Feature, V2I2

Maximizing Your Workspace

Whether building full sheds in the shop, or simply doing the prep work for an onsite build, most shed builders have one common complaint: Not enough room to work.

The trouble is, no matter how big your current space is, it’s likely never going to be big enough. However, a well-organized shop can often solve this space problem by helping shed builders to maximize their available space. An efficiently planned shop also can improve safety by keeping trip hazards up and out of the way and ensuring a clutter-free environment around your power tools.

Optimize Workflow

Iron Bull hopper easily moves out of the way or underneath a work surface.

Vester Black, owner of Yardbarns & More in Bluefield, West Virginia, says he has a small shop compared to many other builders. His space measures roughly 26 by 26 feet.

“It’s just big enough to build one shed at a time,” he says. But Black agrees that it’s small shop owners who are pushed to get the most creative. To make the most of his space, Black has organized large equipment to keep work flowing smoothly.

“We usually have our miter saw off to one side, and our table saw off to the back, so that keeps workflow going pretty well,” Black says.

Ted’s Sheds in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, has taken another approach to improving workflow. Not only does production follow a set path, but it does so on a simple assembly line.

The company has a roughly 3,000-square-foot shop in which shed components are produced before being assembled onsite. Foreman Jeremy Cherney explains, “I used to have two really big tables measuring 8 by 20 feet. We just got rid of those and put in two sets of rollers that are spread 7 feet across and about 40 feet long. Now everything is built on rollers and just slides down the room. We frame it down at the end, slide it over and side it, then slide it off and paint it.”

For Wendell Yoder, owner of Mid-America Structures in Peru, Nebraska, the key to optimum space usage is adjustability. By creating multiple components in a few steps, he’s able to move product along quickly.

“On the table that we use to cut out rafters I’ve got four chop saws there that are adjustable. We can adjust the spaces and in one cut we can cut out multiple [parts],” he explains.

Store Creatively

While machinery can have a big footprint, one of the biggest space-users for many shops is raw material. For those shops that store lumber and other materials in the shop, storage racks are crucial to keeping product safely in place and out of the way.

Yoder explains that his shop is divided into bays separated by a double-sided storage rack.

“We have a double-sided rack where we can stack things on both sides of it, and then we have a bay on [either] side of it. I feel that has really helped us out as far as maximizing space,” says Yoder.

Chad Wright, owner/operator of Wright’s Shed Co. in Greenwood, Nebraska, has likewise looked upwards to free up space. “I have overhead shelving for bunches of lumber, so I can keep a bunch of different types of material on the same wall,” he says.

But that’s just for the material needed at present. Like many builders, Wright stores additional product outside the shop in order to free up space.

“Actually, my lumber is typically wrapped and stored outside,” Wright says, adding, “I need a bigger shop!”

Tom Merkert, who handles sales for Capital Forest, points out that outdoor storage is a common solution for many shed builders, but it can potentially lead to problems. “It stores okay, but if you get [lumber] in January and hold onto it through the next August, you can have mold issues. If it gets above about 72 degrees, you can start to get mold and that can be a major issue for builders,” he says.

Southern Pine’s Standard Grading Rules for Southern Pine Lumber offers these additional tips for outdoor lumber storage:

  • Elevate lumber on stringers to prevent absorption of ground moisture and to allow air circulation. Do not store lumber in direct contact with the ground.
  • Cover lumber stored in an open area with a material that will give protection from the elements, but also will allow ventilation around the material to prevent condensation on the underside of the covering.

Of course, not all builders have this lumber storage problem. Dan Britton, owner of Millworks Custom Sheds in Rochester, Washington, has found a creative way to store siding. “I mill out a lot of my own lumber, which most shed builders don’t,” he explains. I’ve got a bandsaw mill and I mill it out basically as I need it.”

Fabric buildings can protect lumber from the elements while keeping the shop floor clear or raw material.
Fabric buildings can protect lumber from the elements while keeping the shop floor clear or raw material.

Paint Faster and Safer

While some shed builders provide an “all natural” product, most offer color options that are most easily achieved through a quick spray than with a brush.

Black calls himself “one of the worst cases production-wise” since his small space doesn’t afford room for a paint booth.

“A lot of people have a separate place to paint their buildings. They’ll build them in the back and then roll them forward into a spray booth and spray them,” he says. “There are a lot of ways to do that.”

But Kat Mendenhall, CMO for Standard Tools, says space isn’t a necessity when setting up a paint booth. She finds that when most people think of paint booths they envision a large room-like area that is curtained off — a definite space drain. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

“You can also have it designed and built so it’s an open face booth or paint wall. It still collects the particles but doesn’t take up that large space,” she says. “Depending on what you’re using it for, you may not need a lot of space.”

Space isn’t a necessity — but safety is.

“One of the problems with a do-it-yourself booth is airflow. We have engineers who do the airflow [in our paint booths] to make sure the fumes are being exhausted out of the building. Otherwise it’s a huge fire hazard,” Mendenhall explains.

While the number-one reason to use a professional paint booth is safety, it’s also against code in almost every region for a business to spray paint without one.

Make the Most of Your Space

Although shed builders work with small spaces all day, it can be hard to step back and examine the manufacturing space to see how this process can be performed more safely and easily. And what works for one shed builder may not help another shed builder.

As Black points out, “Everybody is different on how they set up their shop. We’re all limited based on our space.”

Or more to the point, shed builders are only limited by how they’ve organized their space.

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