In my other real garage workshop, the one at Sellers’ home, I found myself fighting several issues surrounding systemic dampness permeating everything from the single-skin brick walls to concrete floors with no damp proof membrane, a bad drainage system that simply stopped at ground level and the internal level of the garage floor being at exactly the same level as the ground surrounding it and that ground having nowhere to take shed excess water to. I could kick myself now for not taking any photographs of the existing condition of things and then too the work we did to correct the whole. All I can do now is tell without showing what we did and hope that this will help.
Within a few weeks of my first moving in, I saw a light, surface rusting come onto my planes as first evidence of atmospheric dampness. After a few months, my bench drawer became stuck fast and completely unopenable; I needed a hefty crowbar and blocks to leverage it out. This was despite the drawer having a good 1/16″ gap before moving it into the garage. When I came to put it back it had swollen by a massive 1/8″ over the width of the opening. But it’s not just the dampness on the tools so much as the damp atmosphere that makes it less inviting a place to work in. I know many of you have to do that and there are for some of you no other options — for instance, you rent your home or the finances just don’t permit upgrading things. I have had to do the same over the years of my return to the UK having landlords who didn’t want any expense nor to improve the lot of renters.
One of the things I liked about living in the Texas Hill Country was there were no such issues. Secondly, wood-framed structures are not so subject to damp transfer when built properly. I talked with Joseph and we decided to tackle the problem at its core. The drainage we thought was going somewhere was accumulating in the footings and beneath the slab and with the slab having no damp-proof membrane between the earth below and the inside of the garage we decided to remove the slab and make good with 6″ of underfloor protection and insulation by way of a damp-proof membrane enclosing the protective insulative barrier before pouring new concrete with reinforcement. To simply try to dry out such a confined atmosphere on a permanent basis would be cost-prohibitive and also less likely to achieve a good result. Dealing with the rising damp was a non-negotiable. The single brick walls needed a cavity, damp-proof course and a vapour barrier so we introduced new protection behind a steel framework of studs followed by a damp-proof membrane and then fiberglass insulation and venting.
On the underside of the ridged roof rafters, we added insulation again followed by reflective insulation ready for the plasterboard (sheetrock) and then the electrician moved in to give us the sockets and lighting I needed. From here on I saw everything dry out remarkably well and within a few weeks, the whole of the inside was dried through and through. On the outside, we dug trenches leading well away from the garage and dug reception tanks to take the rains. We also connected proper lines to the existing drains and along with additional lateral lines for dispersing any extra where possible. It seemed quite a big job at the time but I look forward to my papers, drawings and manuscripts not curling and keeping everywhere comfortable year around.
Soon I will be reinstall new shelves and my workbench, my tools and my wood. It has been very disruptive but such things always give you time to rethink what you really want and it’s a good time to get rid of the excesses. New lighting, new work desk, tools in place and a creative zone are pretty much intrinsic to who I am. No bikes, no lawn mowers, no washing machines and tumble driers, spare fridges-freezers. That is why I built the two sheds and the greenhouse over the last couple of years. I will build one more shed for outdoor furniture storage through the winter months I think. It will have a small, general workbench in there for household repairs and fixing equipment.
I’m not actually moved back into the garage just yet but in a couple of weeks, I will begin replacing everything that I have temporarily had in storage.
My second shed came from mainly pallet wood for the framework. These pallets were the ones used for delivering 4×8 plasterboard (sheetrock USA). They’re robust enough for the walls of a shed and can readily cut for alternative sizes. I bought the treated cladding for the uniform look I wanted but the shed cost around £150 to build and is very robust. In the inside corner, I installed a birdhouse with the entrance hole on the outside under the eaves. In the last two years, we’ve seen four broods raised.
The greenhouse extends my growing season markedly and is especially good for tomatoes which are very much a part of my daily intake of fruit and veg. I began veg gardening in 1989 and never looked back. I keep it simple because of time constraints but as a long-time vegetarian, I prefer my own grown wherever I can.