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Planning Pays Off

March 28, 2009
By: Darrell Smith, Farm Journal Conservation and Machinery Editor

You might say Pete and Julie Mertz's shop was 12 years in the planning. In 1993, they built a Morton 60'x60' dirt-floored machine shed, intending that, as plans and finances permitted, it would someday become a shop.

The only visible evidence of their long-range planning was the full ridge vent, which let them install a ceiling later. Searching for ideas, Pete collected enough shop articles to fill a plastic container.

"Someday” arrived in 2005, when the Mertzes turned the shed into the shop of their dreams. Spacious and accessible, with unique storage features, a wash bay and a roomy office, it was named the winner of the shop category of Farm Journal's "I Built the Best” contest. That victory earned the Mertzes $500.

To convert the shed into a shop, the Mertzes poured a concrete floor, reinforced with ½" rebar on 2" centers. In the middle of the shop, in front of the door, the concrete is 8" thick—"heavy enough for semis,” Pete explains. Under the office, on the west side, it is 5½" thick. On the east end, it is 6" thick.

Under the concrete is 2" of foam board insulation. Around the edges of the building, the Mertzes placed 2"-thick foam insulation board vertically, extending 16" into the ground.

The Mertz's shop is warmed by a propane-fueled radiant tube heater. "Radiant heat is nice and even, warming objects rather than the air,” Pete says. "I considered an in-floor heating system, but I didn't want to give up floor space for the boiler. Radiant heat may be a little slower than floor heat for evaporating water from the floor, but it still evaporates quickly enough.”

Wall-mounted heaters. In the office and bathroom are wall-mounted electric heaters. "We could mount them on the wall without losing any floor space,” Pete explains.

A utility room in the same area is unheated but never gets cold enough to freeze.

Heating the shop for a full winter costs about $1,500, including the office and bathroom areas. "We keep the temperature about 62°F, which is warm enough to work in shirtsleeves,” Pete says.

Heat is retained by fiberglass batt insulation in the walls and blown-in foam insulation in the ceiling. The walls and ceiling also contain a moisture barrier.

Illumination comes from three rows of 8' fluorescent bulbs. Each row contains four banks of two bulbs (for a total of 24 bulbs). The rows of bulbs are 15' apart.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Early Spring 2009

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