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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!