Built-In Expansion

America's Best Shops - Built-In Expansion

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
The Wentworth shop is large enough to accommodate the farm's equipment line and doubles as a basketball court. (Jessica Wentworth)

Nathan and Jessica Wentworth's shop, outside of Warrensburg, Illinois, is one piece of a larger plan. The building, 72 feet x 70 feet, erected in the first half of 2020 by Schrock Builders, Arthur, Illinois, is home base -- the center for repairs, maintenance and storage. It serves as the office, moving recordkeeping and sales calls away from the home. It's also space for family events and for their two children, teens Owen and Josie, to lounge with friends or shoot hoops on a half-court marked out on the shop floor.

It will grow. "We're going to add an identical size [building] to the south side of this one," Wentworth says. "Eventually, this will be 72 feet x 140 feet. We wanted to focus on the heated farm shop area first and the office, and then add the remaining part that will be just cold storage."


This shop is well-designed and attractive. It's uncluttered. Equipment enters the shop through a 16-foot-tall and 24-foot-wide overhead door. Tools, boxes and benches roll on wheels to the work at hand. There are electrical outlets every 10 to 12 feet. Compressed air is delivered by a 75-foot, half-inch line stored on a retractable reel. Overhead lights are 150-watt LED high bays. Walls and ceiling are insulated with spray foam. A better sound-insulating cellulose material isolates the office from the noise of the shop. Radiant floor heating warms the shop. Echo is dampened by strips of perforated steel on the ceiling. One nice detail. Stormwater and melting snow drain into nearby tile lines. A 25- x 25-foot office -- the retail and business front of the farm -- occupies one corner.

The Wentworths committed dollars to attractive exterior architectural upgrades. Seven columns of stacked stone and solid 8 x 8 cedar posts support cedar trusses and a standing seam roof covering a wide wrap-around porch, an eye-catching pause for friends and guests entering the office. "We were trying to balance functionality and practicality with aesthetics. We didn't want it to just look like a normal farm shed," Wentworth says.

He deliberately planned for the addition of cold storage. Built as part of the south wall are the structural components needed to attach that space. Wentworth added a service door on the south wall and has run power from the main electrical panel to that wall for extension into the cold storage. "All we have to do is tie [the cold storage] onto that south wall and go from there."


Visitors enter the Wentworth building into a well-appointed, open-concept space accommodating a full kitchen with an island, compact workspace and comfy sitting room. "I've read in your [Progressive Farmer] articles and others, you know, don't take up the floor space inside the shed, build your office on the outside of the shed," Wentworth says. "But, this property couldn't accommodate that floor plan."

On paper, the space was envisioned as about half the size it is now. It grew upon further thought. "We knew we wanted a place where the kids could have friends over. We can have big family events. And, we have landlords come over or consultants. We're able to sit around on the couches, have a more laid-back and comfortable atmosphere. We have a computer and iPad hooked up to the TV where we can show pictures [and presentations]."

The office space gave birth to new space above. "We took up floor space in the main shed for this office area, but we gained with that overhead storage."

The office area blends new with history. The desk and a sofa table are made from walnut. Wentworth believes the wood came from trees his grandfather cut decades ago. "We had [the rough boards] sanded and made our [live edge] desk out of that," he says. The Wentworths also worked barnwood and a beam into the office spaces. "All those things came from our farm, whether it's a barn or a corn crib. It incorporates history in here."


The shop area incorporates work and family. For family, there is a half basketball court -- the wall under the net covered with shiplap to prevent dents in the wall and limit bruises to the kids. "We wanted a place where the kids could work on their games. We've set a ping pong table out there or cornhole bags game. That was part of the design."

Of course, the main use of this space is for the farm. The Wentworths considered shops of several sizes -- 60, 64 and 66 feet deep. But, they followed that rule of size. You can always build a shop too small. But, you'll never say you built your shop too big. They went with a building 72 feet front to back.

The floor and 18-foot sidewalls accommodate the various pieces of the Wentworth equipment line and a 63-foot-long semitruck and trailer. "I wanted to be able to pull a semitruck in there with a trailer on it. We haul a lot of grain in winter, so I want to park it in there [for easy starting]."


One design choice involved windows -- there are few. The outside office walls and walk-in door sport high-end windows. The overhead door includes a row of windows. But, the shop space has none. "[Windows] are a point of failure -- mechanical, water and air leakage. They're not as efficient as the spray foam wall," Wentworth says. "Also, security. I don't want people to be able to walk around the shed and see what's inside or break in through a window."

The floor is unique in its design and function. The concrete surface is covered with a layer of heavy-duty epoxy and flake flooring, giving it a salt and pepper look. Wentworth says the material stands up well to the ultraheavy weight and movements of equipment. "We knew there would be oil or antifreeze on the floor, and we really didn't want that corroding the concrete. We made the investment on that floor. It cleans up incredibly well."


Asked about what he might do differently now that this building is up and functioning, Wentworth has two things:

-- Given the skyrocketing price of wood and steel, he wished he would have built the entire structure -- shop and cold storage -- all at once.

-- There is the matter of humid Illinois summers. "If we leave the door shut, and we run a dehumidifier in there, we can keep it, on a 95 degrees Fahrenheit day, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With a fan moving the air, it's not horrible, but it's not great, either. I wish I would have thought that through a little bit more."


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