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New Work Shop Building


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This may seem odd, given that I am in the building business - but,

Does anyone have an opinion on what might make the best work shop building?

Some of you may know that we currently rent a pretty large shop area from a good friend of ours in an industrial complex.

It's been a great convenience for us. Close to home, well lit, warm and with plenty of space for our large stationary bridge crane which allows easy heavy lifts. We keep all of the trailers and "future" projects in a gravel quarry a very short distance away.

Anyway, we are losing the shop space soon to a business that is expanding within the facility. A temporary solution is available to us in the same complex for about six months, but the handwriting is on the wall.

We would like to buy a piece of land and build a large shop for ourselves. It would be much more efficient for the truck operations if all of the trailers and assorted equipment could move with us to one central facility. The land options actually appear to be pretty plentiful.

The question is - if we were to think about a building approximately 48' to 60' wide and 80' to 100' long with a 20' ceiling height, which would make the best material choice - a steel sided wood pole structure, a completely steel structure, or a fabric covered steel truss building with rigid end panels?

In all cases, we want to be able to insulate and heat the building.

The fabric covered building is a new idea. It sure does have some advantages. But I am really curious as to the disadvantages, if any. We are in an Upstate New York snow belt area, so the load ratings of any building concern me.

I have priced both the wood and steel structures, and there is not much difference between the two.

Any feedback would be appreciated.


Paul Van Scott

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Typically, a steel building will allow a much larger clear span area. If your primary objective is to get your tools, equipment, and projects under cover in your own shop quickly, that might be the way to go. Then again, if your business pursuits allowed you to do so, you might stick build it faster. Either way, what ever would make you happy would be the best. Since you are starting with a clean sheet of paper, it would be a good time to make a list of all the things you liked about your old shop, as well as the things you didn't like. I like a well lit, well ventilated work area, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. If I were building a new shop, I would try to utilize all the ambient lighting that I could design into it. The time is coming when every one who operates a truck or a piece of equipment will have to account for every gallon of oil purchased for that equipment. To heat my new shop I would buy the best waste oil heater I could find. My friend operates an engine shop close by in Tenn. The state of Tenn. bought him a heater and set up a 500 gallon collection tank. In return he agreed to recycle used oil for area residents. It might be good for some of the other members to sound off about what they like in a work area. Shoot we might even draw up some plans for Paul's Ideal workshop.

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I have had 2 wast oil heaters and the brand name on both is Lanaire and i like them. I keep my shop which is only 30 x40 as warm as my house with it and there is no telling how much gas would cost to heat it as warm as we heat this. My brother has built two shops one wood and one metal and in okla the price he tells me is close whether wood or metal. Mine is a pole barn design and i think all time about the post that is in the ground even if they are in concret, but i think they could rot off sooner than they should.I know they will out last me but when i am gone i would like somthing standing for a few more years longer than me.

glenn akers

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Thanks guys, these are good ideas.

I agree with you Glenn, the wood posts below grade are the weakest part of a pole structure.

But I think if they are done right, the pole barn is a good way to go.

If we were to use a wood or steel building, we would line the interior with white steel sheeting for good light.

And we would use a row of large fixed pane windows up high on the two side walls for natural light.

As for more ambient light - I have inquired about a fabric covered steel truss structure - More on that later.

Waste oil is probably a very good way to heat a building used as a shop. And it might even be more effective

if we put the tubing in the concrete floor, and use the waste oil to fuel a boiler for in-floor radiant heat.

Heat's a big deal for us - even though we only keep a shop between 55 & 60 degrees,

we turn the heat on in September and don't turn it off until late May.

The lighting in our current shop is all from overhead by high intensity metal halide fixtures.

I have done numerous facilities for manufacturing, fabricating shops and an aircraft hangar in

which we placed a continuous row of flourescent lighting on the walls at about 8' off the floor.

That worked real well in conjunction with the overhead lights.

In the aircraft building, we also built flourescent fixtures into the walls at floor level so you could see

under the airplane when you were working down there.

We do have some time, so I'm hoping to look around a bit and ask a lot of questions before making a decision.

As I develop a prototype, I will sketch it up and post it here for review.

Paul Van Scott

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