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The Shared Shop - Man Cave as Judy Calls It


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Since before retiring, I have intended to build a shop in my backyard. I spent many hours on two architectural design programs, planning the shop. Being on the outside of a curve in the street, my lot is pie shaped and a little over one third of an acre and an oversize back yard. That is enough room for a shop of about a 1000 square feet and still be within the code restrictions. I finally settled on a design and found what seemed to be a reliable contractor, a soon to be retiring police officer, to quote on building it. After many discussions on what could and could not be done, he quoted $70,000 for a shell of a building with no plumbing and only minimal electrical service. I think it might have been beyond his experience and that quote was just an easy way for him to back out. Since my return on this shop is projected to be essentially zero, this was impractical.

After several months, I redesigned everything and located another contractor who quoted $8,000 to construct what amounted to a steel pole barn on a concrete slab. The code requires a masonry building so steel siding was not acceptable. I was to finish the walls in more-or-less standard wood construction. The plan was to use simulated rock veneer panels for finish. My estimated total cost then was $24,000, still too much but I was willing to do it anyway.

With a firm plan in hand, I contacted our building and code inspector for guidance on proceeding. I have worked with him before with good results. He asked to see the plot staked out on site. After reviewing that, my plans and the materials I intended to use, he verbally approved everything. The next step was to get the proper building permits and proceed. A shop seemed finally within reach. These are renderings of the proposed shop, attached to the existing house, produced by the architectural program.
West View East View

The roofed opening between the house and shop are the breezeway that makes it a single structure as required by local building code.

Things were not to be so simple, however. On returning to his office, he looked into the codes once more and found a couple of obscure clauses the appeared to stiffle my plans. Our local code requires any addition to be attached to the house and the whole thing must be at least 60 per cent masonry. It seems that the code defines masonry as individual pieces, hand set in mortar. Individual pieces of simulated stone would be acceptable but my panels are not. The cost to add the additional footings and hire brick layers made the cost of the building unacceptable.

Over the next year, I searched for a suitable place to rent without much luck. There just are few places available in a size and rent that I could afford. I did have a couple of interested potential partners but they did not seem in any rush to find a place. Garage Garage

Suddenly, the situation was to change. Judy's Oldsmobile was destroyed by the hail storm in May of 2010. We finally replaced it with a Saab in early November and she insisted that it be kept in the garage. This shows what my garage looked like at the time. Yes, that is the Sprite stored above the Prefect. The collector car insurance for the Volkswagen and Prefect also required that they be garaged when not in use. There was obviously no room for the Saab. I made temporary arrangements with a friend to store the Volkswagen until I could find a more permanent solution.

Finally, for some reason unknown to me, those partners both decided to make a move. With that encouragement, I was able to locate a suitable shop with rent a little more than half what those self-storage places usually charge per square foot. My share of that seemed acceptable.


See the new shared shop