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A New Home Workshop, Part 10

The series conclusion

By Julian Edgar

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Over the last nine issues we’ve followed the planning, construction and equipping of a major home workshop. So what are the aspects of the finished design that work well and not so well?

The Design

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The workshop uses a 12 x 8 metre floor area and a wall height of 5 metres. Four clear sheets are placed in the roof. Two roller doors are fitted, each 3.1 x 3 metres. A personal access door is also installed.

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The 8 metre width was chosen to allow cars to park across this width but to still provide space at each end of the cars. This has been effective, with plenty of room for a 59cm wide workbench to run along one wall of the shed.

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The 8 metre width is also needed when a rotating spit is being used to work on a car body – when extended, the spit is about two metres longer than the car (and much longer than shown here), and in a normal 6 metre wide shed, that would have made things very squeezy - if not impossible.

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The light and ventilation able to be provided by the open roller doors is great – much more than I expected. In mild weather, having the roller doors fully up provides about 18 square metres of opening – plenty of airflow.

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The high roof has an unexpected benefit in that the natural light from the clear roofing sheets is very evenly distributed throughout the workshop.  To imagine this effect, think of the opposite - a very low roof with a few clear sheets. You can see that the light would be concentrated on the floor directly beneath the sheets. For the same angle of light dispersion, a high roof means the light is spread much more broadly. This effect was quite unexpected, and it is particularly good in overcast weather.

I didn’t want a personal access door (we included it because my wife wanted it) but with the large size of the roller doors, access is indeed much easier through the smaller door.

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The 5 metre wall height has been heavily utilised in the type of storage system chosen – primarily 4.6 metre high pallet racking. This has allowed little intrusion on floor space while still giving plenty of storage.

Downsides of the shed design? Accessing storage often requires the use of a ladder, and initial construction and wiring are a lot harder with such tall walls.


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The concrete comprises a slab 12 x 8 metres x 100mm. It uses 11 piers going into the ground by depths ranging from 40 – 95cm. (The longer piers are where the earth was built up to provide a level pad.) A strengthened area 400 x 180cm by an additional thickness of 50mm was included for a hoist, and another thickening the full width of the shed was included for a potential mezzanine floor support. The area for the hoist also had an additional layer of steel reinforcing mesh installed.

The concrete surface was kept wet for a week after being laid.

The surface of the concrete is very hard and smooth. It was noticeable when drilling holes for mounting the workbench and pallet racking that the top one-third of the concrete was harder than the lower two-thirds – presumably the result of the slower curing caused by watering the surface.

However, around the edge of the section thickened for the installation of a hoist, a long hairline crack has developed. I imagine that this is because the extra mesh causes greater expansion pressures with temperature changes.


After a lot of thought, and despite having access to a second-hand, two-post quality hoist at an excellent price, I decided to not install a hoist.

The main reason that I didn’t go ahead is the lack of flexibility. So what do I mean?

In order to cater for a large car on the hoist, the hoist would need to have been mounted near the middle of one of the three bays. So even without the hoist being used, there would be a substantial space intrusion.

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With a car on the hoist, the whole of that bay (ie one-third of the shed) would be ‘used up’ – irrespective of the size of the car.

Compare that with using jack-stands and/or ramps.

If I am working on the front of a small car, the ramps can be placed under the front wheels and the car placed with its rear near the door of the bay. In this way, only about half of the bay is filled. The car also takes up no more room than its plan form (compared with when it’s on a hoist, where it is effectively about 2 metres wider).  

This flexibility in car placement means that there’s room to get an engine crane in front of a car (this would be quite awkward with a hoist in the same bay) and means that when no car is being worked on, the entire floor space is free.

Of course the downside is the low height to which a car can be elevated, using just ramps and jacks.

Considering that the shed floor was strengthened for a hoist, and a special power point was also installed to cater for the hoist’s electrical requirement, this change of mind was pretty significant!

Landscaping and stormwater handling

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The areas immediately around the walls of the shed have been covered with river pebbles, and the batter slopes with bark chips. Roof run-off is collected in a 10,000 litre tank whose overflow goes to a dedicated absorption trench.

Very heavy rainfall has shown that a drain needs to be built at one side of the shed – the natural slope of the block directs an unexpectedly large amount of run-off towards the shed and this needs to be diverted.


The wiring comprises in summary the following:

·       12 high intensity metal halide lights

·       2 compact fluorescents

·       12 wall-mounted power points

·       5 hanging power points

·       3 hanging radiant heaters

·       1 wall mounted oscillating fan

At the time of writing, I’ve yet to use the heaters. However, the fan works well, with in our dry heat the shed quite useable in shed temps of 35 degrees C (just keep up your fluid intake!).

The lighting is excellent, with the high mounting of the HID lights giving very even illumination and a no dark shadows. In fact, if the HID lights are switched on in the late afternoon and I get lost in what I am doing, I am often surprised to walk outside and see how dark it is – the lights give an illumination very much like daylight.

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However, the two 20W compact fluorescents (used only when fetching something from the shed at night and prior to the HID lights coming up to full brilliance) are pretty dim. They’re OK for their intended use but they certainly wouldn’t want to be much duller.   I may well uprate them to a higher power when they fail.

The power points (especially the hanging ones) are great. However, because the wall power point positions were decided before the shed internal layout was finalised, a few of the outlets will be rarely (if ever) used.

Mounting the switchboard next to the personal access door allows the main switch to be turned off as I leave: that way, you know that nothing has been left on and that standby power usage (eg by the sound system) is zero. A neon pilot light has been added to the switchboard to show when the main switch is turned on.

Lighting overkill?

Very few home workshops run as much lighting as this one. However, I think that if you are going to do much of your work at night, you can never have too much illumination.

Bright lighting reduces fatigue, lowers your chance of making mistakes, and quickens your work.


So how much did the workshop cost? Quite a lot – but perhaps only two-thirds of what it would have cost without careful watching of the budget and shopping around.

Here’s the breakdown (all in Australian dollars):

Site Preparation

Bobcat hire


Planning and Approval

Council plans lodgement


OHS course


Owner Builder Course


Owner builder registration


Kit and construction

Shed kit





Concrete slab


Stormwater and landscaping

Stormwater storage and handling


Landscaping pebbles





Scaffold hire



Pallet beams


Pallet end frames


Pallet timber slats



Reconditioning of existing bench


Construction of new bench






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I’m pretty happy with the new workshop.

Right now I am doing bodywork on an old car and stripping another, more recent, car for its parts. There is sufficient room for the two cars, an engine crane and workbenches – the workshop is proving to be effective at just the type of work I envisaged when planning it.  

The parts in this series:

Part 1 - Clearing the space

Part 2 - Planning the design

Part 3 - Gaining planning authority approval

Part 4 - The concrete slab

Part 5 - Getting the shed erected

Part 6 - Stormwater handling

Part 7 - The electricals

Part 8 - Organising storage

Part 9 - Building the workbenches

Part 10 - Evaluating the outcome

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

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