Bright and Comfortable

January 31, 2009 01:27 PM

Garry Niemeyer and his employees Jerry McCulley and Gary Stouffe like to gather in Niemeyer's shop every day to share what they've learned at meetings o

ShopSnapshot: Garry Niemeyer, Auburn, Ill.

Building: 60'x60' Borkholder wood-frame building

Contractor: Apple Creek Construction Services, Springfield, Ill., (217) 544-0335

Heat: In-floor radiant, installed by Bill Bergschneider, (217) 368-2891

Walls: Two 16'x30' sliding doors; the bottom 4' of the walls and the bottom 8' behind workbench area are lined with white plastic boards; 41 electrical outlets

Light: 36 8'-fluorescent bulbs in ceiling; four fluorescent bulbs over one workbench, spotlight over the second

Storage: 8'x24' loft; shelves and bins

Unusual tools: Rolling ladder

Unusual features: Suspended overhead loft with no columnar support; "grain hallway" between shop and grain-storage area; large paved yard (an old feedlot)

Workbenches: Two (18'x24" and 10'x36")

Office: None, just a computer and desk; farm business office remains in the house

r talk about which job to tackle next. But ask what they like best about the three-year-old facility, and there's no discussion needed.

"The heated floor, the insulation and the lighting, in that order," one of them answers, while the others nod in agreement. But that's not all they like. There's also the abundance of electrical and air outlets and ample storage space.

When the shop was planned, the first consideration was size. Because Niemeyer, who farms in Auburn, Ill., operates newer equipment, the three didn't think they would need to overhaul engines or fabricate new implements. Mostly, they perform routine maintenance and lubrication on equipment and prepare planters, sprayers and combines for the season.

"We've replaced slip clutches in combines," Niemeyer says. "And we've installed a new guidance controller in our sprayer. We probably wouldn't tackle a diesel engine."

The shop structure is a 60'x60' Borkholder post-frame building (, 16' high at the eaves. It is warmed by a closed-system, tankless radiant floor heating setup. The system uses 36 gal. of water to supply the twelve 300'-loops of tubing embedded in the concrete, plus another 2 gal. in the heater.

"The floor is always warm, and there is minimal heat differential from floor to ceiling," Niemeyer says. "With the temperature set at 58°F, we don't need more than a shirt on when we work. It's very comfortable."

A sensor outside the building detects changes in outside temperature and the system automatically adjusts water temperature in the buried lines.

Eighteen banks of fluorescent bulbs illuminate the shop. The aluminum rolling ladder is handy for working on combines.

Cost to heat the shop has been running about $1,700 each winter season. "For electricity, we have one meter for the floor heating system and grain bin fans and another for the rest of the power to the shop," Niemeyer says.

Insulation helps keep the shop comfortable. Under the concrete floor is 2" of foam insulation board (on top of a moisture barrier and a sand base). The water tubing was stapled to the insulation board and the concrete poured on top.

Outside the walls, vertical sections of insulation board extend 24" below the soil surface. In the ceiling is 24" of blown-in fiberglass and a plastic moisture barrier.

The two 16'x30' steel-framed sliding doors are 3½" thick, filled with insulation board and covered with Fiber-Lite pre-laminated panels (made by Nudo Products,

To prevent drafts from sneaking under the doors, Niemeyer devised a "doorstop" by fastening rubber backing from a carpet to a pair of hinged 2x4s.

The concrete floor is 8" thick in front of the doors and in the middle of the shop bay and 6" elsewhere in the shop. The floor is reinforced with Fibermesh synthetic fibers ( In front of the threshold, the concrete is also reinforced with rebar. The threshold is edged with angle iron to prevent the concrete from chipping. The floor includes a drain in the center for washing machinery.

Left to right: Garry Niemeyer, Jerry McCulley and Gary Stouffe
Making Use of What's Already There
The first step in siting a new structure is to evaluate what's already there and see if anything can be used. For Garry Niemeyer, the site included three Harvestore sealed-storage grain structures, a feed room, a loafing shed for cattle and a paved feedlot. Niemeyer converted the Harvestores to dry corn storage, since the cattle facilities were no longer used.
Niemeyer built his shop where the loafing shed once stood. He used material salvaged from the loafing shed, along with new posts and roofing, to build a covered 16'x60' "grain hallway" between the Harvestores and the shop building. The hallway provides a place to park loads of grain overnight during harvest season. To empty the Harvestores, he backs a portable auger into the hallway.
On the opposite end of the shop building, Niemeyer attached a 38'x54' wood-frame structure for storing machinery and used oil.

The old paved feedlot, extending across the front of the grain hallway, shop and machine shed, "is handier than we ever imagined," Niemeyer says. "When we're harvesting seed beans, we can blow out the combines and just sweep up the material."


A loft over one of the workbenches requires no pillars for support. The frame is joist-hangered to reinforced floor joists.

A 6'x30' concrete apron, outside of the doors, butts up against an old concrete feedlot, creating a large paved area.

The shop stays comfortable in summer, as well, Niemeyer says. Standing fans and floor fans circulate air from three windows on the north side and two windows in the sliding doors. "When it's 100°F outside, it's 85° in here," he says.

Illumination comes from 18 banks of two 8' fluorescent bulbs. "We installed wiring that would let us add more lights," Niemeyer says. "But these are sufficient."

There are two banks of two 8' fluorescent bulbs over the smaller of two workbenches. That bench is 18' long and 24" wide. A spotlight illuminates a heavy-duty workbench—10' long and 36" wide, with a 2"-thick wooden top.

The shop's white interior reflects light. The upper half of the wall is lined with steel paneling. The bottom half is lined with white-painted plywood to reduce noise.

A dozen double-duplex electrical receptacles are scattered around the walls. "A 50' extension cord reaches anywhere in the shop bay," Niemeyer says.

Multiple air locations and storage. There are two compressed-air outlets on each wall of the shop bay and two more outside. Storage includes bolt bins; shelves for paint, lubricants and parts; and file cabinets and a desk for machinery manuals and shop records. While Niemeyer keeps farm business records in an office in his house, he does use the shop computer to download GPS data from tractors, combines and sprayers.

For additional storage, there's an 8'x24' loft suspended over a workbench, requiring no pillars for support. "The frame is joist-hangered to the loft floor. We used three 2x6s sandwiched together for reinforced strength," he explains. "Most of the stuff we store up there is light, and the weight is concentrated next to the wall."

To reach the loft, the men use an aluminum rolling ladder. "It's also handy for working on combines—much better than a regular ladder," Niemeyer says.

Instead of a hoist, the team preferred a fork lift. They also ruled out an oil-change pit or vehicle lift. "We work mainly on larger equipment," Niemeyer explains. "We can slide under it on a creeper."

Since most of Niemeyer's land is close to the farmstead, "we park equipment in the shop in the evening. Then, we can service machinery in the morning without dew. We park grain trucks in the shop in the winter, so they'll be warm and start right off in the morning."

Best of all, says Niemeyer, "when spring comes, our machinery is ready to go."

You can e-mail Darrell Smith at

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