Last year it was pretty evident that the old Wood Ring Guitars work shop had outlived its usefulness. Housed in a one car garage, the shop was cozy but getting more crowded as time went on. More new guitar orders stressed the working conditions and limited the amount of work that needed to get done in a reasonable time. If a shop is too small it can be unsafe as well. So we decided to design and build a new shop, one that would not only meet ideal wood working conditions (like constant temperature and humidity requirements) but would also provide needed office space and a place for testing, showing and playing guitars.
We went to work on the drawing board, literally. We purchased a design/drafting program so we could envision the structure we needed and virtually place the equipment in the new shop so that the ideal workflow could be determined. This enabled us to plan for electrical circuits, space, lighting and air-conditioning. We also needed storage space for wood, and tools. The layout we wanted included plumbing too. A shop sink and a small restroom was part of the plan. After many design considerations we decided that a 2 story structure would suit our needs without taking up too much space in our backyard, and save on foundation costs. We also visited several very nice woodworking shops in our area to take a first-hand look at what the proposed space we wanted might look like. Not only was space a consideration but placement of the shop on the property was equally important. Since we wanted the shop to be plumbed it was important to locate it near water and sewer facilities that existed in our location.
Our initial design involved a vaulted ceiling on the second floor to save on construction costs and add a bit of interest to the building. But since our structure footprint was 20 by 22 feet, it was also very important to consider the engineering specifications to make sure the structure was strong. After consulting with a couple of builders we decided to go with standard 8 foot ceilings and 20 foot engineered joists to ensure the second story floor and walls were sound.
Once we settled on a design (this took the most time – about 3 months), we went out for bids to three construction/remodeling companies in our area. We also interviewed each company and did extensive research into their backgrounds and other projects they had done in the area. We selected a company with enough personnel to complete the work in a reasonable amount of time and with a bid that fit our budget. We also made sure that this company was also willing to provide documentation that they paid their subcontractors in full to ensure no liens would be attached to our property (lien waivers). In addition, we set a payment schedule that was timed with completion phases, with each one detailed on what work was to be completed before a payment was made. We also received approval for our project with our neighborhood architectural committee to ensure we complied with our deed restrictions. Since we are in unincorporated area, we required no further permits. We signed all the papers and wrote our first check so that materials could be ordered and construction could begin. It was the first week of August 2018.
Of course, as soon as the initial dirt work was done, it rained. In Texas, it is rare to get such plentiful rain in August, but the rain served to not only bring the temperatures down, but helped to settle the foundation pad ahead of the concrete. Our foundation included piers drilled to the bedrock to ensure the integrity of the pad. Our lumber arrived to begin the framing and a crew arrived early one morning to our delight and fascination.
The contractor provided a project manager so any concerns, complaints or mistakes were directed at him, rather than directly to the subcontractors. Throughout the building process we did discover a few errors, some minor and some quite major. Even though we had a plan, which included drawings, details and measurements, the framers missed placing the windows in their correct locations. This did require adjustments and those were made without question. That being said, if you decide to undertake any project of this magnitude, we highly recommend you check the work in all phases of construction. We caught many deviations from the plan and in turn the contractor pointed out several areas we missed as well. Our construction company worked with us to ensure our project turned out as we expected and we were grateful for their cooperation. We did this with no changes to the estimate, which I owe to our diligence in maintaining a close watch on the construction progress and staying ahead of potential issues.
Our building specifications included concrete/fiberwood siding (Hardiboard). We selected this to cut down on maintenance costs (wood rot and termites). We also decided to use foam insulation to reduce cooling and heating costs. As it turns out this has also helped us maintain a perfect 45 to 50% humidity level in the building. We also selected LED lighting for the shop and upstairs. The shop lights adjust brightness levels and mock natural light very effectively. In addition, we chose a small tank-less water heater that fits snugly in the restroom. It heats the water for the shop sink nicely. Our design used part of the staircase well to house the restroom and the lower section for a storage closet. We also left the ceiling in the shop open to the joists. We use the 12” joist sections for additional wood storage. The rest of the walls are sheet-rocked both in the shop and upstairs. The small covered porch leading to the entrance of the building serves to protect visitors from rain and is a great place to relax as it faces our existing covered patio adjacent to the house. Last, but not least, our building complies with all plumbing, electrical and building codes that would have applied to our residence. We also installed smoke detectors. We wanted to make sure that if we ever did sell our property it would easily appeal to a buyer.
It took about a week (less rain days) to complete the framing. About the same time we got another heavy rainfall, we noticed that our roof on our home was leaking. Thankfully the leak was on our back porch area and none of the interior rooms were affected. The new building was getting close to being “dried in”. Since we needed to reroof our house we picked shingles that would match the new building. Timing is everything. Our construction company was eager to take on both our reroofing on our home as well.
It became our habit every evening, once all construction crews had left, to scout the area for nails, bits of trash, and staples. Our dog, Ellie appreciated our efforts. We used a magnet attached to a simple wooden pole and picked up hundreds of nails and other sharp metal objects. There was also a large construction dumpster situated close to the jobsite. Although it blocked our great backyard view for several months, I was glad it was there.
Picking up nails was our first task. We also elected to paint the interior ourselves (including the concrete floor in the shop), and hire a separate company to finish the flooring (carpet) upstairs. The construction company supplied and cut the trim pieces, but left them off so that our interior paint job looked almost flawless. All electrical fixtures were selected and purchased by the construction company with the exception of the ceiling fan upstairs.
Each phase of our building was completed on time, except for a period where the weather did not permit working on the site. The whole project was complete in just over 2 and half months.
The move into the new shop opened up more than just wood working possibilities. It freed up our garage space, opened up a room in our home, which we use to relax or welcome overnight guests. The new shop is a great place to entertain too. We had a party this Christmas and easily had a crowd of 30 who enjoyed each other’s company through conversation, playing guitar, playing cards, and foosball. We plan to use the upstairs to have a few house concerts in the future or master classes as needed. It is also the best area to try out a guitar or test one being picked up after a repair. There is plenty of room and the acoustics are great!