In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Dream Shop Opinions
Mar 14, 2010
Farm shops are like wives--what works well for one man would be a disaster for another farmer. So it with some hesitation that I offer the following opinions on the design and technical details of a "great" farm shop:
-Big. Way bigger than you want to pay for. Forty by sixty feet is probably a minimum. At least one door should have a minimum height of 20 feet, maybe higher. (There are strong rumors that the next generation of combines will be even taller than the current door-scrapers. Tall grain tank extensions will be made even higher by mega-height tires.)
-Six inches of concrete floor, if only in areas where equipment will move or be parked. Save money on areas near work benches and storage areas by reducing floor thickness to 4 inches. If you're going to use floor heating, plan, plan and plan some more before calling the concrete truck. Floor heating demands professional help to ensure correct layout and plumbing of heating coils buried in the concrete.
-Budget for a big slab of sloped concrete outside the main equipment access door. You'll use that slab for washing equipment and quick repairs nearly as much as you use the area inside the building.
-Decide the type of overhead door before you finalize the building design. Some types of bifold doors require end-wall reinforcement of the structural framing. Traditional "folding" overhead doors on tracks benefit from advance planning for ceiling reinforcement if mega-wide doors require additional tracks or drive motors.
-Budget extra money for the electrician. Specify 4-plex electrical outlets every 10 feet along at least one wall. Both walls, if the shop is very wide. Consider paying a lighting consultant to design a lighting system---simply hanging a bunch of Walmart 8-foot florescent light fixtures is a good way to make your dream shop as dark and gloomy as a dungeon.
-Think twice, think three times about anything that interrupts a wide-open floor plan. An oil change "pit" is nice so you can stand up while changing oil in vehicles; a crane is handy to unload or move heavy objects; but I can't count the number of shops I've been in where oil change pits were cobwebbed and had scrap iron stacked atop them, or where the shop owners cursed their crane's location because it obstructed traffic flow or parking inside the shop. You'll never regret having wide open space.
There's no end to opinions on what constitutes a "dream shop". Darrel Smith has done a great job profiling in Farm Journal Magazine a variety of farm shops from around the country. His detailed interviews with shop owners provides a shopping list of ideas that work--and didn't work.