Moving A Shop

Plan ahead to manage the costs and hassles. April 10, 2005

I'm about to move my shop to a new location, and was wondering if others had surprise expenses or other snags that held up the process. I think I've covered all the bases, but there's always something.

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor M:
Is your new location a lease or did you buy it? The list of things to do are different for both scenarios.

From the original questioner::
I will be leasing the space. It is 3500 ft2 that is completely open with garage door, office, and AC!

From contributor D:
I would chip in with "check your electrical." 3 phase comes in different flavors, and not all are conducive to woodworking equipment. Get someone who knows to specifically tell you what you have and what you can run. I ended up buying a $2800.00 transformer and paying $900.00 to install it to run all my "normal" equipment. If you lease, make sure you get the electrical bill in your name. My (cheap) landlord had two tenants sharing 3 phase, and we never knew who was using what, when. He told me it was only a "little bit illegal," and therefore okay as long as I didn't rock the boat.

From contributor P:
You might want to read the chapters in the book "The Business of Woodwork" by Bill Norlin. He has a chapter on just this subject, with some sage advice. Since a lot of shops go broke when they move, it might be worth the read.

From contributor C:
When I relocated 10 years ago, I forgot to account for the cost of printing new stationary. Depending on your materials, this can be expensive. However, a move can be an excellent opportunity to communicate with existing and prospective clients. Announce the move, the growth, the huge leap forward, or whatever you want to call it, using the new stationary while inviting people to come see the new facilities.

From contributor F:
Thanks for the advice. Luckily my father-in-law is a master electrician and I come from a family of printers! Thanks for the lead on the book, I'll check it out. Isn't it amazing how the people you know and the people they know all play key roles in setting up a business? I don't think there is one person I don't know that is helping me to accomplish this move. Well, that's word of mouth for you...

From contributor M:
A few things you want to consider:
Downtime - The last move we did took way longer than I had anticipated, both in setting up the new shop and closing two others and cleaning them up to return in good condition. If I had it all to do again, I would have hired professional riggers to move all the equipment and set up and kept my guys on installs. I also should have hired a professional cleaning company to take care of old shops instead of paying my guys to do it. We weren't building for too long, which seriously depleted the cash reserve.

Dumpster fees - It is amazing the amount of crap you will accumulate thinking you may use it one day. When moving from the one shop that was there for 10 years we wound up throwing out 20 yards worth of stuff.

Storage fees - I did not leave enough overlap time to move. Equipment sat in trailer while waiting for all the extra things that I did not anticipate needing to do at new location.

Extra things at new shop - The biggest time killer was the wood floors that had poly finish on them. The first day while walking through empty space, I walked on a pile of sawdust and fell right down. It is amazing how slippery it was. So we had to rent floor sanders and completely take off the old finish, then primed and then two coats of floor paint with sand added for grip. In labor and materials, this cost over $7,000 plus an extra 4 days to do it of downtime.

Electric - Like others have said, this is very important. The building we moved into had plenty of power and it was the right phase, however we didn't realize how many junction boxes and how poorly wired everything had been done by countless people through the years. We had to trace back every single wire to boxes. Six panels in all. This took two weeks and close to $15,000 in labor and materials to fix.

All the little things add up - It is amazing how many little micro projects add up to tons of money and time. Do not underestimate all the new racks, tables, light fixtures, advertising, painting, everything and anything you can possibly imagine then another 50 you didn't think of.

Plan and procedures - Spend as much time possible in the planning and preparations for the move, then put them all in writing and sit down with all your guys to review and discuss. It is critical that the move go as fast as possible. The downtime will kill you financially. You do not want to be making decisions in the middle of the move that should have been thought of beforehand. You will have enough unexpected things come up to deal with. You want as much preplanned as possible.

Whatever you figure the costs in time and money, add 20% - you will need it.

Also remember that you don't own the building, so don't overbuild your setup. Eventually you will be moving to another location. No point in over-investing in something you don't own. At the same time, make sure the setup will be as efficient as possible during your stay.

From contributor E:
The above is well said. I wish I had done a great many things differently. Things I have learned from moves: Be sure to have a forklift at both ends, and that you don't overload the forklift on the receiving end. Be sure to have fuel for both! Riggers are a great value for moving high value/hard to move equipment, but absolutely be sure that everything is packed up and ready for them to pick it up; they bill by the hour, working or standing around waiting for your team to finish strapping the electrical cabinet to the equipment. On the receiving end, be sure you know where the capital equipment will be placed, and be aware of overhead obstructions, both in terms of moving the equipment into place, and routing air lines, dust collection, and electric.

Moving is kind of like installing software - it takes twice as much room to unpack stuff, and a great deal of the time spent will be unpacking and re-organizing your stuff. You may also have to restart your system more than once before you get back up and running.