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Fjr writes: “I’m looking into renting some garage space for a shop to take on some light metalwork and such.  I haven’t seen the garage yet, but I’m told it has a dirt floor.  And judging from the neighborhood it was probably built in the ’50s.  Do you Toolmongers have any idea what to do with the floor?  Should I build a full-fledged floor, just level the dirt real good and lay down a couple of layers of water-resistant plywood, or pour some concrete?  Any tips or input are appreciated.”

My father had a similar problem at one point.  He’d built a great 40′ x 40′ shop building for wood and metal work, but he also wanted a blacksmith shop.  There was a small shed on the property behind his large building, but he wanted a concrete floor.  He ended up jacking up the building with high-lift jacks, “inserting” three feet of height into the building, and pouring a concrete floor in the process.  I was skeptical, but it came out great.

What do you think?  Let us know in comments.

(Thanks Irish Typepad for the great CC-licensed photo.)


5 Responses to Reader Question: What To Do With A Dirt Shop Floor?

  1. olderty says:

    I hope the rent is good… I guess I would start by leveling it all out and renting one of those gas powered tampers. To hold work benches/tables/stations/etc I’d buy some of those cast concrete pavers to put them on. Those 12″x12″ plain ones. The price should be right with the fall sales coming up, as mentioned here.

    I’m thinking dirt floor = greater potential for mice problems. And I’d try to split any costs with the owner.

    If you wanted to put in the effort for a concrete floor I’d plumb some pex tubing around first for radiant heating. That is if you plan on using it in the winter. Once the concrete is poured and set, I’d find the cheapest water heater, a simple pump, and some sort of thermostat unit. Fill it full of water (maybe some anti-freeze — I dunno) and enjoy. Yes, I know, easier said than done.

    Also, if this place has a dirt floor AND was built in the ’50s, check to make sure the wiring is up to par with what you need… If it’s possible for you, I’d think about buying the place and finishing it. When you’re done renting to yourself, let somebody else pay the mortgage. And with a new [heated] concrete floor and wiring you should be able to charge a heluva lot more.

    Good question and good luck!

  2. JamesBrauer66 says:

    Or you could dump some bags of dry cement mix all over the place, then hit it with a garden hose and a broom. It would be rough and cracked, but at least wouldn’t kick up dust as you walked around so much.

  3. Jake says:

    I’d agree with James. No point to putting a lot of effort into it if you’re renting. A dirt floor seems pretty appropriate for a blacksmith shop – authentic even. That’s probably not what you mean by “light metalwork.”

  4. Jim K. says:

    I’ve had a shop with a dirt floor in the past and it really wasn’t an issue for me. I may have been lucky though that the soil in the area was pretty heavy in clay content and compacted really well into a reasonably hard surface that wasn’t prone to kicking up much dust. I set a few of the heavier tools feet on pavers to spread out the weight and help keep them from digging in and covered one corner of the shop with ply for “finish work”. Hmmm… now that I think about it, I miss that place.

  5. Michael W. says:

    Put your machines on pavers and through some gravel (pea stone) down. If you put down plastic first, you’ll cut down on moisture coming up and rusting your stuff.

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