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DIY projects

DIY workshop / shed / mancave

2020 was a year of pretty intense DIYing. As I bought more tools and made more things, it became obvious that we couldn’t use our garage for both storage and as ‘workshop’. All the woodwork was ridiculously messy and we were running out of space. Plus, the relentless power tool usage right next to our house + neighbours wasn’t ideal.

We’re lucky to have a pretty long garden and so once the idea of building my own workshop in a back corner of it popped into my head there was no going back! We were pretty cash-strapped after the extension so keeping costs down was key.

I’ve kept the details quite thin so if you’re planning on doing something similar and have any questions just shout in the comments box at the bottom.


Prepping for the floor

Once upon a time there must have been a wee shed in the back right corner of our garden as there was a small concrete pad when we moved in. This seemed like the obvious place to build the workshop as it’s far from any neighbours and not visible from our house.

The first job was to mark out the exact position. Being a farmer, my Dad was keen to build a barn-sized structure but we settled on 2.4 x 4.8 metres. These are standard sizes for timber so the idea behind this size was minimal cutting and waste.

I nabbed some paving stones for free off a neighbour and laid them on top of a fairly dry grit sand and cement mix to keep them steady.

Getting them all level was a faff but I didn’t fancy a wonky floor.

Half way through this job I realised that I’d definitely used more paving stones than was needed but I guess that’s better than too few. If you plan on doing something similar, you could probably leave out the middle section of paving stones as long as the floor joists are chunky.

Timber floor

Luckily for me, my Pa had some big ol’ joists hanging around as well as some 25mm ply sheets so that was the timber for the floor sorted. After cutting the joists to size, I added joist hangers and used 100mm screws to fix the outer frame to them. Then I used some offcuts as noggins along the middle. Don’t be a fool like me – put weed membrane down BEFORE the floor structure is fixed together.

I spent a while getting the frame square so there wasn’t too much fannying around to get the ply floor positioned properly. I fixed this to the joists with 60mm decking screws.

I left the final joist and ply sheet loose until the wall went up to make sure everything was perfectly flush.

Wall frames

Then, lockdown 2.0 arrived. Luckily, my Dad had planned on building the wall frames on the farm anyway. He made a jig out of steel so that the studwork walls would all be exactly the same dimensions while speeding up the process.

Then it was just a case of piling up the wall sections and waiting for lockdown to end.

As soon as Boris gave us the thumbs up, my Dad arrived with the walls and roof trusses in tow.

I couldn’t believe how quick the walls went up.

After 3 hours the walls were fixed in place, with bolts joining the studs and 100mm screws fixing the frames into the ply floor and joists.

The good progress allowed for a chips and gravy lunch. Yes, those are lagers #lads.

Post-grub, the roof trusses went in – another J. Leaf Snr. creation. The two middle roof trusses are made out of angle iron to add rigidity and the purlins that support the roof sheets are simply lengths of the same studwork used to build the walls. We were careful when planning this baby to keep the overall height to below 2.5 metres to avoid needing planning permission.

The next day was pretty stressful as we rushed to get the roof on before crap weather arrived. This led to a hurried and not particularly good job. Fortunately, only birds will see it. The roof is made mainly out of corrugated bitumen roof sheets with a couple of clear polycarbonate sheets to let in more light. I would not recommend using either of these – more on this later in the post…

We also fitted the windows that I’d found for free on FB marketplace.

To temporarily waterproof her, we tacked some membrane in place. Is it just me or from this point on does it start looking a bit cross-eyed?

Cladding

I liked how the cladding turned out on our garage so decided to use feather edge for the workshop too. After fixing the trim in place, I roped in some more support crew for this so while I cut the boards to length, Will and my Dad nailed them in place. The wee jig you can see in the below photo made getting the spacing even really quick and easy.

The cross-eyed look didn’t get any better! Thankfully you’d need to be at the very back of the garden to witness this deformed face.

After that it was just a case of cladding the other three sides, including adding some 150 x 25mm boards and a wee diamondy thing to finish things off. I dipped all freshly cut ends in wood preserver.

Doors

I used the same half-lap method that I used on our driveway gate for the workshop doors, allowing a 5mm gap all around the frame.

I clad the doors, being careful to align this with the cladding that was already on the front walls. Feather edge isn’t ideal to fix hinges and other hardware to due to the fact that it’s angled, so I switched out the feather edge with some 100 x 25mm timber where the hinges are mounted.

For extra security, I added some long bolts to some of the hinge mounting holes so that the hinges can’t be unscrewed from the outside. After this, it was a case of adding hardware including bolts to the inside and a hasp and staple on the front.

Roof dramas

At this point, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the roof sheets were dripping water all over the floor any longer…

The problem was particularly bad in the morning when it had been really cold the night before. The humid and warmer air in the workshop would rise and hit the cold roof sheets, leading to condensation which ran down the roof sheets, onto the purlins and then onto the ground.

This was really frustrating and annoying because I couldn’t move in until the problem was sorted. ‘Roofing Megastore’, who sold me the roof sheets, said that the condensation was ‘an environmental factor’ and so not an issue with the sheets themselves. I suggested that the point of a roof is to deal with ‘environmental factors’ but surprisingly, my sarcasm got me nowhere.

ANYWAY, after some research I decided to insulate the roof, hoping that this would separate the warmer, humid air from the cold roof sheets. I cut up some second-hand polystyrene and pushed it up into the gaps between the purlins. I left a small gap between the roof sheets and insulation to help ventilation.

I sealed up all the joins with aluminium tape.

The last step was to fix 9mm OSB to the underside of the purlins which looked neat and added an extra layer of insulating material.

Touch wood, I’ve had no condensation issues since doing this.

I put down some second-hand laminate flooring to help protect the floor. This would also help stop damp rising up through the floor and into the workshop.

Ramp

Up until this point, I’d been using a crate as a step. Not really a long-term solution, and in the summer I may want to wheel my workbench outside. I dug out an area in front of the door to build a ramp into.

The whole thing is made out of scaffold boards. First, I cut out identical joists and a header. I fixed the joists into the header and then the header into the workshop front joist. I sat the bottom of the joists on some paving flags to help spread the load.

Next, I added some noggins from scrap wood.

Then it was just a case of cutting the top scaffold boards to length and screwing them in place. This ramp won’t last forever as it’s not pressure treated, but I did give all the wood 2 coats of preserver.

Inside

With the outside done, I turned my attention inside. The first job was to make a new workbench. There are a 967 videos on YouTube of DIY workbenches so I watched them all, twice, and decided that this was the best one.

Apparently you’re supposed to be able to make it in under an hour. It took me 6… A bit of a Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals situation, if you know what I mean.

But still, 6 hours is pretty good for a really sturdy workbench that will hopefully last decades. I put some locking castors on the bottom so I can wheel it around which has already proven super handy.

I’ve started moving my french cleat tool wall from the garage into the workshop.

Too many jobs on the to-do list at the moment so I’ll have to finish off the french cleats and sheathing the rest of the workshop walls at a later date. The only other jobs still to do are paint the outside & put in a permanent electric supply as I’m currently making do with a humongous extension lead.


It’s fair to say that I am in love with my new workshop/shed/mancave. Having a dedicated space to make stuff is absolutely dreamy. I get the workshop, Haz gets the house, everyone’s happy!

Cost-wise, the build came to around £1,200. It would have been a lot more if the joists, floor, windows and laminate weren’t free. As per most of these projects, it cost more than I was expecting. This one I justify with the dozens of hours I spend in there every week!

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DIY concrete panel garage cladding

If our pebbledash garage had a mother, she’d call her own child ugly.

We thought of giving it away for free but decided that rather than get rid of it then build a replacement shed a similar size (5 x 2.5 metres) for a few grand, we’d simply tart up what we already had. It wasn’t quite as simple as hoped, but I reckon the finished result was worth it.

If you’re interested in doing something similar, the materials and equipment I used are at the bottom of this post.


Battens

The concrete that’s used to create the pre-fab panels of sectional garages is incredibly dense and often reinforced, meaning that drilling into it is a nightmare. Whilst a powerful SDS drill may just about manage it, you’ll likely burn out the motor, ruin dozens of masonry bits and risk shattering the panels. So after reading various horror stories, I decided to work out another way of cladding our garage.

Garages like ours are made up of a number of tall concrete panels, usually 60cm wide. They’re fixed together with long bolts that attach through flanges on the inside.

Because the garage is made up of separate sections, there are small gaps every 60cm where panels meet. I figured that these openings would be much easier to drill through than straight into the concrete.

After drilling 3 holes down each panel gap, I threaded a long bolt through a batten on both the inside and outside of the wall and used a flange head nut either side to tighten the battens against the wall. In case that made no sense whatsoever, here’s a wee diagram that my glamorous assistant drew.

Rather than buying long bolts, I bought some lengths of M6 threaded rod and used an angle grinder and a file to make my own (way cheaper).

The inside and outside battens effectively pull against each other with the concrete panels in between, making a very robust concrete sandwich and a perfect surface against which to nail the cladding onto. The added bonus of using this method is that I was left with battens throughout the inside of the garage which I’ve used to make a French cleat tool storage wall.

Chances are, you’ll still have to sacrifice a few masonry bits for this job as the concrete is ridiculously hard stuff. The bit below doesn’t look like it, but once upon a time it was a masonry bit, before the concrete ripped off the cutting tip. So it’s worth having a few bits on hand and definitely use an SDS drill rather than a bog standard combi drill on hammer mode.

I found it helped to drill a small hole first before drilling a larger hole that the bolt would comfortably fit through.

This technique worked well for the rear and right side of the garage (didn’t clad the left side as it’s hidden by a fence), but the front only had one very small panel either side of the garage door and so no gaps between panels. This meant finding alternative ways to fix the battens in place.

I used a combination of adhesive & brackets which worked okay but I’d definitely recommend drilling through the gaps where possible.

Once a few of the battens were in place, I moved onto cladding.

Cladding

To be consistent with the driveway gate that I built, I opted for feather edge to clad the garage. It’s pretty cheap compared to other options and I think it looks great.

The cladding process was really easy once the battens were in place. After measuring up, I’d cut a length of feather edge to size and then give it a quick sand with 80 grit sandpaper. You don’t need to do this, but feather edge boards are typically made from quite low quality timber and so a cheeky sand makes a big difference.

Before fixing the cladding in place I dipped the cut ends in a wood preserver. In time, the end grain will rot if no preserver is applied so it’s really important to do this.

With the cladding cut to length, sanded and preserved, it was time to start fixing the boards in place. Starting at the bottom and working up, I’d rip cut the first board to just 3cm wide with my circular saw (easier with table saw) as this would provide the packer for the bottom feather edge board so that it would jut out at the bottom. Otherwise the first board would sit flat against the battens which wouldn’t look right.

With the bottom packer in place, I begin nailing the rest of the boards in place. Each board is 12.5cm wide and is overlapped by 2.5cm by the board above. To make sure that the galvanised ring shank nails I used went through only the top board and not the one it overlaps (to reduce the chance of splitting), I hammered nails in 3cm from the bottom of the board. Remember to give the nail a couple of taps to blunt the tip or you’ll split the the wood like I did.

You could make a simple jig to make sure that the boards are positioned with exactly 10cm of overlap. Instead of doing this, once I’d fixed a board in place I’d just make a mark 2.5cm down from the top and then used a spirit level to make sure the spacing was consistent across the length of the board.

If you’ve not got anyone to help you hold the cladding in place whilst you hammer in nails, it’s worth tapping the nails in slightly before offering the boards up to the battens so you can focus on getting your levels right.

After the first two or three boards you get into a flow and can make some decent progress in an hour or two. It’s worth screwing in a temporary length of scrap wood onto the batten where the cladding ends so that it butts up against it and is perfectly vertical.

While cladding my workshop more recently, I made a couple of jigs to make the feather edge spacing quicker and I’d really strongly recommend doing this. Much quicker and more accurate so the 10mins spent cutting out the jigs is well worth it. You can see an example of the jig in the below pic.

Cladding the back of the garage was pretty much the same process as the side. The main difference being the finishing trim at the top. For this, I just nailed in a couple of lengths of 150mm x 25mm pressure treated wood and covered the gap where they met in the middle with an off-cut that I sawed into a diamond sort of thing.

Cladding the front was quick because there were just two tiny sections either side of the door to clad, and I did the same thing at the top as I did with the back to make it look pretty.

There’s definitely a bit of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ about the front of the garage as the metal door is a bit of an eyesore. We plan on painting the cladding light grey and the door dark grey one day which will hopefully make the front look better.

Trim

The cladding alone is a big improvement, but the corners of the garage and areas where two lengths of wood meet would look a mess without adding some trim. Also, the exposed cut edges of the feather edge would, in time, rot, even with the preserver treatment, so it’s important to cover them up.

At each corner of the garage, I fixed in place a length of 47mm x 47mm timber which the cut ends of the feather edge butt up against. I used adhesive and decking screws and will fill in the screw holes before painting.

I tidied up the cut ends along the side and back with lengths of 38mm x 47mm pressure treated timber that I screwed sideways into the battens.

For the bits of trim around the window I had to use my router to cut out a notch so that the window sill would sit inside. You could use a jigsaw for this but a router’s much neater.

After adding trim around the window, the orangey brown windowsill started looking pretty horrid so I grabbed a length of the same wood I used for the window trim and routed out a section that would let it sit on top of the existing window sill. A table saw would have been far easier but at the time I didn’t have one – I now could not live without one.

The window looked way better once it was surrounded by trim.

As with the battens, fixing the trim in place on the front of the garage was a right faff. Again, I used loads of adhesive, brackets screwed into the concrete floor and decking screws into the wood fascia until I was happy that the trim would stay in place. I fixed trim in place around the door like I had with the window.

Once I’d added the finishing trim around the door and cladding the section above it, I was done.


After a fair few nights of work, we’re really pleased with the result. At points I was doubting whether it was worth it but it cost less than £300 to turn a butt ugly pebbledash garage into a pretty handsome ‘faux shed’.

And I love the new French cleats!

If you enjoyed this post, check out some other projects like my fitted wardrobe, driveway gate or decking with integrated seats.

Equipment

  • Hammer
  • Combi drill & wood bits
  • SDS drill & masonry bits
  • Spirit level
  • Metal ruler
  • Router
  • Socket set
  • Angle grinder
  • Orbital sander & 80 grit sanding discs
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps

Materials

  • 40mm galvanised ring shank nails
  • 38 x 25mm pressure treated timber (battens)
  • 125mm pressure treated feather edge boards
  • 47 x 47mm pressure treated rough sawn timber
  • 47 x 38mm pressure treated rough sawn timber
  • 150 x 22mm pressure treated rough sawn timber
  • Sikaflex adhesive
  • Wood preserver
  • L brackets
  • M6 threaded rod
  • Flange nuts
  • Decking screws