Measure Twice

The worst new shop is the shop built too small or in the wrong place.

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Before you build a shop, measure the footprint of your equipment so the pieces that are to be stored inside will all fit within the space. Build a large staging area to expand the usefulness of the shop, Image by Morton Buildings

The best tool for designing a new shop is a tape measure, says Dan Nyberg, sales training manager for Morton Buildings Inc. Measure the footprint of your field equipment and trucks, and consider how the equipment will fit.

For example, if you bring a planter into your shop for calibration, can you unfold it? Imagine the planter in pieces. “Just when you have that planter torn down, you will have another piece of equipment that needs some TLC,” Nyberg says. “Will there be room to do that work, too?” Calculate the space for new equipment. None is getting smaller.

Calculate the footprint for dedicated work areas: welding, lubricants, workbenches, parts storage, compressor, conference room and office.

Add the maintenance areas and the dedicated work areas to calculate your need for square footage. Drive T-posts into the four corners of that building footprint. Drive around the area. Park equipment inside the footprint. Measure distances to storage sheds and grain facilities. Consider roads and drives to ensure unobstructed traffic patterns. Mark spaces for potential doors, and drive through them to ensure easy movement.

LOCATION SCOUTING. The easiest place to put a building may be the wrong place. Water and power runs are one-time charges. But, the site of the building is forever. Download a Google Earth image of your farm. Spend time looking at potential building locations. Does shop design make sense given traffic patterns and location.

Build the biggest shell you can afford, Nyberg says. Sure, he works for Morton. But, experience tells him it is far too easy to erect a too-small building. He suggests a couple of ways to control initial construction costs.

First, finish only a portion of the new building. The rest can be completed over time. Second, build for expansion. Position the building so it can be expanded at either end. An end-to-end addition is cost-effective. If that layout doesn’t fit the location, install a doorway header into a sidewall where the shop and new space will join.

> HEIGHT. Consider ceiling clearance. Tillage equipment with wings folded may be higher than the top of a combine. Bin extenders add a foot or 18 inches to the height of a combine. Ceiling lights reduce clearances.

> STAGING AREA. Create outside space around the shop for vehicular traffic, to complete repairs and to resupply and refuel equipment. Include space for vehicle parking. Rule of thumb: Plan for the staging area to be at a minimum equal to the width of your buildings. For example, a 60-foot-wide shop should have at least 60 feet of staging area, measured from the building’s major doors.

> VISUAL CONNECTION. Visual connection allows the owner to look out of his office window and see what he wants to see, Nyberg says. Does the owner want to see the weigh scale? Visual connection determines orientation of the building.

> OFFICE. Office design is thick with detail. Hire an expert. But, when you think about space, consider the desk. A desk where general day-to-day work is done may need less space than a desk where maintenance and equipment records are maintained. The maintenance desk may need room for file cabinets and shelving, maybe a printer, perhaps a table. If the family business includes a semiretired father or grandfather, make sure that person has a desk.

> DOORS. Of door types, bifold, overhead and sliding, hydraulic dominates new construction. “Overhead doors require ‘headroom’ to account for the curve of the track. In an 18-foot-tall building, there may be room only for a 16-foot overhead door. Hydraulic doors require only the headroom for the door hinges--you lose almost no space,” he says. It is increasingly common for the hydraulic door to be 45 to 50 feet wide. That is also 45 to 50 feet of outside cover when the door is raised.

> WALK DOORS. Well-placed walk doors “raise the satisfaction level in the shop,” Nyberg says. They are relatively inexpensive in new construction. Make sure to put walk doors adjacent to parking areas and near the shop’s larger doors.

> HEAT. Hire a consultant and install ceiling fans to mix the air. In-floor heat is “comfortable heat. The heat is radiating past you,” Nyberg explains. Radiant heat can be directed to specific portions of the shop. But, radiant heat can leave heat shadows where heat flow is blocked by equipment.

> POWER. “The four rows of lights and four-switch days are gone,” Nyberg says. A qualified electrician will design a recommendation for the shop’s electrical service, lighting and plugs. Outlets every 10 feet around the shop are not too many. Several outlets for welders should be placed around the shop but definitely at the main doors.

> COMPRESSED AIR. Consider a sound-insulated yet well-ventilated compressor space. It’s hard to have too many air drops (with drains). Install a drop at each of the main doors.

There is a key to planning that’s sometimes overlooked, Nyberg says. Some planning time should include visits to neighbors who have recently built new shops. “Just being able to see how big ‘XX’ foot by ‘YY’ foot is for yourself can be extremely helpful,” he explains.

“Enjoyment and efficiency are very closely tied to the planning done before construction begins,” Nyberg says. “Plan well and enjoy the process.”


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