From the Dog House to the Woodshed

This past summer, my wife and I realized that with our daughter heading to college, we no longer needed to be in the large suburban house we had been renting since selling our Capitol Hill house a few years before. Concern for commutes (thanks remote work!) and school districts were replaced by a desire for nature and a different kind of space. So, we did some searching and found a lovely house on 12 acres about 40 miles west of D.C. It’s far enough to be away from the madness, but close enough that we can come in when necessary.

And after a year of using a finished basement family room as a makeshift shop (sending noise and dust throughout the house — sorry, family), the new place featured a huge air-conditioned four-car garage that would easily serve as a dream shop. The only problem? It was segmented into about a dozen small rooms for use as a dog kennel business.

I spent the better part of a month taking down the cement board walls, doors, windows, framing, insulation and electrical, filling two large trash containers along the way. I kept any useful framing lumber and hardware, which I later used on other projects. The amount of lumber was significant… maybe 100 eight-foot 2x4s and 20 eight-foot 2x6s. At current prices, that’s close to $1,000 in lumber!

The steel doors and windows I saved and donated to Habitat for Humanity, which they appreciated. I think there were 12 doors in all and at $300 apiece new, that’s a pretty good savings for them.

Eventually, I got everything down and all that was left was to replace the garage door openings, which were framed in and covered with cement board. Taking them out and opening them up wasn’t so hard (although it was a pain to remove old caulk and glue from the brick), but I was concerned about leaving the garage open to the elements until I was able to put garage doors up.

As it happened, the previous owner had carefully stored all of the old garage doors and tracks under cover in the woods. But the timing of everything was tricky. Not only did I need to open up the framing, but then I’d need to put drywall up around the openings and then install the garage doors. And all of this was happening as the weather was turning cold and wet.

Luckily, a friend volunteered to help me hang the drywall (the quotes I got for the work were ridiculously high), so I removed the framing and hung some plastic to try (rather ineffectively) to keep the elements out. After hanging the drywall, I then hired a company to rehang the garage doors.

Now the garage is back to a mostly open 1,200-square foot space perfect for a dream shop and with enough extra space for a ping pong table, a garden tractor and maybe even a car when it’s snowy out. And since the space is insulated and conditioned, it’s ready for year-round use.

Childhood dream unlocked.

2 Replies to “From the Dog House to the Woodshed”

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