Shopping: Real Estate |  Costumes  |  Guitars
This Issue Archived Articles Blog About Us Contact Us

Building a Home Workshop, Part 5

Passing council inspection

by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Drains
  • Landcsaping
  • Stormwater
  • Council inspection
Email a friend     Print article

Last week in Building a Workshop, Part 4 I’d just finished erecting the 14 x 6 metre workshop. The walls were up, the roof done and the two roller doors in place. In fact, the construction was all finished, eh?

Well, no!

The council needed to come and inspect the work, and before they’d give the OK, I reckon quite a lot more work was needed. What sort of work, then? Try drains and stormwater collection!


Now I never thought I’d be writing in AutoSpeed about digging trenches and installing drains, but if my workshop was to get the council tick, I figured they were a necessity. To put this another way, it’s very likely that anyone building a home workshop will also need to consider this aspect.

Click for larger image

The workshop is situated on land that has been cut and filled. That is, the original land was sloping and to level it for the shed, the soil on the hillside was scooped out and that soil placed lower on the slope. To hold up the upper slope, a ~1 metre rock retaining wall was built.

When this wall was installed, the contractor placed a perforated plastic drain pipe behind the bottom rocks, back-filling over the pipe with coarse gravel. However, no attempt was made to give this pipe a ‘fall’, so consequently, I have never seen any water come out of its end!

Instead, what I have seen is water pooling between the base of the retaining wall and the shed slab, a distance of about 600mm. The soil is impermeable clay and because this strip is always shaded from the sun, after rain the standing water could remain present for a week or more. Furthermore, in times of really heavy rainfall, I thought it possible the water could reach the level of the concrete shed floor.

I could see most of this before the shed slab was poured. I even said: “Hmm, I reckon that will need a drain – and it will be easier to install it before the shed is built!” However, I did nothing – stupid, stupid, stupid!

Why ‘stupid’? Well, having now installed the drain, I know for sure that I should have done so before the shed was erected – it would have been far easier to dig the drain, and with a solid surface on which to work (rather than mud), also far easier to build the shed!

Anyway, after the shed was built, I decided to install a slightly subsurface drain. This comprised a 20 metre long trench dug to an average depth of about 75mm. At the point where the water pooled, the trench was only about 50mm deep, but at the end where the water would discharge, it was about 150mm deep.

Click for larger image

Digging the trench was a right pain in the bum – what with rocks that had to be broken up with a sledgehammer and crowbar, and tree roots that had to be individually cut with a saw. Not to mention shovelling the sticky clay while working in a narrow space!

Click for larger image

Along the base of the trench I placed a layer of coarse gravel...

Click for larger image

... then inserted a 20 metre long perforated drainage pipe, 50 mm in diameter. Over the top of the drainage tube I placed more gravel, in fact enough to fill the trench and then cover the surface soil between the base of the retaining wall and the shed.

The gravel is both porous (there are lots of spaces between the stones) and permeable (the spaces are connected). Water can therefore flow down to the perforated tube, but in addition, water can also flow down the slope of the trench by passing through the interconnected gravel pore spaces.

Click for larger image

Putting the gravel in place took a long time. The distance between the wall and the shed is too small to fit a wheelbarrow, so each shovel-load of gravel had to be carried down individually. Perhaps 200 shovel-loads were needed.

Other Sides

So that was the drain finished on the southern side – now, what about the other sides? On the north and west sides I couldn’t imagine water accumulating – the steep slopes are away from the shed. However, what I could see happening was these areas becoming very wet with run-off from the walls of the shed. Run-off from the walls occurs when there is wind-driven rain.

(If I seem to be talking about rainfall a lot, there’s a good reason. Where I live in the Gold Coast hinterland, the annual average rainfall is 1500mm; it’s not unknown to receive 200mm in one day!)

Click for larger image

To prevent water making a mud bath at the base of the walls, I decided to place gravel ‘paths’ (they’re not really paths!) on the north and west sides. Because there was sufficient space to use a wheelbarrow, and the gravel didn’t need to be as deep as that used over the drain, these ‘paths’ were fairly quick and easy to put in place.

The gravel and the drain tube cost AUD$220 and this work took two days.

Stabilising Slopes

Another aspect I expected the council inspector to be looking at closely was the stability of the slopes. Any slope shallower in angle than 45 degrees is normally regarded as OK, but again with a high annual rainfall, you don’t want steep slopes that are not covered in vegetation or mulch.

Click for larger image

So much to the astonishment of my neighbours, who haven’t seen me do a scrap of gardening in 8 years, I found myself spreading mulch all over the place! I bought six bales of compressed sugar cane mulch and spread this over all the bare slopes. This was a quick and easy job, taking only a few hours. The mulch cost $30.


The gutters and downpipes were provided as part of the kit for the shed. However, I chose not to use the square downpipes, instead fitting adaptors directly to the gutter outlets and using 90mm round U-PVC pipe.

Click for larger image

These pipes were run to a 13,500 litre rainwater tank that had been installed on a pad made at the time of the original shed earthworks. The tank cost $2163 but the Queensland government reimbursed $1000 of this cost. The 90mm pipe and fittings cost $130.

Where I live there is no reticulated water, so the house is run entirely on rainwater. The workshop tank is not actually plumbed into this system (although this could easily be done if the main, larger tank ran low). Instead, the main purpose of the new tank will be to supply vegetable gardens.

The installation of the plumbing – and painting it – took about a day.

Council Inspection

After I’d made the appointment for the shed to be inspected by the planning authority (in my case, the local council), I was rather worried. This was primarily because I didn’t know what was going to be inspected!

Would the inspector run around with a plumb-bob, assessing the verticality of every column and wall? Or would he have a torque gauge and measure the torquing of every bolt and Tek screw? Or would he simply glance at the shed to confirm it looked something like its plans, and then look more thoroughly at the stability of slopes, heights of retaining walls and handling of run-off?

I didn’t know – and so I was worried!

Click for larger image

In actuality, the inspection was somewhere between the two extremes. The inspector carried a tape measure and the engineering drawings. He inspected every column and rafter to make sure it was the correct size and gauge; he inspected the base of every column to make sure it was bolted to the floor; he inspected every corner trim piece to ensure it was attached; he measured distances from the boundaries; he looked at the rainwater tank and the Tek screws and bolts. But he didn’t ask any questions about drainage!

After about 20 minutes of looking, measuring and noting, he made two comments. The first was that the overflow of the rainwater tank should be plumbed away from the base so that the falling water would not scour the fill on which it was standing, and the second was that in times of very heavy rainfall, I might need more downpipes. The second was a suggestion, the first I took as a command!

The inspector then handed over the signed approval. Interestingly, this document has just three categories:

  • Building sited as per plan

  • Stormwater system in place

  • Constructed as per plan

And there was a tick in each box!

Now, could I say the workshop was complete? Nope – not without electrical lighting and power.

Next week - lighting

Go here for the next in this series.

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

Did you enjoy this article?

Please consider supporting AutoSpeed with a small contribution. More Info...

Share this Article: 

More of our most popular articles.
Build your own battery charger for nearly nothing

DIY Tech Features - 21 October, 2008

Dirt Cheap DIY Battery Charger

An incredible construction

Special Features - 1 October, 2013

The Falkirk Wheel

A forgotten Japanese classic

Special Features - 6 January, 2009

Mitsubishi Colt Fastback

Quick, easy and effective

DIY Tech Features - 11 January, 2011

Fitting a Short-Shift

The beautiful 1950s Mercedes 300SL

Special Features - 27 February, 2008

The Gull-Wind Marvel

Do-it-yourself aero testing of the Mazda RX7

Technical Features - 11 July, 2007

Aero Testing, Part 5

Beautiful and sophisticated, but was it a technological dead-end?

Special Features - 30 June, 2009

The NS Savannah

The world's brightest flashing bike tail-lights?

DIY Tech Features - 18 February, 2008

Building a High Performance LED Lighting System, Part 2

Setting up oxy acetylene gear

DIY Tech Features - 29 June, 2007

Beginners' Guide to Welding, Part 2

Improve BOTH power and fuel economy!

DIY Tech Features - 9 September, 2008

Auto Air Conditioner Controller

Copyright © 1996-2020 Web Publications Pty Limited. All Rights ReservedRSS|Privacy policy|Advertise
Consulting Services: Magento Experts|Technologies : Magento Extensions|ReadytoShip