Shop Space Upgrade, Think Versatile

October 25, 2013 09:59 PM
Shop Space Upgrade, Think Versatile

In its third overhaul, overhead doors maximize this work-focused shop

When it was time for his farm to upgrade its shop space, Mark Ruff didn’t necessarily aim for a bigger space, but rather a more versatile one.

"The original building was a cinder block garage built in the 1950s," says Ruff, who farms near Circleville, Ohio. "Then in the early 1970s, we added a 30'x30' enclosed space with an overhead door and an open air pole shed."

In 2012, it was time for Ruff Farms to rethink and rebuild their farm shop. Using the existing building footprint, Ruff starting drawing up ideas for how to maximize its potential.

Universal work space. Now, at its widest and longest, the shop measures 45'x130'. The largest modification to the size of the structure was a 15' wide extension to the north side the building. The entire southeast wall of the shop is lined with overhead doors. To compliment the versatility, the southwest end of the building features two overhead doors.

"We work in a universal work space," Ruff says. "We can load and unload the building as projects cycle. We wanted our shop to be a work area, not a storage area. I don’t want to commit space to anything."

In total, there are seven exterior overhead doors, two measuring 24'x14'; four measuring 22'x14'; and one measuring 12'x12'. One interior overhead door separates the 30'x30' section of the building from the newly finished portion, which sits slightly lower.

"We can close that area off and use it as a paint bay without disrupting any other projects," Ruff says.


There wasn’t a significant difference in cost with the contractor he used when comparing finished walls with framing them out for overhead doors. The way he sees it, he paid for the doors, which keeps the space versatile as he intended.

The once gravel floor is now 8" thick concrete that slopes toward a drain that runs the length of the shop.

Combining the thickness of the floor with the configuration of the doors, Ruff is able to house all three of his semi-trucks during inclement weather.

The ceilings are 15' at the highest point. To finish the building, the ceiling has 10" of blown-in insulation, and the sidewalls have 6" batt insulation.

"With the doors, no matter the weather, if there is a breeze to be had, we can have it in the shop," Ruff says. "Four overhead fans also help with air flow. In the winter, we use the radiant heaters, and we’ve found that two provide plenty of heat for us."

To add to the versatility of the overall workspace, the Ruffs did additional research for the lighting plan. Working with a local vendor to map out lumens produced, Ruff invested in lighting that rivals a Wal-Mart.

"The shop space has to be somewhere you’re able to work at night and really see what you’re doing," he says.

There are three banks of independently controlled lights, totalling 80 pairs of 8' T5 fluorescent bulbs.

A unique lighting idea is the wall-mounted bulbs that are placed in the darkest corner of the shop.
On the exterior, above the five doors, there are five LED floodlights that each provide a 30' footprint out onto the gravel lot.

"Those lights cost about $500 each, but 26 watts is the most they are rated, so they provide a lot of light for a small power pull," Ruff says.

When it comes to tools, most of the  inventory is mobile. The crew has a dedicated set of shop tools and also pulls from a service truck, which is outfitted with a welder and hydraulic hose maker.

"It’s efficient for the crew to work out of the truck, but if it’s gone, half of the tools are gone," Ruff says. "However, we’ve never had a big issue–the farthest field is only a 30-minute drive."

For electricity, the shop is currently wired for 110 voltage with outlets and exposed conduit between every overhead door and on every interior post. There are extension cords mounted at every outlet, but even so, Ruff estimates the farthest distance between the power outlets is only 20'.

There are some aspects of the shop the crew is still working on, including where to run 220-volt power, where to have air lines and if or how large of concrete aprons are needed.

In its place. With an open floor design, there are other areas for storage and smaller projects. In the corner of the shop is a small area for lubricant storage. Between the doors on the southwest corner, a metal rack serves as the only rack storage in the space.

The connected workroom houses hardware, smaller tools and the only workbench—an L-shaped 12'x16' laminate countertop. The adjacent office has the crew’s break room (where weekly staff meetings are held), Mark’s office, a full bathroom and a small kitchen. A nearby 20'x20' building stores high-demand parts such as filters, ground engaging points and belts.

Ruff says the shop provides the space and utility his crew needs to tackle painting, sandblasting, refurbishing and general maintenance jobs.

"We don’t do engine or transmission jobs," he says. "But all the yearly tasks we can do in this space. We can unfold the planter. We can have the combine and the head in here. All in all, we can do seven to eight projects at a time."

Having one unified space has some intangible benefits. "For the crew, it’s a cleaner environment, and they can work together or separately on projects," he explains. "As a manager, I can look out and see what everyone is working on at one time." 

You can e-mail Margy Eckelkamp at

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