of the natural ground. A poured L-shaped and
reinforced concrete beam was also used to join these piers.
As you’d expect, the cost was therefore a lot
greater than for a conventional slab – it added up to AUD$6500.
Reinforcing mesh was used across the full area of
the slab, with extra sections used in the beam joining the pillars. The slab was
100mm thick, while the beam was shown on the plans at 300mm x 300mm but actually
ended up more like 500mm x 300mm. The pillars were about 300mm in diameter and
varied in depth from 300 to 800mm, depending on their individual requirements.
A ‘step’ was placed in the floor at the entrance
to the shed. This prevents wind-borne water being blown under the roller doors
and into the shed. Note that the location and height of this step needs to be
organised in conjunction with the shed suppliers – different shed designs will
have different requirements.
While the concreting was being done, the boss
suggested to me that they might have some concrete left over – and if they did,
would I like a short apron placed in front of the shed? I did – and it turned
out to be 1.5 metres x the full width of the shed! That’s 9 square metres of
concrete that: (1) didn’t cost me anything at all and, (2) will be able to
provide a hard stand for a car partly backed out of the shed, or items stored on
The other aspect of the concreting that impressed
me greatly was the use during the pour of a laser level, allowing the
surface to be made as flat and level as humanly possible. I’d stressed before
the work started that I wanted a dead-flat and level floor – and told the
concreters the reason why: I want at some stage to build a car in this shed, and
the starting point needs to be a near-perfect datum.
The chosen surface finish of the floor was smooth;
this was achieved with a power-driven rotary trowel (“helicopter”). An
alternative finish – one that was used on the apron - was a ‘broomed’ texture,
achieved by literally pulling a broom across the surface when the concrete was
yet to harden.
The final stage in the slab was to saw expansion
gaps across the slab, one cut across the shed at each of the shed uprights and
one longitudinal cut the full length of the shed and apron. This cutting was
made 48 hours after the pour.
For reasons relating to an imminent price rise,
the shed materials were bought and delivered before the slab was complete. As a
result, the materials were deposited in my driveway, rather than at the shed
After the slab was poured and had hardened, I
physically carried the shed materials to the slab - all 1,532kg of them! It’s best if
you can have the materials placed adjacent to the site when they are
At least two weeks is recommended between the
pouring of the slab and the errection of the shed. After a week or so I made
enquiries at the shed supplier as to when the shed could be erected. I was
disconcerted to find that it would be at least 6-8 weeks before they could put
it up – and that I should add an extra day to that waiting period for each day
it rained in the district!
This delay was likely to cause me a series of
problems. The first was that in my job working for AutoSpeed, I build-up a
buffer of articles so that every now and again I can embrace a more major
project that I can then write about in AutoSpeed. At the time all this was
happening, I’d built up the article buffer – but now the shed wouldn’t be ready
to let me do any of those projects!
The second problem also related to my job at
AutoSpeed – the series that you’re now reading required that the shed be
completed within a certain time frame, and with an 8+ week delay, that wasn’t
going to occur.
Third, because I’d been preparing for a major
workshop relocation, I’d started packing up my old under-house workshop. Without
the shed being built, both workshops were unusable – again, because of my job,
putting me into a difficult situation.
And finally, I guess having seen the earthworks
done, the slab poured, and the shed materials delivered – I now didn’t want to
hang around 2 months waiting for something to happen!
I rang the shed supplier, asking if I could
organise erection of the shed by another party. (A contract had been signed that
the shed would be erected by the supplier – now I was trying to get out of
this.) Much to my surprise, they supplier immediately agreed – and furthermore,
said they’d be happy to make available the instruction kit for building the
So, I decided to build it myself...
Next week, a shed novice singlehandedly starts
to build a 14 x 6 x 3 metre shed.
Go here for the next in this series.
Interested in home workshop projects and techniques? You’re sure then to be interested in the Home Workshop Sourcebook, available now.