Dean Koehler was a maintenance worker for a transmission manufacturer for 17 years before he started farming full time. So when he designed a new farm shop, he knew exactly what he needed.
Koehler, of Nevada, OH, had been repairing equipment in the corner of an unheated machine shed. The new building had to be spacious, with a comfortable work area and big doors to bring in large equipment.
Built five years ago, his 60 x 64' shop has two bi-fold doors. The south door is 15 x 40'; the east door measures 14 x 32'.
The shop has nearly all the comforts of home. In winter, hot water heat in the floor warms the work area. A 1 1/2" copper pipe along the wall feeds 5/8" plastic lines spaced every 12" in the floor. Three-inch non-perforated tile holds electric and air lines on each side of the main door.
The hot water system in the floor cost about $6,000. "There are cheaper ways to go, but in the long run, it's worth it," says Koehler. "When you're working underneath equipment, it's nice to lay down and take a nap on," he jokes.
The entire shop is heated by propane. Koehler laid out all the rebar and water lines and the structure was constructed by a professional builder. The cost, excluding the floor and heat, was about $60,000.
A 13 x 13' office and rest room in the northwestern corner also increase convenience. Above the office is a loft area where spare parts are stored. Built mostly with used wood, the 8'-wide loft extends the length of the shop.
The workbenches are confined underneath the loft along the west wall. Koehler chose stationary bays because roll-around toolboxes tend to get in the way, he says.
There's nothing in the way in this shop. The work area is equipped with two drill presses and a lathe. A 500-amp DC welder is located near the door. The back side of the welding bench holds tools. Steel is stacked on shelves along the wall. Paint is stored on the top shelf, away from the welder to prevent fires. At Koehler's previous job, a co-worker was severely burned when torch sparks ignited a can of spray paint.
Another safety feature is the insulation. The icynene insulation is non-combustible (the Canadian company can be found at icynene.com). Koehler illustrates the point by lighting a piece of the insulation with a torch. The fire immediately goes out. Roughly 4" of the insulation was sprayed inside the bi-fold doors. The walls have metal liner with fiberglass insulation.
Oil spills are avoided with a homemade suction system. Oil is drained from equipment with a cut-off drum on a dolly. The pan is wheeled to the corner of the shop. A 3-hp Shop-Vac, with the filter removed, sucks the oil into a 55-gallon drum, which is taken to a recycling center. Koehler also puts a grate over the rolling drum and sets oil filters on top to drain.
Another safeguard against oil spills is a grate in the floor draining to a 1,000-gallon holding tank. The front of the building floor slopes 1/2" to the grate. The back half is level for equipment setup.
Also in the floor are tie-downs spaced every 8'. He uses them to straighten metal and hold vehicles on car ramps. The northeastern corner is kept clear. Koehler uses the area to store seed corn in spring.
Koehler is already dreaming about his next shop, which would be bigger - 80 x 80'. "We've already outgrown this one," he says.
Adds his wife, Carol, "It does not matter how big the building is - it's never big enough."