Fine Shop in a Renovated Garage
Thoughtful renovation and a savvy layout make this shop exceptional
When my wife, Jen, and I moved to Pittsburgh in 2011, the property we purchased had several outbuildings, one of them a somewhat forlorn two-car garage. Despite its aesthetic shortcomings, the building was structurally sound and well situated, and it made sense that it would become my workshop. Over the next year and a half, I did a gut renovation, stripping the building to its studs, moving and resizing window and door openings, and replacing everything from sheathing to drywall. I was careful in all my choices, because I wanted the shop to be reflective of the work that would be produced inside: functional, understated, subtly embellished, and meticulously crafted with lovely materials. Drawing on my experience working in other shops, and on some research, I aimed to create a space that would be comfortable through Pittsburgh’s muggy summers and frigid winters, have plentiful natural and artificial light, and make the most of the building’s 20-by-24-ft. footprint.
Since the building is fairly small and I was putting a lot of work into the renovation, it seemed justifiable to choose very nice materials. For the siding I used true quartersawn spruce clapboards sawn by Ward Clapboard Mill in Vermont. For the exterior trim I opted for MiraTEC, a pre-primed MDF product designed for exterior applications. I sheathed the soffits with clear, vertical-grain Douglas fir porch flooring, and I built the gable brackets of Douglas fir as well, but with a cabinetmaker’s flourish: faceted sapele plugs over the screws. I built the entry door of Douglas fir also, and used sapele for the jambs and sill.
After some deep research, I decided to heat and cool the shop with a Fujitsu ductless mini-split heat, which has turned out to be a great decision. With this type of system it…