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Plenty of Space to Work

August 24, 2013
By: Darrell Smith, Farm Journal Conservation and Machinery Editor
paxton shop
A 64’x72’ building provides room to work on several repair jobs at once and park frequently used equipment overnight so it won’t freeze during cold weather.  

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The Paxton family’s simple shop turned out just right

Doing plenty of research before building their new shop paid off in comfort and efficiency for brothers Joe and Steve Paxton and their sons of Grove City, Pa. "It’s not a fancy shop, but it’s very functional," Joe says.

The Paxtons visited other shops and studied those in magazines. "We picked out the things we liked best and put them into this one," Joe adds.

Some of the Paxtons’ favorite features include enough room to work on multiple machines, overnight parking space to keep machines from freezing, floor heat and overhead doors.

The 64'x72' building was designed and constructed by Joe’s son-in-law, Mark Saeler, who operates a construction company. "The shop is a standard pole building," Saeler explains. "The structural posts are pressure-treated 6x6s, spaced 8' apart, resting on a 10" concrete footing. We put 2x6 framing between the posts so we could install insulation and interior and exterior finishes."


Two generations of Paxtons—Scott, Joe, Silas and Steve (not pictured)—use their new shop to maintain equipment on their Pennsylvania dairy farm.

Seeing the layout on Saeler’s computer screen, with three big machines placed as if they all were being worked on, helped persuade the Paxtons to go ahead with the new facility. The decision became almost a no-brainer when they reflected on the building they had been using as a shop. "It was very small," says Scott, Joe’s son. "I called it a toolbox and parts room, rather than a shop. No machine with dual wheels would fit inside. With no storage space, stuff kept creeping onto the floor."

Floor heat. Another decision that turned out to be fairly easy was the in-floor radiant heating system. "Every­body we talked to said that’s the way to heat a shop or garage," Scott says. With in-floor heat, Joe and Scott say the building stays warm all the way from the floor to the ceiling. "You can park a truck in here in the winter, and it will be dry in two hours," Joe adds.

Steve Kalasky with Thermo Supply in West Middlesex, Pa., designed the heating system. A boiler heats a propylene glycol/water solution that flows through ¾" PEX (crosslinked polyethelene) tubing embedded in the concrete floor. The 150,000-btu HTP boiler, fueled by natural gas, is rated 98% efficient and is modulated to match its firing rate to the needs of the structure.

The system runs off of a single manifold—just one heating zone controlled by one thermostat. The lines run underneath the office/utility area, as well as the work bay. In the office, supplemental heat is available from electric baseboard heaters.

paxton shop floor

During construction, a network of copper tubing was installed to carry the solution of propylene glycol and water to heat the concrete floor.

The heating system and efficient insu­lation work together to keep the building cold or warm, as needed. "To minimize heat loss, after the building was constructed, we excavated enough space between the posts to install 2" of rigid foam insulation board around the perimeter of the building," Saeler says. "Under the concrete floor, the main insulation is a semi-rigid type of foam insulation board with a built-in vapor barrier, called The Barrier XT." Installing that product involved only one step compared to the traditional method of laying down sheets of foam insulation board, taping the seams and then overlaying a polyethelene vapor barrier, he adds.

"The wall insulation system is a hybrid system called ‘flash-batt,’" Saeler explains. "It utilizes a 1" layer of closed-cell polyurethane foam (BASF Comfort Foam) insulation, sprayed on the inside of the outside wall. Between the wall studs, we placed standard 6" fiberglass batt insulation."

Combining the two types of insulation creates an assembly that is virtually air-tight with an R-value around 25. The ceilings are insulated with 12" of standard blown-in fiberglass material, providing an R-value of 38.

paxton shop loft

A stairway leads to the overhead storage area. The 16'x24' utility area includes a 12'x12' office and brightly lit tool room.

"With no drafts, any heat we make stays inside the building," Steve says.

"The building requires very little heat," Scott says. During its first year in 2011-2012, the owners found the temperature stayed at 50°F to 55°F until early winter. Only then did they turn on the heat. "In the summer, it stayed nice and cool," Scott adds. "People who came to deliver parts thought we had air conditioning."

The Paxtons installed circulating fans in the ceiling. "They’re not part of the heating system," Scott says. "We just thought circulating air would be a good idea."

Chip-resistant easy-to-clean floor. Resting on a bed of gravel is the concrete floor, which is reinforced with wire mesh and embedded with propylene fibers to resist chipping, then sealed to make clean-up easier. The concrete is 8" thick under the work bay and 6" thick under the 16'x24' utility/storage area.

The utility/storage area includes a 12'x12' shop office. (The farm office is located in another building.) The office also serves as a breakroom for employees. There was no need for a bathroom because one is available nearby in the milking parlor.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - September 2013
RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, Shops

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