View Full Version : Semi-OT: How big is too big for a garage/workshop?

10-05-2012, 10:56 PM
Short version of a long story: we bought an 1800's era schoolhouse last year with the intention of renting out the schoolhouse and having my mom live in the 1920's vintage inlaw cottage while I use the 1950's vintage garage/workshop however I like. Thing is, now that it's gotten to the point that we're ready to fix up the garage SWMBO has realized that putting a gambrel (2 pitch barn-style) roof onto the existing 27' x 40' structure would make the "garage" larger than our current house (~1800sq-ft). I don't particularly have a problem with this, as I've already acquired a quite comfortable couch and have a 3 keg commercial kegerator for it (in additional to the home shop stuff), but figured I'd ask to see what you all think would qualify as "too big".

A couple mitigating points to keep in mind:
1. our current place is on .2 acre, compared to the .5 acre our very-similar-looking-planned-garage is on

2. chances are we'll move to the new place for at least a couple years, as we're currently in a particularly *BAD* school district and the "new" place is in a *particularly GOOD* one (daughter is 2 and a half)

3. while the fact that the property is on a major thoroughfare is a minus value-wise, I believe it is grandfathered for home-business/light industrial (garage was the workshop for a HVAC/roofing guy prior to his passing 10-15 years ago)

4. who could say no to a house sized garage???

But long story short, I've got a 27' x 40' structure to put a roof on and probably won't keep the property long term. Throwing a 12/12 gable roof on it came back at ~$23k, so would you bother putting a gambrel on it to increase the room upstairs or simply redo the failed flat roof?



10-05-2012, 11:40 PM
Given my druthers (not my wife's!) I would build a 3000 sqft barn like shop with shop downstairs and a living area upstairs. I would plunk a 200 sqft "house" out front for the county to assess but would live in the barn. In another life I guess this will come true.:rolleyes:

Jim Hubbell
10-06-2012, 12:03 AM
My 64X40 shop with 12ft. ceiling is under my living quarters. The machine tools are in an adiquate sized room which may be heated and comfortable in the winter. Full size pool table for when I need to relax. If needed the whole shop can be brought up to a comfortable temperature in about 15minutes. As long as I am carefull to not spread out too much there is pleanty of room.

Dr Stan
10-06-2012, 12:31 AM
To answer the question posed in the title, there is no such thing as too big of a shop. :)

10-06-2012, 12:40 AM
If you have to use a golf kart to go from one end of the shop to the other, and it runs out of gas...or the batteries die before you get there, it's just big enough.

10-06-2012, 01:00 AM
There is too big in terms of taxes, heating, constructional costs, etc, but not in terms of usage. My shop at about 900 sq ft total is now too small. We have about 5 times that much space at work, and I've looked around in there with the idea 'if this were my shop'- for the projects I want to do yet, it's not too large. I don't have grand aspirations either, just the desire to have room to do some of the things I'd like to. For me, there will always be several projects in the works at one time, and it's not practical to move one out of the way for another for the most part. There are projects which come up which I must do that are not of my imagination- things that have to be fixed, etc. I have never had enough workbenches, or rolling carts for that matter. Everything needs a space, and there must be room to get around easily, which also includes larger items like vehicles. I do hope I get to build my 'dream shop' at some point while I'm still willing to be active in all my hobbies. The living quarters that would be part of the shop probably wouldn't need to be even a quarter of the size of the shop.

But I do have to get back to costs- I don't want to pay high taxes for covering thousands of sq ft of ground with concrete, I don't want to pay high costs for heating and air conditioning, and I don't want to spend my entire worth building and maintaining it. I probably will have to divide my 'dream shop' into heated, semi-heated, and unheated areas, just to meet some of the criteria in a realistic way.

Personally, I'd try to avoid spending a good chunk of cash on a place where I won't spend more than a few years. If there was a down-to-earth picture of that value coming back to me when I move, it might motivate me into a little more spending. I'm a little over 60 now, and I'm having to start considering the effort I'm putting out and where it's going- I'm probably not going to be able to lift and carry more than another couple hundred tons in total from now til I pass, so I want to expend that in something that is satisfying to me.

10-06-2012, 06:43 AM
I would never spend money fixing a flat roof.

10-06-2012, 08:31 AM
I keep asking myself,,,,,,,,,,,, WHY are buildings STILL being built with Flat Roofs!!

Stupidist design going!!

10-06-2012, 09:43 AM
Some companies specialize in building sloped metal roofs over flat roofs. Not cheaper than gooping up the flat roof but more reliable in the long term. If you build a gambrel roof to give yourself upstairs space keep in mind that the existing roof construction may not be strong enough for a floor.

10-06-2012, 10:00 AM
I have yet to see a garage that is too big.


10-06-2012, 10:49 AM
Building a big shop probably won't add as much to the value of the property, so if you are there a short time, you may lose money on the investment.

10-06-2012, 10:49 AM
bob's forumla for garage size. calculate how big you need. example 20x20. now with that raw data bubble size example 40x40. now add 10' to each side. to end up with a 50x50. this finished number should last about 5 years before you need an addtion or another building. now second floor area does not count as this can be looked at as found space.

Deja Vu
10-06-2012, 11:01 AM
Simple rule.... size of garage is equal to or less than size of wallet.

michigan doug
10-06-2012, 11:09 AM
I originally planned on a 25 x 30 shop. I ended up with a 30 x 70 shop. It's still a bit small...
The 12 foot ceiling is nice. The r-50 insulation is SUPER nice.


10-06-2012, 11:15 AM
You haven't met my tax appraiser

10-06-2012, 11:51 AM
NO to the flat roof unless you live in the desert. Anything but....

If you live in an area with enforced buidlings codes... check the walls and foundation before adding a larger roof and floor. If you don't want to pay for a Gambrel, just put on a 4/12 or more conventional truss roof. Savings may not be as much as you think though. I have a Gambrel on mine though - amazing what you can store up there :)

Dr Stan
10-06-2012, 12:01 PM
NO to the flat roof unless you live in the desert. Anything but....

Frank Loyd Wright designed some beautiful buildings & homes, but everyone leaked due to the inclusion of flat roofs, partial or complete. Even Falling Waters had problems with a leaking roof.

10-06-2012, 01:34 PM
I second or third or fourth the sentiment- Hard to make a building big enough (assuming you don't have unlimited money to buy a defunct mall or something). My 36 x 50 with a 12 x 16 extension is now stuffed full. I could have sworn that it was way overkill when I built it, but I was wrong. The problem stems from the ABILITY to add "stuff" to a larger structure. No matter what size building I have ever had, I eventually filled it to it's capacity with either tools or toys. This structure is no different, and I am now out of room and looking to expand or build yet another structure to ease the crowding somehow. But I will probably just fill it up as well.

And even though flat roofs are not optimal, if that's what is there now, I'd look into having it repaired verses trusses and sloped roof. Especially if it isn't likely to be your last or dream home. There are some outfits out there who spray some sort of foam over existing flat roofs, and I'm told it does a relatively good job. Though I don't know what they would charge in your area, it's really not too hard on the wallet around here.

Good luck with whatever you do. I hope you need roller skates or golf cart when you're finished!

10-06-2012, 01:37 PM
The answer is you can't build it too big. I built a 40'x72' hanger 13' ceiling with a 12' wing around 2 sides(was 3 sides but took 1 off because of setback). It should have been 64'x84' with a full 40' bifold door I welded up. This works great & the 12' wings add very little cost. The roof all lines up. I used green steel on the roof & 1x8 board & batton hemlock I cut in the UP with a mobile dimension portable sawmill. I hired it framed & we finished it. The trusses were made for 48"OC with a total load of 68#sf I put them 32"OC & stacked 4 on the 40' door end. With the log cost I ended up with a total cost of $10k in the building & $7K for having the concrete poured. I have the 40x72 for the hanger(now full of tools) & the 12x52 for the shop, 12x24 for welding grinding,sandblasting,etc. Then a12x48 for storage or future shop. Later if needed I'll get a variance & add the 12x84 if needed. Best money I've spent. For the price of 1 decent car I have a nice shop.

10-06-2012, 01:51 PM
You can screw osb to the roof you have & put EDPM (rubber) over it. It's not hard to do. I'd use .060 & not the .045 thickness & it should be good for 25-30 years & come with a 20 yr warrenty. Get a manual & do it as descibed. Make sure and get the rolls put on the roof hen they deliver & put the near or over alls below. Good Luck & let usknow how it goes.

John Stevenson
10-06-2012, 03:50 PM
Why not just roof over the south 40 ?

10-06-2012, 03:56 PM
Had to leave room for the runways.

john hobdeclipe
10-06-2012, 10:00 PM
Why not just roof over the south 40 ?

It still wouldn't be big enough.

10-06-2012, 11:23 PM
I will disagree with most here and suggest you stick with your current garage. Unlike many here who have likely never had a decent sized structure to work in, I grew up working in large open buildings with small heated areas, and IT FREAKIN SUCKS!!!! My father's non-wood "shop" was 40'x100' with 20' under the trusses, and he had another 20'x20'x2 story building for the woodshop. Unfortunately, only the woodshop was fully heated. In the main shop we froze our cracks off in the winter and sweated in the summer = mucho lost work. Even with a decent sized heated "toolroom," there are many projects that dont fit or simply cant come in. Even with that much space, or maybe bc of it, we were quite often working outside due to lack of non-storage, non-project filled room. Because of that space, tools had much more room to disappear in. Because the temperature cant be controlled 100% of the time in 100% of the building, condensation becomes a major issue. Because of that space, the property taxes go up and resale as a residential property is extremely limited.

Wanna not be able to work in your shop? Build a big shop.

If this does not apply to your situation, I apologize in advance. Only you can guesstimate your projected bills, future regarding resale, and definition of a "big" shop. I would suggest doubling your budget for bills and halving the possibility of resale to give yourself a realistic safety factor.

Ive still got some big tools, but my garage has definitely shrunk. However, my productivity is up 1000% bc I can simply walk through the kitchen to either the garage or basement in my fuzzy slippers (and do!) 24/7/365 and be comfortable. I dont have to stoke up the woodstove or touch a thermostat, look for tools or parts of projects. I have a bay for metal/auto/other big projects, a good chunk of basement for woodworking (admittedly terrible), and a bay for emergency work and/or auto storage in addition to tool and machine storage. Once I get the house paid down a bit more in another year or so, I am going to convert the slab "porch" on the garage backside to a 10'x25' toolroom but that is the largest I am willing to go, 35'x25' total on the garage, as being larger than that seriously hurts resale IMO. I also no longer need a "beer fridge" as the regular fridge is ~15 feet away and remains well stocked.

10-10-2012, 11:57 PM
I'd convert the choice of roofs into an estimate of your annual costs, all things considered. Your wife probably won't much care if the better roof and larger space only ends up costing a few hundred more a year -- and will be delighted if it's cheaper. You should care if it starts costing thousands more a year.

The lower maintenance costs of a pitched roof have already been discussed. A better insulated ceiling (or just shutting the top space off) could save on heating. If you can roof it in a more attractive style, with all three buildings on the site looking like they belong, that should surely bring a better price if/when you sell. But, around here, it would also bring a higher tax bill.

10-11-2012, 12:16 PM
I used to know a guy out in SoCal that had a large pre-fab garage on his property. It was big enough to store 50 cars inside. His "living quarters" were a loft up in one corner of the building where he had a small kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Another guy I knew had purchased the house next door to his five bedroom house, and converted the whole house and attached garage into his own garage / workshop, by knocking out most of the walls and interior.. His wife didn't care...she lived in the house next door.

10-11-2012, 01:20 PM
1) Zonning and local building code enforcement.

2) Property Tax bill increase.

3) Then the cost of the actual building. Don't forget utility's and driveways.

Black Forest
10-11-2012, 02:01 PM
Having a large shop is a great thing. Just like having a lot of money. Both take discipline to manage well. If you don't have any discipline than a small shop or small amount of money is better.

10-11-2012, 03:56 PM
That is actually some sage advice that is seldom heard, BF. The bigger the space, the more junk accumulates. It does take discipline to keep an organized, clean, workable shop area. The bigger it is, the more work to keep it that way.

Paul Alciatore
10-11-2012, 06:27 PM
Frank Loyd Wright designed some beautiful buildings & homes, but everyone leaked due to the inclusion of flat roofs, partial or complete. Even Falling Waters had problems with a leaking roof.

The thing about flat roofs is they should not be actually dead level. If it has even a small slope, then water will not pool and you will have much less trouble with leaks. An existing flat roof can be built up slightly in the middle with plywood or strand board or insulation board or whatever to provide proper drainage when it is re-roofed. Just 2" over ten feet can be enough if done properly. Just enough to prevent puddles. I had a flat roof over a screen porch in Florida and it leaked. My roofer built it up and re-roofed it with standard tar and gravel and never another problem. No puddles = no leaks. Oh, I did have him use fiberglass roofing paper. It is more expensive, but it will last a LOT longer.

I don't know how this would work out in climates that have a lot of snow, but at least one place where I worked in Iowa had a flat roof and a modern job of re-roofing did fix it for at least 7 or 8 years. Before that it leaked like the fire sprinklers were on when the snow melted.

10-11-2012, 06:40 PM
waste of a perfectly good shed!

http://izismile.com/2012/07/16/awesome_surprise_inside_a_disused_hangar_8_pics.ht ml

Leave the garden outside I say

10-11-2012, 08:40 PM
It says "Disused Hanger" I say "Misused Hanger". I could take off & fly in there!

Black Forest
10-13-2012, 02:39 PM
waste of a perfectly good shed!

http://izismile.com/2012/07/16/awesome_surprise_inside_a_disused_hangar_8_pics.ht ml

Leave the garden outside I say

My wife and daughter having been hinting about going to this place. So far I have been able to derail the idea but I am sure it is just a matter of time before I will go.

10-13-2012, 11:29 PM
If they manage to rope you into going please take your camera . a lot here would like to see some better pics od the actual building , not just the present contents.