Renovating old "shop"

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Forum topic by han0522 posted 06-07-2013 08:27 AM 2944 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 1837 days

06-07-2013 08:27 AM

Hello all,

I’ve frequented this site for the last year – it’s on my daily rotation, specifically the Projects page. Love the woodworking showcased there.

I’ve been woodworking for ~1 year in a decades old building that needs some repairs. I’ve not done anything of this scale before, so I wanted to get my ducks in a row before I proceed.

I have a 36’ x 16’ building on a concrete slab that is as simple as it can get: 4 walls and a roof. It is uninsulated and up until 3-4 months ago, would flood with any significant down pour. The roof (as you can tell from the pics) is sagging in the middle and as such has moved the side walls out of plumb. This building is at least 20 years old.

As you can see there are no joists for the rafters. The walls are 2×4 construction (16 in on center) as are the rafters (24 in on center).

My wife and I plan on building a new shop/art studio several years down the road partially over this location. I live in Arkansas, so our summers can be brutal. So I’m faced with either sweating it out, taking a “vacation” from woodworking during the summer, or renovating this shop. I choose the latter as option 1 or 2 doesn’t work for me :).

So that’s the situation. Here are my two questions:

1) I want to insulate this building. Most of the heat is coming from the roof so I was planning on insulating from that direction first, then focusing on the walls. I was planning on R13 batting since this should be a significant improvement over the no insulation that is there now. I want to avoid putting more weight on the already sagging roof so I was planning on adding joists, putting R13 between the joists, and putting OSB or some other cheap ceiling material between me and the insulation, putting the added weight on the walls. I had considered putting the insulation between the rafters but am worried about how to cover the batting and the extra weight that would require on the roof.

2) I want to “stabilize” this building: add some cross joists that will keep the wall from moving more out of plumb and keep the roof from sagging more. My plan was two fold: add 16’ 2×6 to the top of the wall, and bolt it to the top of the wall, hopefully preventing the walls from moving out more. Further, I was going to bolt 16 foot 2×4 or 2×6s to the bottom of the rafters to keep the roof from sagging more. I would do this in 3 locations in the shop. I would then add additional nailed 16 foot 2×6 rafters to hold the ceiling and insulation (prolly 24 in on center). I’ve no idea if this ought to work and if 16’ 2×6 construction lumber would cut it for either of the above applications (structural support and/or ceiling).

The BEST option is for me to get a bulldozer and “fix” it, but I would like to get a few more years of somewhat comfortable woodworking out of this shop.

Additional pictures are below (linked):

Pic 1
Pic 2
Pic 3
Pic 4
Pic 5

Any advice, comments, concerns are very welcome.

17 replies so far

View EEngineer's profile


1103 posts in 3636 days

#1 posted 06-07-2013 09:44 AM

It looks to me like that building was the victim of some DIYer in the past. It was probably built with rafter ties to keep the walls from spreading and the roof from sagging. Looks to me like those were removed and plywood gussets were added near the peak to replace them. That isn’t sufficient.

To stabilize this building you might have to jack up the center of the roof to eliminate the sag and pull the side walls back into plumb. Then you can add rafter ties to keep the walls from spreading again. This is some work but certainly easier than razing the building and starting over.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View UpstateNYdude's profile


917 posts in 2005 days

#2 posted 06-07-2013 12:02 PM

I dunno I find sometimes when repairs start it often begins to take more time then it would to have to just start over. I would seriously consider just starting over, the poor construction of the roof support with no cross supports on a roof that wide already has me wondering.

If it were me I’d tear that mother down salvage as much of the building material as I could and start anew with however big you want your shop to be. I’m working on building a small 10’x12’ shed at the moment myself so I can get all my lawn and garden crap out of my garage/workshop so I can finish wiring and put my insulation in and hopefully get some heat in there before winter hits and I’m stuck inside for what seems to be an eternity in the North east.

Sorry for the many rant, but to each there own whatever your decision I’m sure you’ll make it more structurally sound then it is currently.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2993 days

#3 posted 06-07-2013 01:26 PM

I’d put a couple of whalers on the outside, near the top of the long walls, then run a large I-bolt through each wall, between the whalers, attach a heavy duty come-along between the I-bolts and pull that sucker back square and plumb.

Once you get a section correct, tie it together with joists, I might even add some ties in there to turn every other joist/rafter set into a truss because 2×4 is not a good choice for a non-trussed rafter in the first place.

You may need to do this in two or three stages to get it all straight, but it can be fixed. I would not be trusting that place to store any thing in, much less to work in there, the way it is.

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1915 days

#4 posted 06-07-2013 01:54 PM

Since you’re planning to build something new in several years, I’d agree with EEngineer above. Cost-wise just straighten up the building and roof first. The building is only 20 years old you say – it could go another 20 easily with the basic reinforcements. Starting all brand new is a major make-work project IMO – unless you have money to throw around.

For me, the flooding issue is paramount – you need a solution for this ASAP. Is this about the roof leaking or a ground water/run-off issue?

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View han0522's profile


5 posts in 1837 days

#5 posted 06-07-2013 04:48 PM

I have to admit that starting new is tempting .. If I do that, though, it would be more cost effective (I think) to build what my wife and I plan on doing in 5-10 years (at least) – a 2 story building of the same square foot footprint.

The flooding problem was ground level. The roof hasn’t leaked, even under some significant thunderstorms. Whoever built this didn’t have ground water or drainage in mind. The concrete slab is maybe an inch above the ground. On the north side of the building (the first pic is of the north side) there’s a concrete pad that is at the same level. The property gently slopes from the high end on the north to the low end on the south. So when it rains, the water that falls on the north side of the building wants to flow south. The pad prevents some rain from absorbing into the ground so it would run straight into the building. Earlier this year I had ~2 inches of water sitting in there. On the north side of the building I dug a trench about 1 foot deep that flows to the west (left in the first picture) into a 4’x4’x4’ hole I dug. Into that I put some gravel, a plastic bin, and a sump pump. The sump pump drains via PVC to the back yard where water then drains into a storm ditch. It works great, the pump is more than adequate to take care of regular or heavy rain fall. It didn’t flood for months until last week when a small amount of water got in, nothing deep, just the concrete was a little wet, but this came from the south end of the building – we had a lot of rainfall all at once and the south part of the property didn’t drain fast enough. On my to do list is to run a french drain along this end to drain water directly away from the building and this should solve that problem. The part of the wall I’ve looked at, the sill plate looks intact. If, as I pull more of the interior wall off, I see otherwise, obviously that would change everything.

My current thinking is as EEngineer suggests – pull the walls in and reinforce the structure before I do anything else.

Crank49, I do have a question about the whalers – I tried to find it online but had some difficulty. Are they called something else?

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2993 days

#6 posted 06-07-2013 05:22 PM

In concrete forms they are the horizontal members that back-up the vertical studs. Tie wires are placed through the whalers from one side to the other and clips put on the ends. Hold the form walls parallel against the pressure of the concrete trying to bulge the sides out.

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2096 days

#7 posted 06-08-2013 06:17 AM

it will take less force to jack up the roof ridge and place new collar ties or joists as you have refered to them as. you know what the original height was. measure the end of the ridge board to the floor. Jack up the roof slowly over time to let it stress relieve or you may separate the roof from the walls. once the roof line is where it should be throw in the bottom chord and a couple diagonals on both sides of center. the ridge will be straight but the face of the roof will still have a bow. if you want the bow out leave the diagonals out and go after the bow on one side of each rafter and then toss in the diagonals. peak to about middle third of the bottom chord and then from that point to about midspan of rafter.

View LakeLover's profile


283 posts in 1962 days

#8 posted 06-08-2013 11:25 AM

You could straighten the roof as mentioned. As for insulation R 13 wont do much. Once the roof is straight weight of insulation won’t matter.

1st you need some roof ventilation, open the soffits and put in a ridge vent.

Look at radient barriers along with insulation. Insulation has to cover the joists to do any real good, so blowen in cellulose is probably your best bet.

Address the water problems ASP.

What do you have for power out there?

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2993 days

#9 posted 06-08-2013 04:54 PM

While it’s true that jacking up the ridge will take less force than pulling the walls plumb, the latter method will avoid lifting the roof off the walls. Maybe the best method would be a combination of both. Jack the roof up a bit, then pull the walls in to snug the joints back up; then repeat.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2707 days

#10 posted 06-08-2013 07:25 PM

Looks like “site built” trusses but not like any I have ever seen (just a few screws in each?). An engineer could probably opine but before I tore it down I’d try a cable/turn-buckle thing on the sidewalls (maybe 2 or 3) then SLOWLY jack up the ceiling joists as you tighten up the turn-buckles. Hardhats, safety glasses and an exit path required and a ladder with a roofing nailer to put as many nails as you can into your gussets. If you can get some of that “saddle” out of the roof, I’d look at beefing up your rafter ties before you went any further. Heat gain/loss is greatest from above so plan on finishing the ceiling (bright white paint or steel) and loose fill insulation. Flooding? Trench the perimeter and fill with stone. You only have 16’ width to deal with.

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2096 days

#11 posted 06-08-2013 08:03 PM

Only if you don’t have $$ to burn….

Structurally it just might/should be a relatively simple fix. Jack the ridge where needed (probably 3 jacks & posts) while at the same time coordinate drawing in the top of the side walls. Over correct a tad bit if you want, then add wall ties (at the bottom of each set of rafters). AND, add collar ties. Because 2×4s were used for roof rafters there will still likely be some permanent deflection to the roof slopes, but you’ll get rid of the sag in the ridge and the building will look better, and be better. And it will be stable and usable.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View han0522's profile


5 posts in 1837 days

#12 posted 06-09-2013 03:56 PM

Since I’m wanting to eventually replace this building, I’m also trying to keep in mind demolition later – although blown in insulation will be cheaper and more effective, it seems like it’ll be a big hassle removing. One thing I considered instead of insulation between the joists is putting my ceiling material (prolly osb) on top of the joists and then insulation batting covering the osb completely on top of that. I could even install the osb/insulation combo in one piece on top of the joists and be done with it. The disadvantage is part of the roof will be exposed and will need to be dealt with in some way where the joists meet the top of the wall.

I think I’m close to having my “plan” in order: come-alongs for the wall, jack the roof up, joists along the walls to tie things together – didn’t think about collar ties, but if I’m putting joists up anyway, that shouldn’t be too much extra work to do. I guess I should reconsider using r13, although it’s tempting to go this route since it is so cheap and should make a big difference compared to no insulation.


View NormG's profile


6134 posts in 3026 days

#13 posted 06-09-2013 04:44 PM

I agree with EEngineer and redSLED, also think Crank-49’s method has merit. My shop less that a quarter of your space that would be the left side in the picture (it literally fell apart a number of years ago) slightly less than 10 by 12. I have 2 power cords to run, lights, table saw, drill press, belt sander, oscillating sander, lathe, thickness planer, jointer, 12” band saw, , miter saw, scroll saw, grinder and various hand tools at times. I do have to move things around a lot. I plan on expanding when I can.

You have a good size space, repair for now and rebuild when you can

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 1971 days

#14 posted 06-09-2013 05:51 PM

just my opinion: Why put money into a building you intend to tear down later. If it were me I would knock it down and start over now. If money is the issue I would build it as a single story and design the roof in a fashion that it could be picked in sections (craned off). When money allows have a crane pick the roof, add the second floor, and put the roof back. cranes really aren’t that expensive. If you intend to put in two floors, I would have poured walls for the foundation. By pouring a 5’ wall I would have 2’ exposed. This would raise the structure, solve the water problem, and give you solid foundation for the structure. You could pour a 7’ wall, this would allow you to frame the first floor with pre-cut studs and have 10’ ceiling.

View han0522's profile


5 posts in 1837 days

#15 posted 06-11-2013 03:25 PM

It’s very tempting, I agree. Cost-wise this, of course, will be cheaper. There are other financial areas that need to be covered before I can justify in my head the cost of a new building. There’s also my desire to “do-it-yourself” that I like with the repair of this shop project. And finally, some projects seem to take on their own momentum, and there’s an aspect of that as well.

Once I start pulling up the wall covering and siding all of the above might change if the building looks like it’s unsalvagable due to a rotting sill plate. I plan on pulling this up soon (tonight, tomorrow). If the sill looks bad, this thread may turn in to a new building and how to store cast-iron tools with limited space thread … I wonder if the wife would let me put the table saw in the bedroom ….


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