A New Home Workshop, Part 1

Clearing the space

By Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • New major series
  • Demolishing the old sheds
  • Clearing and levelling the site
This article was first published in 2012.

I needed a new shed. Yes, despite having previously built a 14 x 6 metre home workshop (covered in a major series starting at Building a Home Workshop, Part 1), the requirement was again present. Why? In short, an interstate move, a new job – and a new house.

Here’s the story of the new home workshop design, from ideas to finished result.

Demolition

Rather than starting with an empty space, a shed already existed on the site. It was made up of three smallish components – first, a central, oldest part that used a steeply pitched roof. Then, either side of that, two flat-roof lean-toes. In front of those constructions was a larger, high-roofed, open car port.

When we bought the block, the intention was to enclose the carport and make use of the resulting large space. By removing doors and adding some extra metalwork, the carport area could have been connected to the existing sheds, so creating a series of work spaces.

However, the closer we looked, the more we found that was wrong with this plan. The lean-toes proved to be in bad repair, with rotten wood and rusting iron. The carport, while large in area, had a sloping floor, making it suitable only for car storage. (It’s a bit hard to place machine tools on a sloping floor!)

And, talking about floors, there were also ‘steps’ in levels between the different sheds – and that would have made it difficult to move around.

So rather than persevering with the existing structures, I decide to knock them down.

Initially, I was going to get them demolished by an external contractor using something like a bulldozer or back-hoe, but then I suddenly realised that the structures contained lots of hardwood framing. If I did the job myself, this timber could be salvaged and then later used to make benches and shelves for the new shed.

But how to demolish the structure? One expert suggested the first thing to do was to remove all the old iron from the roofs, but working up high with a jemmy bar and recalcitrant fasteners holding old, razor-sharp, iron didn’t appeal.

Instead, what I did was the start at the bottom, removing the galvanised iron from the walls, then using a big hammer to disassemble the timber framing. After most of the wall supports were gone, the roofs just fell down right in front of me – and then I could pull the roofing iron off while working at a safe height.

Of course, I needed to be careful that the roof collapsed in front of me – rather than on me – but it all went pretty smoothly. This pic shows the last major piece of the shed falling – and I am moving rapidly out of the way (far right)!

The amount of timber that I salvaged was substantial – many hundreds of dollars’ worth, in fact. The old iron went to the recycling facility at the local rubbish tip – so it cost nothing to be disposed of.

The demolition took about five days, spread over 3-4 weeks.

Pluses: I obtained lots of good quality timber at no cost

Minuses: Getting nails out of old timber is a bastard of a job!

The Surprise: Knocking down the structures was much easier than I expected

Cost: Five days of work, zero cash outlay

Preparing the pad

With the shed structures gone, there remained only the stepped, concrete floors.

It looked to me to be a straightforward job for someone with earthmoving machinery to rip up the concrete, take away the pieces and then level the pad. The last would require some ‘cut and fill’ - there was about 1.5 metres height variation across the site.

I got a quote (and asked the company to also include some other work around the block) and was just gobsmacked when they wanted around AUD$9,000!

And to do the shed pad alone? Try over $4,000!

So as described in more detail at More Fun than Driving a Porsche!, I hired a concrete cutting saw, a Bobcat and a 3-tonne tip-truck.

The concrete under the old sheds was friable and thin, and could be easily broken-up with a sledgehammer and a crowbar. But the newer concrete under the carport was a completely different beast. It was incredibly strong – varying in thickness from 100 – 150mm and being reinforced with steel mesh. There was also not a single crack in the whole piece.

However, the concrete couldn’t withstand the assault of the diamond-tipped Stihl cutter and after it was chopped into manageable chunks, I used the Bobcat to load it into the truck.

We’d planned on taking the concrete to the local tip but after just the first load, a local farmer said we could instead place it in an erosion gully on his farm, one that he was trying to fill. That saved time and money – the latter because no tip fees needed to be paid and because we could hire the tip-truck for a shorter time.

I did most of the levelling with the Bobcat but I got a professional driver from the hire place to do the final trim.

Pluses: Driving the Bobcat was an absolute blast

Minuses: Cutting up the concrete was a messy job that was no fun at all

The Surprise: How much money it was possible to save

Cost: 1.5 days of work, about $1300 (we used the Bobcat for some other stuff as well: this cost covers just the work on the shed pad)

So with the site cleared and levelled, now it was time to start planning the size and shape of the new workshop.

Next issue: planning the new shed

The parts in this series:

Part 1 - Clearing the space

Part 2 - Planning the design

Part 3 - Gaining planning authority approval

Part 4 - The concrete slab

Part 5 - Getting the shed erected

Part 6 - Stormwater handling

Part 7 - The electricals

Part 8 - Organising storage

Part 9 - Building the workbenches

Part 10 - Evaluating the outcome

Interested in home workshop projects and techniques? You’re sure then to be interested in the Home Workshop Sourcebook, available now.

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