I have been building custom cabinets for 20 years. Four years ago I left my employer to work as a subcontract cabinet installer and was really doing well up until the first of 08. Since then I have been doing some built-ins and a few small custom jobs in my two car garage and have been steady working. The space is cramped considering I share it with lawn equipment, water heater, water softener, etc. I have decided it is time to build a dedicated shop in my backyard. The size will be 30' x 40' and I have been thinking a lot about anything I could miss during the process. I don't want to finish it and say, "I wish I had thought of that." Any suggestions?
From contributor W:
You should have 2 large doors on each end. Raw materials in on one end and finished goods out the other end when you are done. My shop has one big door in the center on the side and it sucks.
Make sure your walls are tall enough that you can expand and still have enough roof slope to go out with an enclosed overhang. You will find out real quick that a 30 x 40 is not large enough. I started with a 30 x 50 with a 12' lean-to on one side. We added another 1000 sq.ft. on the rear within the first year.
I would check with my local city codes. You may find out, as I did, that the city frowns on backyard businesses that produce dust, noise, use excessive electricity, and make vibrations. I found out all this when the city tried to annex us. I was told that I could continue because I was grandfathered in. I just could not produce dust, noise, etc. That is a fun one to avoid in this business. I did play a little dirty politics and got around this one.
Also make sure to go with at least a 12' wide door minimum. We added a forklift a couple of years ago and found out that my 10' wide doors suck when you are trying to get random length lumber into the shop.
I would also try to put the air compressor outside. They are noisy and produce a lot of heat in the summer.
I think Grizzly has a shop layout tool on their website. That could be helpful laying out all your equipment.
One other thing about having the shop in the backyard. It is hard to explain how you couldn't make it to work when it snows.
I'd like to say that 30 x 40 is not very big once you get tools in there. I have little assembly area and not much for storage of finished products. Finish room takes up 11 x 17. So I would suggest maybe a lean-to on the side or something for a finish room and storage separated by a wall. Then have a door to access the storage room. A bigger office would be nice. I can't believe how much stuff I have to have up there.
Have plenty of outlets and air valves around. It would be nice if you could hide it all in the walls.
The biggest thing I wish I had done is have at least 13' sidewalls. I order lumber and it's usually 12' long, so I have to lay it down, which takes up more space.
If it is a steel building, put an extra purlin around the shop at 4' off the floor for the outlets and conduit to mount to. It also makes a great home for dust!
30 by 40 is kind of small. I know economics often drive our decisions, but do know that you will never say, "damn, I built this shop too big." If borrowing a few more bucks to get exactly what you want is possible, I would definitely do it. I would also research dust collection, as this will ultimately determine location of tools. If I could do it all over again... I would have a bigger spray booth.
That is probably not exactly right for a cabinet shop, but that is the area you are specifying. Seems small. Extra bays added now would be fairly cheap. I have a friend who has what amounts to an insulated curtain in his 25x100 something space (old commercial building) that he draws in winter and summer and just lets the back half get cold or hot. If you want more space without adding to heating/cooling plant.
Doesn't a panel saw or a decent size CNC have a working footprint at least half the size of the building you are planning? A thought for the future.
I would definitely go with radiant in the floor. It is very comfortable, and recovery is fast when you open a big door. Depending on how cold your winters are, I would only go with 1 - 14' overhead door on one side. A lot of heat is lost through doors and windows if you get a lot of wind.
30' x 40' will feel like 10' x 12' once you get machines and benches in there. Build it once, and be done. Don't add a lean-to here, and a shed roof there.
A scale layout is a great idea. Do it on something big like a sheet of plywood.
A toilet is a must. I have a 6 gallon hot water heater in my utility room with a laundry sink.
Phone is a must. Office is optional if the shop is behind your house. Run all electric surface mount in conduit. That way critters will never chew your wires.
I've been kicking around the idea of building a 40' x 60' behind my house. Right now the shop is 24' x 72' and located at my father's house (started as 24' x 30' - way too small). So far I priced out (pole barn style) basic pavilion structure - $7,000; radiant tubing and 30 yards of concrete - $6,000. This is before I close it in, insulate, drywall on walls, white steel on ceiling, lights, electric, doors, windows, ductwork, etc. I wish that money tree would grow faster! Good luck. Plan everything out before you start. If you can, do all the work yourself - you will save thousands.
I was and am still nervous about building because we do have a HOA. Our covenance does not have many regulations. I guess this is because we are in a rural area and that most of the homeowners moved out here to get away from strict guidelines. The HOA has pretty much approved it and said that I can build it any size that is allowed by the county. I told them that it is a garage/workshop, not that it will be a dedicated workshop. I plan on insulating it well to reduce noise. I also plan on working during appropriate hours as to not disturb anyone. I don't want to lie to anyone or disturb anyone but I do feel that I should be able to do what I want on my property within reason.
I am too reluctant to lease a shop with no more than I am producing right now. It would cost me about 1500.00 a month to lease a decent sized shop, whereas the payment on the money I borrowed to build the shop in my yard is costing me about 350.00 a month. This seems to be the best solution for me for the immediate future. I think a couple of you posted with similar situations of building in neighborhoods. How has it worked out for you? I always listen to any advice that is given and try to filter through everything to make the best decisions. I appreciate everyone's input.
I still suggest a lean-to for a finish room and finished product storage. It's out of the way, doesn't take away shop space, has its own exterior door for loading, and you will probably have a bit of extra ground for a small footprint like that, say a 14x20, still insulated, etc. I regret not doing this. I don't want to do it now because I really need to be in town.
If you have a dust collector/air compressor outside, that's great, but the neighbors will probably get tired after a while of the loud vacuum sound. Maybe insulate and soundproof a small room just for that.
You might get away with building the shop behind your house. If, after you start working in it, you get turned in to code enforcement, you will be out of business.
As a neighbor I would have a real problem dealing with all the dust, traffic, fumes, noise that I myself make. Your neighbors didn't move where they are to be in an industrial park. Besides that you say the building you propose is the max the lot will take. What happens when you need to expand?
You can't grow.
You can't advertise.
You have highly limited visibility.
You have no chance of any sort of showroom.
You have to run a sort of stealth operation in a residential community.
And on the back side, when you do outgrow the shop...
You can tear it down.
You can look at it out your back window.
Or you can try to sell a piece of real estate which doesn't fit in. Who is going to want to buy this house with the giant garage in a residential neighborhood... with all the shortcomings mentioned above? Can you get your investment back on resale? If you cannot, then rent as suggested.
Also about neighbors: Many of them may be doing something that is questionable, so they won't hassle you. You'd also be amazed what a difference making your next door neighbor some little project for free will make. Not making noise at night is important.
What basis could you possible have for saying this? And even granting, just for the sake of the discussion, that it could be so, what moral, ethical or property value issue do you feel it would justify?
Oh, yes... I forgot. "You'd also be amazed what a difference making your next door neighbor some little project for free will make." Yeah, after that they will be so happy about your neighborhood improvement. Should that be a $5 or a $10 "sorry I wrecked the neighborhood property value" gift?
As for the shop, I personally would buy a house that had a nice shop that was heated and cooled and was large enough for the motorhome, boat, tractor or whatever else I wanted to put in there.
Definitely talk to your neighbors, don't be a nuisance. I think a one man shop doing small projects and off site work in a rural area can probably work out if you do it right. I don't see anything un-neighborly in that.
I want to stay on a small scale with no employees. I do not want to have a large business with lots of employees and all of the stress that comes with it. I enjoy what I am doing right now and it keeps my family fed. Why change the formula if it is working? If for some crazy reason I changed my mind about going big, I would either lease or build a commercial building in a highly visible area. At that time my backyard shop could very easily be used for a garage. I have thought through this for three years now. The building would have many uses and I am sure if I ever sold my house that most people would love to have a garage that size. I failed to mention that I live six miles from the Intracoastal Waterway. There are a lot of boat owners around here that would drool over a garage that size for their boat or personal watercraft. I truly feel that building this shop is the best option for me right now and hope to be in it by January.
I forgot to mention that the shop will have heat and air conditioning. I intend on leaving the doors shut most of the time to nearly eliminate all noise.
1 - You can have too much space and fill it with unnecessary things that clog production and increase costs.
2 - You can't get away running a full-time shop for a long period of time in a residential area. You will eventually run into supply problems. (What is the access to your backyard shop? If your suppliers deliver, how big are their trucks and how often do they come? Can they even operate legally in your neighborhood? Can I easily move raw materials and finished products out of my shop without tearing up my yard and irritating my wife?) Or zoning problems (advertising, customers visiting, noise ordinances), or insurance issues (does your homeowner's insurance adequately cover your outbuilding and equipment or will your commercial insurance cover these things at a residential location?).
3 - Power requirements. Can you get 3-phase power should you need it? Will you have enough capacity on your residential service to power your shop and your house? Are you willing to pay for a second meter if necessary?
4 - In taking into account for layout, realize that you need between 24 to 32 feet for your table saw with or without opening a door plus at least 10 feet side to side in the footprint (at least 240 sft for that piece of machinery alone). That is a great deal of space to occupy in the dimensions that you have given. Just don't sell yourself short on space in the beginning. Portability is a great option, but it kills production. Even as a one man shop, if I can squeeze another hour or two of productivity by walking less or not having to set something up, I have become more profitable.
5 - Having a shop in the backyard can be a great tool for teaching your kids great woodworking practices and have some fun after school. That is how I started in my early teens. However, it also makes it difficult to resist the temptation to stay out a little later, keep working after dinner, and it makes it a bit easier to be bothered by the little nagging details of a project in the middle of the night.
Comment from contributor A:
While reading the posts here I was reminded of my own situation. I spent 15 years a space of about 1,100 square feet. I had to share it with three other peoples stuff. My father was one. I made furniture and anything else I could. I would much rather have had at least two and a half times as much space. Anytime I mentioned that amount to my friends and acquaintances they acted surprised at the amount. Eventually, the local building inspector came along and handed me a cease and desist order. After the appeals all the way to the state board that governs these issues I finally heard someone say, "I don't like the way you have abused this manís due process." I did finally find a building of 5,600 square feet 35 miles away. I still wish I could find something closer by without having to spend the next ten years of profit to do so. I my hometown there is a definite official dislike to the kind of activity woodworking requires.