'Before' shot of
     garage (23K)Here's what things looked like 2 days after moving in. The pitched roof provides potential for plenty of storage. Currently, like most modern garages, it is full of junk (and not a car in site!)

The first thing to consider was the up-and-over door. Replacing it wasn't an option at the time as buying the house had cleaned me out! I decided that insulating it wouldn't be terribly effective - unless I was willing to block it up completely. The outside surface is painted navy blue and south-facing, so in summer it was often very hot to the touch. The vague plan was to paint the outside white and possibly insulate it with Rockwool held in place by hardboard. Eventually I did get around to painting it, and just that made a surprisingly big difference - if only I'd done it sooner...

After some thought, I decided to split the garage - building a basic partition wall would create an area at the front which could be used to store gardening and DIY stuff, long with car things. Also, I could use the area for messy jobs like metalwork. The back room can be well-insulated and carpeted, making a comfortable electronic workshop. The garage is just under 17 ft (5.1m) in length, so I decided to split it 10/7, with the back area getting priority.

My previous workshop

Having decided the basic plan, I needed to consider the details. I found it useful to recall the workshop I had during my teens. This was built in a brick shed that was attached to the side of the house and covered by a nasty flat roof. The area occupied by the deep bench was once a separate room - a coal-store, I think. The external walls are single-skin brick, and the floor is uneven concrete. You didn't need to look outside to know what the weather was doing!

From memory (I was last in here in the mid '90s), the dimensions were approximately 12' by 6'. These are the only 2 pictures I have of it tidy, taken in 1990. The main section of the bench is fitted across the 6 foot width of the building, and is nearly 3 feet deep. The shallow bench on the left goes along most of 12 foot length, and is about 18 inches deep.

Picture of my old shed (75K)
Picture of my old shed (73K)

Despite having a 500 watt floodlamp, light levels were surprisingly bad, and the lamp was far better at generating heat, which was only welcome during winter. A 2KW convector heater was also required, but that didn't stop damp being a problem...

The benches were a good height and size - the shallow side-bench was far more useful than you'd think. The same is true of all the small shelves - they became much fuller after the pictures were taken. Behind me was another bench which was at desk height. That was hardly used, and ended up being permanently covered with junk. The space below the benches was also fully utilised for storage - every available square inch was used. Unfortunately, the pictures are a rare site - it was normally a tip!

So, here are some basic requirements:

  • Benches

    Correct height and sufficient depth important. Good construction, although it doesn't have to be as solid as something like a metalworking bench. Must meet the back walls to stop small components being lost forever!
  • Lighting

    Well-distributed, easily controllable. Must be able to kill most lights for setting up TV sets in near-darkness.
  • Power sockets

    Can never have enough. I prefer 2 circuits - one normally switched off when you leave the area, the other switchable but generally left on - for things like clocks and computers (possibly also domestic things like freezers).
  • UHF Outlets

    There were several sockets, although none are visible in the pictures. Being able to get a UHF signal into the TV is essential for VCR repair; this is normally achieved by having a UHF socket that connects to the input of the TV set - normally a short lead connects this socket to an adjacent outlet.
  • Storage

    Lots of shelves required. Small shelves close to working positions desirable. Space for component drawers near to normal working area. Places to hang cables.
  • Other

    A telephone is useful. Insulation is essential - in my last workshop cold and damp were problems in winter, and summers were unbearably hot. Also, the uneven concrete floor was cold and uncomfortable.

It had been a long time since I'd done any DIY, and back in the day, I hadn't really done anything more serious than putting up shelves. It was going to be a steep learning curve...