Thursday, 17 December 2020

Limited Workspaces: Making the Most of a Small Situation

The garage is a less than single car (it's so small a micro-sized Mazda2 hatchback won't fit in it).  It does the trick with motorbikes, but you get more than two in there and it's so full it's difficult to get around a bike to work on it.  It's also dark and bloody cold in the winter.  I'm trying to think of a way out of it short of moving.

Since I can't go out I could go up.  The attic above the peaked roof on the garage is a workable space currently being used for storage but the only access is a ladder on the house wall which not only messes up a wall that could be doing something else but also makes access to the attic a real pain in the ass.  Looking into solutions it appears that drop down stairs are possibility and they aren't even particularly expensive.  Even a good one is under six hundred bucks.

If I can get the drop down stairs sorted it won't cost much and opens up the top floor to easier access while also making valuable wall space available down below since the stairs fold up into the ceiling when not needed.

The next step would be to address the poor lighting.  A neighbor has a glass garage door that looks fantastic, lets in lots of light and would also let in some solar heat in the winter while also being well insulated.  This is where the prices start to climb.  Doors like this start at a couple of grand and go up from there.  I might be able to find a used alternative for less, but a glass door would solve a lot of the lighting issues, at least during the day.

If I really wanted to blow the budget I'd also get windows installed on the back wall.  I don't know what window installs on external walls cost, but I don't imagine they're cheap.

The last piece of the puzzle is working out heating in a space that was never designed for it.  I've put thick rubber mats down that are much better than the concrete floor, but it's still damned cold to work on in a Canadian winter. 
Tempzone under floor heated mats would do the trick.  Because they're focused where I need them they'd probably be more efficient to run than the air heater I currently have in there.  The garage is about 200 square feet, but I don't need the whole floor heated, just the square around the work benches.  A cunning selection of those mats would create an area of heating around the lift and mean I'm not working on aching feet when it's minus forty outside.

With the upper floor more accessible I'd move the permanent shelving I've got on the bottom floor upstairs, making more room to move around, which was the point of the exercise in the first place.

If I did the full pimping out including the windows I'd put a sit down workbench in the attic for finer work and finish the space more than it currently is.  All in I'd guess that the windows, garage door, drop down stairs and heated flooring would be in the vicinity of:
  • Drop down stairs (350lb capacity):  $600
  • Glass garage door :  $3000 (est. though some cunning shopping might reduce that to $1700)
  • Heated flooring in work area:  $1400
  • Window cutouts and installs (one up, one down):  $1500 x 2
  • Hardware to finish attic (lumber, wiring for electrical):  $1000
TOTAL:  $9000

With all that in place I should be able to park a bike (or two) off to the side and still have plenty of space to work.  It's not really lost money if it raises the value of the house, right?