leros

Converting back house into a shop

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I recently purchased a home with a back house that I'm planning on converting into a shop. I want to share my progress and also ask a bunch of questions :)

Let me start off by describing the back house in it's current condition. It's currently configured as a guest house suitable for renters. It has a full bathroom, a very small kitchen, a small bedroom, a decent sized living room, and a large window-less sound-proofed room. Before it was a guest house, it was configured as a recording studio which is why the large room is sound proofed. 

The rooms I'm planning on using as shop space:

  • The sound-proofed room
    • This room is 22' x 18' feet.
    • The floors and walls are floating, with sound proofed insulation between the exterior and interior walls. Something like this: illustration of floating walls and floors
    • Being a sound proofed room, it doesn't have any windows.
    • It has lots of 120v outlets: every few feet along the wall and a few in middle of the floor (due to it being a band room before)
    • I'm planning on making this the power tool room, with the hopes that the sound proofing will let me work later into the evening without disturbing the neighbors
  • The living room
    • This room is 14' x 16'
    • This has a few small windows and a large window facing into the backyard. 
    • You have to walk through this room to get to the sound-proofed room. 
    • I'm not sure what my plans are for this room as I'm not used to having so much space. It would certainly make sense to do finishing in this room. 
    • I'm going to add an exterior door to this room and make it the "entrance" into the shop. 

The other rooms:

  • Bathroom and kitchen
    • What shop doesn't need a toilet and a fridge? 
  • Bedroom
    • I may keep this as a bedroom for guests. Alternatively, I may turn this into an electronics lab. I have a room dedicated to electronics work in my current house, but I don't use it enough anymore to justify the space. 

My todo list for the conversion:

  • Replace flooring. Both rooms currently have a lovely lavender carpet that I want to replace with something shop-worthy. Not sure what I'm going to replace it with yet. A wood floor sounds appealing, but might be too costly. 
  • Convert living room window into exterior double door. 
  • Add side walk leading from drive way to new exterior door
  • Add better lighting to both rooms. They currently have dim track lighting. 
  • Consider adding 220v outlets to power tool room

I've attached some pictures of the space to this post.

Let me know what you think about the space and my plans. What would you do? Any Advice?

The whole back house: 

backhouse.jpg

The living room:

backhouse_livingroom.jpg

The sound-proofed band room:

backhouse_band_room.jpg

Floor plan:

shop_floorplan.jpeg

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3 minutes ago, TIODS said:

Should make a pretty awesome shop!  Bedroom would make a nice finishing room!

That's a good thought.

I currently don't know how I'm going to fill out both rooms, but I'm sure it won't be too difficult. I currently work out of a 16' x 16' garage so this will feel huge. In my garage shop, I barely have room for my existing tools. No room for an assembly table, larger table saw, larger jointer, etc. I'm currently on a 1 in 1 out tool policy. I recently got rid of my miter saw to make room for a lathe. This new shop will feel huge, but I'm sure I'll be hungering for more space in the near future ;)

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Awesome. I would probably add a couple more windows if it were me... Otherwise sounds like a good plan. Having a dedicated finishing area would be a nice luxury, as TIODS said.

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2 minutes ago, JosephThomas said:

Awesome. I would probably add a couple more windows if it were me... Otherwise sounds like a good plan. Having a dedicated finishing area would be a nice luxury, as TIODS said.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk

I'd love to add more windows, but I'm not sure if its feasible for the sound-proofed room with the walls being cinder blocks and having the sound-proofed layering. It's definitely something I'm thinking about though. I currently work in a window-less garage and having a few windows would do wonders. 

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13 minutes ago, leros said:

I'd love to add more windows, but I'm not sure if its feasible for the sound-proofed room with the walls being cinder blocks and having the sound-proofed layering. It's definitely something I'm thinking about though. I currently work in a window-less garage and having a few windows would do wonders. 

I see...Can you add windows from that room and into the others (assuming the other rooms have more natural light)?

Also, I love the little gabled entry-way on the left of the outside...if it were me I would keep that as the primary entrace to the building... Converting a window into a door involves a lot of work to keep the structure waterproof (removing siding, new flashing, putting the siding back, etc).  I guess if you wanted you could expand that front door...but it's always better to have an awning over the door, if possible, to limit rain water hitting the door directly.

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How about sky lights in the band room? it looks like the ceiling runs right under the room.  have you thought about fist collection off of the band room?  it would be nice for all the dust monsters to be in there and benches in the other space but I hate the idea of having to walk 30 steps to take another 128th off of a stick.

That kind of space will be awesome but without planning, it would easily become unruly without clear walk ways to get where you want to go . 

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32 minutes ago, JosephThomas said:

I see...Can you add windows from that room and into the others (assuming the other rooms have more natural light)?

Also, I love the little gabled entry-way on the left of the outside...if it were me I would keep that as the primary entrace to the building... Converting a window into a door involves a lot of work to keep the structure waterproof (removing siding, new flashing, putting the siding back, etc).  I guess if you wanted you could expand that front door...but it's always better to have an awning over the door, if possible, to limit rain water hitting the door directly.

Having a window from the band room into the living room is absolutely a possibility. See the built-in shelf in the band room? That was actually a window when this building was set up as a recording studio. 

Using the exterior front door is an idea worth considering. My main concern is that you have to pass through a bunch of doors. It's: front door -> laundry room -> bedroom -> kitchen -> living room. The laundry-to-bedroom and kitchen-to-living-room doors are double wide. I'm 90% sure the bedroom-to-kitchen door is normal width though, so that would need to be widened too. Honestly not thrilled about having to carry things through all those rooms. 

There is an also a side entrance to the kitchen, which could also possible be made double wide, although there is only 3 feet between that door and the fence, so getting large things in might be difficult. Hmm...

26 minutes ago, Brendon_t said:

How about sky lights in the band room? it looks like the ceiling runs right under the room.  have you thought about fist collection off of the band room?  it would be nice for all the dust monsters to be in there and benches in the other space but I hate the idea of having to walk 30 steps to take another 128th off of a stick.

That kind of space will be awesome but without planning, it would easily become unruly without clear walk ways to get where you want to go . 

Sky lights are something I've been thinking about. I'm also going to ask a contractor about the feasibility of busting a window through the cinder block and sound proofing.

My plan is for all the dust making things to be in the band room, with dust collection in there. That way I can close the doors and use the living room as a clean space if needed. 

I might have two benches. One in the band room and one in the living room. Haven't quite figured it out yet. I don't want to walk back and forth while doing power tool work, but I also want a work surface that isn't in the dusty room. 

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3 minutes ago, leros said:

That's an idea worth considering.

My main concern is that you have to pass through a bunch of doors. It's: front door -> laundry room -> bedroom -> kitchen -> living room. The laundry-to-bedroom and kitchen-to-living-room doors are double wide. I'm 90% sure the bedroom-to-kitchen door is normal width though, so that would need to be widened too. Honestly not thrilled about having to carry things through all those rooms. 

There is an also a side entrance to the kitchen, which could also possible be made double wide, although there is only 3 feet between that door and the fence, so getting large things in might be difficult. Hmm...

I see...any chance you could post a picture of the layout? 

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4 minutes ago, JosephThomas said:

I see...any chance you could post a picture of the layout? 

I actually don't have a floor plan for the guest house. I'll put one together and post it here. 

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Welcome to the forum, leros ! That is an awesome space you have there.

Adding windows to that big room would be nice and yes it is possible. If you have the money, pretty much anything is possible in construction.

I look forward to following this thread. Thanks for posting!

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Welcome to the forum.  That is a great space.  Personally I would leave the windows in the sound proof room until later.  You may find out that you like without.  The other option is a sonitube, they can add a lot of natural light.  If it was my space, I would leave the bedroom as a finishing room as Kev said.  The rest of the space I would open as much as possible. Good luck with the conversion. 

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 The other option is a sonitube, they can add a lot of natural light.  

Hey Bry, just so it's clear for the op, I think you are referring to a solatube and not a sonotube?

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Welcome, Leros! You have the makings of an awesome workspace there - color me jealous!

In your shoes, I think I would try to keep the sound-proof room intact, so I would choose artificial lighting over windows. As for the rest of the layout, its hard to say without a better understanding of your workflow. Do you build mostly jewelry boxes, or more large furniture? Casework / cabinets, or cutting boards and picture frames? Is more of your work done on the lathe, or the tablesaw? Lots of variables that could inform the most effective use of the space.

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Wow - congrats.  That is a freaking awesome space.  

Windows are nice, but a little overrated in my opinion.  We all have this romantic notion of planing a board with morning light filtering through a window.  The reality is I do most of my work when it is dark outside.   If you live in a cold climate, even the best windows suffer some heat loss**.  A skylight in the bandroom would be cool, but would be low on my list.  I do most of my work between September and May, and it is typically dark by 7pm (actually 4 in the winter) here.    

Common grade oak flooring is cheap, if you want to go that route.  Personally, I'd just rip up the carpet and use whatever subfloor is below.  If it is concrete, get some pads.  If it is ply/osb, just use that.  Maybe coat it with 2 or 3 coats of poly.   

I can't tell what kind of HVAC you have - if it is forced air, put all the fine dust producing machines in a single room and close off the cold air return.  You don't want that stuff getting into your furnace.  Put an over head air filter in that room.

This might sound funny - but if I had a space like that I'd set up one room as a design/library/creative space.  Get a nice chair, your woodworking books, notepads, drafting table, etc and keep it in that room.  Paint the walls your favorite color.   I have that stuff spread all over my house right now and I wish I could keep it in my shop.  For me, at least, woodworking is 80% mental.  I think through a design and do a lot of rough sketches before I make a single cut.  I tend not to work from third-party plans (in fact, I am using a plan for the first time ever on my current build), so a space where I could conceive ideas would be awesome.  

** (a little tanget... two years ago we replaced some of our original 1979 single pane windows with full frame Marvin Ultimate windows.   On a cold day (about 20F) I took an interior surface temperature reading... My single pane windows were about 30 degrees, by Marvin ultimates were 65 on the surface.  We are replacing the rest of the windows this year).  

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Welcome to the forum!

A couple of things, last year I purchased my house which included a secondary building the previous owners were using as a home office. I immediately converted that (still am converting it really) into my shop. The first thing I did was rip out the carpet. What I found underneath the carpet was a single layer of plywood overtop what felt like stringers every 16". I didn't bother to rip up the plywood so I am to this day not certain about that. Still I was concerned that my 300 to 700 lb machines would damage the floor so I put down another layer of (in my case) OSB right overtop the existing floor. With this double layer I felt more confident and my machines have been installed for more then a year with no issues at this point. 

My biggest problem by far is electricity. My shop was a home office and did not have its own subpanel. While there are plenty of outlets in my shop they are ALL running off the same 15amp circuit with the exception of a single 220 outlet which was installed for an air conditioner/heater. I have yet to fix my electricty problem but will at some point relatively soon (I will have an electrician install a 100amp subpanel)

The first thing I would do if I were you would be to figure out how many breakers are actually going to that sound proof room. At an absolute bare minimum you will need 2 different breakers and 3 or 4 would be preferred so that you could run a vacuum, a dust collector, a machine and an air filter all at the same time.

You absolutely should install 220 power into that room as well. You will probably at some point want a 220 machine be it either a table saw, a dust collector, or something else. Its very nice to have it and since you are going to be doing construction no matter what now is the time to get it installed.

I would skip the windows as well for the same reasons Mike mentioned. Natural light is great and all but over rated for the amount of expense and time involved in obtaining it.

I would skip the idea of keeping a room in that house as a guest room. Dust will get EVERYWHERE. There is no stopping the dust, there is no filtering it. Just thinking about sleeping next to a fully functioning shop in a bedroom that goes months between cleanings makes my skin itch. Seriously there is no way of preserving a room without extraordinary efforts. That being said, you definitely could have a home office in there. Not sure what your domestic situation is, but it is quite nice having a place that is completely yours where you can have a computer to go over plans etc.

Overall you got yourself a nice place for woodworking, it will be fun making it your own!

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If you are serious about a finishing room consider some way to pull fresh air into that room so the pressure is higher than in the shop. This will slow the shop dust from infiltrating the finish room. An exhaust fan from the shop would lower the pressure in there and add to the effect.

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Skylights or solatube would provide light for more of the day than a window . Wall space for shelves, tool cabinets and lumber racks can be a precious commodity.

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Here's a floor plan of the back house.

You can see how it's several doorways to get from the front door to what would be the shop space. 

shop_floorplan.jpeg

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Thanks for the responses everyone! It's been super helpful to get all your ideas. 

Natural light: 

The living room gets a ton of natural light. With the doors open, the band room gets enough light to keep me sane (i.e. not feeling like I'm in a basement). The side of the room by the doors is actually quite bright. The side to the right could maybe use a skylight or two in the future, but I think I'll ignore it for now as it may not bother me once I have better artificial lighting.

I went over there today and seeing how much light the band room already gets, I don't think I'd want to go through all the trouble of installing a window. I definitely don't want to lose the sound proofing. 

Dust and A/C:

I forgot to mention another feature of this building. The band room has it's own A/C system. The rest of the guest house is on another A/C system. It won't be 100%, but since I'll be isolating power tools to the band room, this should help prevent dust from getting spread through the whole house by the A/C. 

Doors:

Entering through the front door is certainly the most convenient. I'll have to walk through four doors to get the shop space. That's fine for walking out into the shop from the main house, but I'm not sure I'd want to carry lumber, tools, or large finished projects through that route.

For bringing in large items, entering through the side door could be a possibility. I'd need to re-adjust the door to open outwards. That's doable, but it still seems like navigating large things into the shop will be difficult with the layout. 

If there is a way to use the existing doors in an effective way, please tell me so I can avoid the cost of installing a new door and walkway. 

Design space or how to use the bedroom:

I will have a dedicated office in the main house. I could still see the bedroom being a design/making space. And possibly a guest room with a murphy bed. I don't know if I'll ever get back into things like electronics or 3d printing, but this could be the room for those things. Not sure yet - figuring out how to use this room is a problem for the future. 

Flooring:

I pulled the carpet up in a corner today. It's typical plywood underlayment underneath. When it was a recording studio, it had wooden floors, so I was hoping they would still be there. Oh well. 

I do think I'd like to invest in a nice floor. Not sure it necessarily needs to be real hardwood, but I would like something nicer than plywood or laminate. 

 

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13 hours ago, shaneymack said:

Hey Bry, just so it's clear for the op, I think you are referring to a solatube and not a sonotube?

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You are probably right, we installed in our house when I was like 12 and thought that is what my dad called it.  Well as I keep getting older and older my mind likes to betray me every now and then.

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Leros after looking at the plan, my first comment would be to remove the 2 closets.  The next thing I would do is to close the side door into the kitchen, and put a double door into the living room to bring materials in and projects out.  Just my 2 cents, but this could or should is say will be a really cool space.

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