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RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 1:11 a.m.

I think this is supposed to be something to celebrate but skyrocketing expense seems to be shrinking the build very rapidly. I have to keep back about $15K for home remodeling. I was never eager to borrow since the home is currently free and clear. But the loan payments will be half what I am now throwing away in monthly shop space rent and will be going into my own property to build equity/increase value.

Initial shop plan was 2400', 40'x60', with two roll-up doors on the North 60' side. Rhino quoted $24,000 for the building not including assembly, doors, or insulation.

That was not great, but not too bad. Then I discovered the horror of getting a concrete foundation. Still looking for a better deal, but the initial quote was $11.00 per square foot!

By the time the balance of the 2400' build is competed I would need significantly more money than will be available when the loan closes in Sept.

So now I'm exploring slightly smaller alternatives.

One is to pour a simple 2,000' (40'x50') flat-work slab at $7.00'. This would be braced at each edge by a 40' "High-Capacity" shipping containers for 660' of instant secure storage space. I can buy 50' trusses for $300.00 each, six to roof over the gap between containers. Then build end walls along the 50' dimensions with doors for drive-through convenience. Weld post to the inside walls created by the containers to mount the trusses. At least a third less expensive than the 2,400' Rino steel building but only 2,000' of free-span space. Total of around 2,600' in three bays. 

Now looking into other alternatives, wood, cinder block, etc. I always understood steel to be the least expensive and block the most? Really hate the idea of ending up with an incomplete building to be "Finished later", at 65 I really do not have a lot of "Later" left!

I will never be "Happy" with the current 1,180' rented shop, in addition to being too small the door is only 7' high and the ceiling 8'.

Since I am in the high desert heat and cold are both issues. And good reason to avoid a steel building due to their lousy thermal properties issue unless another $3K in insulation is added. 

But what else might be a decent alternative for a modest budget? Seems crazy that a simple shop building can so easily cost more than the 1,500' house and 2.22 acres of land!

Lots of knowledge base here, so looking for suggestions.

1,800' free-span is really the least that makes sense to me as I already have the "Joy" of cramped quarters.

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/22/20 6:36 a.m.

If you can already do a "flat" slab there isn't much to be saved in floor/foundation costs. If the above is still considering a foundation type slab, 12+" down around the edge, something like a frost protected shallow foundation may help some of the material and excavation costs. Not sure if the steel building would be ok with this type though. 

Around here, pole buildings are common but the steel on slab are not a whole lot more up front cost. 

spitfirebill MegaDork
7/22/20 7:32 a.m.

Around here I think pole buildings are the cheapest construction and fastest.  

When i had to move in 2017, i had to leave a larger shop that i built in 1998.

When faced with 2017 prices i had to downsize my expectations. sad  Needed lots of shelving for storage, instead of everything just sitting on a large floor.  But, i got it to work.

Being in the high desert, will you really use a shop that is not insulated?   

What about building a solid  smaller building for the important stuff/ work area.  Then add shed roofs around it to store "stuff" under roof out of sun and rain?

In our area open cell spray foam insulation goes for about $1.50 / sq. ft.      Rough estimate: a 40 x 60 would cost ~$8,500 for insulation.

I insulated my new shop.  All this week the heat index has exceeded 105.  I have been working away comfortably in 74 degrees, with the little wall a/C just purring away.

A huge shop doesn't work if you don't want to go out in it.  I find the older i get, the harder it is to work in high heat. 

The shipping container idea has a lot of issues:  How to get them all level and aligned.  How to keep varmits and weather out of all the gaps between them.  The cost of fitting doors, etc.  Insulation.  


slefain PowerDork
7/22/20 9:30 a.m.

What if you didn't pour the entire floor and just did footings? I used to do a lot of mechanic work in an enclosed barn that just had red clay floors we packed down hard. Later we poured concrete in sections as money allowed. Eventually the whole floor was concrete, but it took a few years. Got a few 2-post lifts in there now, but they had special footings poured later.

Having just finished a home remodel, you will spend more than you expected. My 4-post garage lift money went into a 36" stove instead. Didn't see that coming.

Duke MegaDork
7/22/20 9:56 a.m.

Shipping containers make lousy building components if you want them to be conditioned or inhabited in any way.  They just do.  Every hipster architect has tried to use them and 9/10 times they would have been better off just building something.  Also, PF has outlined other issues with them as far as placing and truing them up.

That's also assuming that you can convince your local building inspector to accept them as a structural item.

The kind of 50 foot trusses you can buy for $300 each need to be placed at 2 feet on center, so for 40 feet you will need 21 of them, not 6.

Unless your area is very different from mine 12" down for a footing or perimeter haunch is about 20-24" too shallow.

Sorry for the brevity but I'm at work and actually working.


z31maniac MegaDork
7/22/20 10:44 a.m.
RichardSIA said:

will be going into my own property to build equity/increase value.

I would check your particular area on this one. I know in mine, even a nice shop with an in-ground tornado shelter adds maybe 15% of the cost of building to the property........if you're lucky.

So a $40k building may add $6-8k in additional value.

RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 11:08 a.m.

Trying to contact more concrete guys today for quotes. Concrete cost more than a building. 

Containers spaced apart and the gap roofed over are common here. The containers make secure storage and work is done under the roof in between. We only need a few inches of base for flat concrete but "Foundations" have to be done to the engineered drawings supplied by the building manufacturer to county code.

Have a possibility of a 40'x60' steel building made several years ago but never assembled, at $16K.  It's already near to me so shipping is not an issue.

Single roll-up door in the end wall is not where I would really like it to be, but I would save at least $10K over the custom build. This puts it at about the same price as the container/slab/roof idea but with all free-span space. Need to beat the $11.00' foundation cost.

Part of why I need "So much" space is that there is no point to completing my cars just to let them sit outside. The sun/UV here is brutal, the winter rain/snow is no better. Left outside the cars would go to ruin very quickly, particularly as most are convertibles or roadsters.

For cooling it's big swamp coolers and fans, for heat propane and maybe an oil heater to recycle drain oil. Of course this encourages a smaller shop, got to love conflicting interest.

Have a guy coming to re-level the house today, so I will be on the phone and MAC looking for more alternatives.

NOT A TA SuperDork
7/22/20 11:39 a.m.

Considered selling the current home and buying one with a shop building or large attached garage already?

I've seen quite a few guys build or start to build their dream shop/garage only to have life (or lack of) get in the way. At 65 you've probably already noticed how much less productive you've become. Getting less done per hour or simply not putting in as many hours. Building the new shop building will take away a lot of time from whatever your current projects are.


RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 12:19 p.m.
NOT A TA said:

Considered selling the current home and buying one with a shop building or large attached garage already?

I've seen quite a few guys build or start to build their dream shop/garage only to have life (or lack of) get in the way. At 65 you've probably already noticed how much less productive you've become. Getting less done per hour or simply not putting in as many hours. Building the new shop building will take away a lot of time from whatever your current projects are.


Not possible, the CCP virus has killed jobs and real estate locally. Have to put about $15K into the house just to deal with the issues left over from the prior owners. No way I can afford to buy what I would like to have in it's place. Had to pull an equity loan to do the shop build.

I will get a lot more done once the shop is finished with no need to drive into town and back. Will be able to take a break and then go back to work. Hope is to turn the shop into my "Job" with no commute, no boss, and no set hours. Cannot stand TV and radio is barely tolerable, so time in the shop is my entertainment.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/22/20 12:44 p.m.

You could do what dad did.

He has two; a 40x40 that was done the "real" way... poured a foundation and slab, then erected a Morton steel building on top.  The other is a 36x48 pole shed that he built with a gravel base and poured a concrete slab on top inside.  Pole shed takes away that excavation and multiple yards of concrete.  He found that he saved enough money that way to buy a 3-point auger attachment for the tractor and he and some local Amish guys put it together in a week.  Being in the high desert, I doubt you have access to that resource, but I'm sure there are some knowledgeable folks without the corporate overhead who can help.

The real cost of a concrete foundation is only about half in the concrete and half in the plotting/excavation labor and equipment.  You're paying for a lot of labor with strings and levels, the financing on that $30k backhoe, the union guy in the seat of the backhoe, the company insurance and taxes, the disposal of the dirt, etc.  My guess is that for your $11/cf for the foundation, only about $3/cf is in the mud itself.  Take that out of the equation.  Build a pole shed with 4" of 2B mod gravel floor and then have someone bring a truck and pump in 4" of reinforced concrete.  Then you're basically paying 2-3 guys to float some mud instead of a whole crew with backhoes, buckets, and slide rulers.

RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 1:45 p.m.

Just spoke with the neighbor about his never assembled building.

Need to go look at it to ensure it has not suffered too much from laying around or been pilfered by thieves. But he will let me have it for only $12K!

He had wanted $16K, original cost was claimed to have been about $32K but I don't see how that could be since it did not come with doors or insulation.

Adding doors and insulation will use up a lot of what I am saving on purchase but I would have to get them in any case so in the end I'm still saving at least $10K. Actually more, since no 7.5% sales tax or distant shipping.

I will be looking at the blueprints later today, hoping to not find any deal killers.

Concrete remains the biggest obstacle, next call is the power company.

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/22/20 1:56 p.m.

You have an idea on your frost depth requirements?

RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 2:44 p.m.

Frost depth 18".

But now I find I am in an "AO" flood zone. So the county started yammering about FEMA requirements and "Feet above grade"! The foundation is too expensive already, no way I can add FEET of elevation to the cost. angry "Glo-bull Warming" promises that I will never have to worry about flooding since we no longer have rain. cheeky

RichardSIA Reader
7/22/20 5:40 p.m.

Got the plans, company is still in business.

Need to go look at it to be sure it's not badly damaged from sitting for several years.

We do a lot of shops using Curtis73's plan.  Of course we are in the rural South...  Pole barns go up in two days.  Usually Saturday and Sunday.  wink  Also, there is a lot of stuff we can get away with if the property is zoned agricultural...

That said... I don't ignore flood zone measurements.  Sweeping 14" of mud out of collector cars  and a shop is no fun.

If the place is ever to be sold in the future, some shortcuts can come back to bite you in the butt.

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
7/23/20 8:35 p.m.

I am nearing the end of a ~30'x60' shop build.  It's going to finish at around $15,000, with my dad and I doing all but the concrete finishing.  Here concrete is $110/yd.  We used 40 yards.  We hired a finisher at $25/hr with the helicopter thing and the skill to make a mirror finish and did the rest of the concrete ourselves: surveying, excavation, forming...  I bought one 16x9 garage door for $1600, two man doors for $250, and 200 amp electric has cost $500 so far.  I expect another $500 for that.  Stuff ain't cheap now, but I'm certain I'll marvel at how cheap is was in about 10 years.

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/20 9:12 p.m.

Can you break it into smaller chunks?

For example:

- Build a 30x40 with the intent of doing a 30x40 addition later. You'd have as big a shop as you do now, and steel buildings are easy to add to. 
- Build perimeter footings only with a gravel floor. Add concrete floor later. 
- Build smaller. Build the largest shed the county will allow you to without a permit. Then build another the same size. (They might one day connect.)

The shipping container option is intriguing. My knee jerk response like Duke is to say "No way!", but if you have a lot of neighbors doing it already, then why not?

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/20 9:17 p.m.

If you build with containers, there is no reason to pour a slab under the containers. They already have a floor.  Put them on concrete piers made with sonotube forms. They are easy to do without a pro concrete guy. Added bonus- if you have to raise it for flood issues, it's easy to have the piers raise out of the ground as high as you need them. 

RichardSIA Reader
7/24/20 5:24 p.m.

 Was never going to put concrete under the containers, just a slab in the space between them.

Seems I've been doing this wrong, trying to make the building I want fit the budget I have.

So now I'm contacting building companies to see what they have that will fit the budget. First response has been 1,200', meh, that's what I have now and it's too &T%$! small!

40'x40' or 30'x60' should be possible, basic rule seems to be $10.00 per square foot. After thinking on it 30'x60' = 1,800' would do the job. Not ideal but sufficient. I'm told that 30' wide is significantly less expensive than 40' for beam cost.

Still trying to learn more about the "Used" 40'x60' building as it's the best buy price but may have issues with assembly.

STM317 UberDork
7/24/20 6:53 p.m.

If a pole building is a possibility, your prices will drop if you have walls in lengths divisible by 8. 8ft pole spacing is probably most common, and many building materials come in 8ft lengths, so keeping walls in 8ft increments means less waste and the least amount of material used. This reduces construction time and cost.

I wanted a 30x50 building. It was faster and cheaper to build a 32x48, and I got 36 more sqft out of the deal.

RichardSIA Reader
7/24/20 10:33 p.m.

Spoke with the tax assessors office today, looks like I'm on track to nearly double my property taxes. frown 

Great racket they have, value is not necessarily my actual cost, they can do their own much higher valuation. They like $25.00' even if my actual cost are under $20.00'. angry They mentioned "You would not sell at $20.00' ". So, I'm to be taxed at some potential future profit on the property I expect to die on. surpriseno

Now wish I had never even spoken to the county, should have just put up what I want, but now they are aware of my plans.

What really grinds me is that for what four years rent cost I could pay for the shop to be built. The increased taxes are forever. And already paid two years rent! 

Yah, I'm "Cheap", Ferrari desires on a Yugo budget will make you that way.

Nothing more I can really do until next week. But if I don't find a way to get what I want I will cut my losses and cancel the loan.

EDIT: I think the local concrete guys quote was bogus, only the piers and maybe the perimeter are "Foundation", the clear-span is just flat-work. Flat is $7.00' vs $11.00'. His quote was 2,400' x  $11.00' for $26,400.00! I just don't see that as being "Fair dealing" despite knowing "Life is not fair".

RichardSIA Reader
7/31/20 12:58 a.m.

Well, this has been "Educational"!

Infuriating, frustrating, dismaying, disgusting, ......

Real eye-opener in how Gov. Org. run$ our live$ for their benefit, certainly not ours!

At this point it looks likely that I will be forced to live with a too small 1,200' building AND a 40' container to hold the "Stuff" in order to get this done.  40' box goes 8' away from my existing wooden storage shed, then roof over the gap to provide parking for two cars out of the direct weather.

Nowhere close to the desired plan, barely better than nothing. Concrete and Gov. Org. are the dream killers. Vote carefully!

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/31/20 9:00 a.m.

With all due respect, this doesn't sound like the fault of the government. It sounds like you had hopes to use the property in a manner that doesn't quite fit the requirements for the area.

Maybe your lawyer or your realtor let you down by not helping you understand the limits of the flood zone. Maybe your insurance agent. Maybe just due diligence. There's plenty of people to be frustrated at. But probably not government. I suspect their guidelines existed long before you bought the place. 

Likewise the concrete guy. I understand being frustrated and disappointed the costs exceeded your hopes. But that's not really his fault.

I'm sorry you are going through this. Is it worth reconsidering selling the place and looking for something that better suits your needs?  

The best part of this thread is the title, and more specifically the first word. Hooray!  Don't let the circumstances and setbacks rob your joy or squash your enthusiasm. 

Good luck!

RichardSIA Reader
7/31/20 11:29 a.m.

Rules were changed in January 2018. NOT mentioned by anyone when I purchased the property in July 2018. To date most locals are unaware of those changes. Changing again in Oct, doubt it will be for the better.

This is a VERY rural area, no one has less than an acre, many have horses, mules, or goats. Zone is "Rural Residential", so no commercial water rights = no "Crop" but some of the gardens are impressive.

It seems I have the only property that does not already have a large shop building. Not actually true, but I'm clearly in the minority. Cannot just sell and buy elsewhere, sick of packing up and moving even if I could. The California/Big Gov. plague has spread everywhere so there is no point in fleeing only to find the same overbearing bureaucracy in the new location.

Now looking into an expandable building solution although I doubt I will ever have the additional funds to do so.

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