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600 sqft Studio Designed and Built by Sheila Shaw 2003

"I do not know which was more of an accomplishment, physically building the studio, or mentally overcoming the many people who felt it their duty to keep reminding me that I would fail!"
- Sheila Shaw


As my backyard projects progressed, I could visualize a home studio in my yard. After receiving three quotes of $60,000, $30,000 well over my budget, I decided to build it myself. After building a deck, laying cement, lawn and sprinklers, I felt that I had enough experience and skills to accomplish this project, not to mention my confidence level was soaring.

Never having done anything like this before, I was not quite sure where to begin. So, I decided to build a scale model. I took the model to our city planning commission, which turned out to be a big hit to everyone that saw it. It was very helpful for others to see my vision. I was told that the first step was to develop some blue prints. After getting several ridiculously high quotes, once again, I tackled the project myself. Much to my surprise the blueprints that I drew were accepted! After the city architect added some minor changes here and there, mostly reinforcement additions. I received the green light to begin building. I was off and rolling again! I felt great!

I assembled some 2x4s in the shape of the studio to help visualize the size and location. This frame was so helpful. It allowed me to move it around to establish the perfect location of the studio.

I hired a few guys to help dig the footings. The footings had to be 18" deep by 12" wide. It was amazing how much dirt came from those trenches! You could say that we were knee deep in dirt. HahHa.

With the form boards in place, I was able to start laying down the inside plumbing. This had to be done before the concrete was poured.

Before the foundation could be poured, there was a tremendous amount of prepping that took place. The ground had to be level, a layer of base rock (sand and gravel) covered with 9 millimeter thick plastic, wire mesh, rebar laid in the footing, and then wire mesh held in place with dobbies (little blocks of concrete). Altogether this process took three days to complete in 100 degree weather! We were exhausted and happy to be done!

I hired a crew to pump the concrete and float the foundation. It was amazing how many guys it took to do this job! They were a real neat group of guys. It took two truck loads of concrete to do the job. The first truck was on time and the second truck was over an hour late. I can't tell you how stressed I was worried the concrete would set before the other truck arrived. The guys assured me that this was normal and that it would be okay. In the end, it was.

Once the foundation was complete, I was able to start the framing. Looking back, this was definitely one of the easiest tasks of the project. It just required a lot of labor and heavy lifting. I hired a helper for this job.

The Studio Takes Shape

Once the walls were standing, I was able to start putting on the sheathing (plywood). This make-shift scaffolding was a little shaky at times.

The guy that I hired to help me quit in the middle of the job. The entire time he was there he kept asking me when it was break time. I guess he was not cut out for this type of work. Anyway, I had to do the rest on my own. Actually, I was relieved, as I was able to focus 100% on my goals, and the physical shape I was getting in was incredible. Again, this looks a lot harder than it really is.

Each sheer board required 68 nails. Thank God for the nail gun! The nail gun made the job easy, but because it is a little heavy, it had my arm aching at the end of the day. Holding myself up and balancing on that narrow board made it even more challenging. I tip my hat to construction workers. This is hard work!

After experiencing, at times, severe back aches, three smashed fingers, a badly bruised shin, which felt broken, my right arm swollen from more than 8,000 swings of the hammer and countless other minor ailments, at last, the framing is FINISHED!!!

With the roof trusses not due for another month, I decided to work on the outside electrical, which required trenches 18" deep. I rented a trenching machine to help. Because it only had three wheels, it kept falling back in the holes. What should have taken an hour to complete ended up taking three hard hours!

After the trenches were complete, I went to our local building supply center to purchase some conduit. This went rather smoothly.

With the trenches dug, I was able to lay the pipes down. The electric conduits are laid in the ground; here again, the job looks harder than it really is. It's pretty much like a jigsaw puzzle; you just need to know where to put the pieces.

Taking the conduit around this corner was rather tricky. It was a tight squeeze. This is where the main breaker box for the studio will be located. I originally designed the pipe to go under the foundation, but the prepipe I installed for size turned out to be way too small, leaving me no choice but to come from the back instead.

Since my electrical conduit ended up crossing the lawn sprinklers, I had to take the conduit under the sprinklers. At one point I thought of just cutting right through them. Instead, I was able to tunnel underneath.

The Studio Roof

I finished the electrical a week early, and to my surprise, the trusses arrived a few days later. The street had to be blocked off so that the trusses could be lifted over the fence and placed on the studio. Unfortunately, they were placed in the wrong order. Each truss is designed to sustain a certain load and it is critical that they are placed in the right order. Therefore, we had to unload all of them and put them back in the proper order-this time by hand! While they were not overly heavy, they were very awkward to handle due to their size. When they are in place, they are very strong. However, until they are placed and secured, they are very wobbly...especially the long ones.

The truck driver that delivered my lumber turned out to be one of my best friends that I grew up with. We hadn't seen each other for over twenty years. Kevin and I used to build skateboards together and as it turned out, it was his slow season and just in time too. I soon enlisted his help and we picked up right where we left off, thoroughly enjoying each others company! Kevin and I had a blast.

We took a drive down the street where there was some construction going on and realized that we needed to brace the trusses. This led to some awkward and hair-raising positions at times.

With the roof trusses in place, the studio was starting to take shape. At this point in the project, I am feeling so proud.

Kevin found great joy in teasing me, because I avoided getting on the roof! I was a little spooked about standing on the roof with such a slope.

My dad came over to help lay the roof tiles. As I placed the tiles, he cut them. At times, he had to hang over the edge to make certain cuts! I would have definitely had butterflies in my stomach. This was another highlight point in the project. I got to share one of my proudest moments with my dad. I had to carry the tiles up the scaffold and stack them. For all of you who would like "abs of steel," this is definitely one way to get them.

The drywall was definitely the toughest task

After talking with several electricians, including my building inspector who was a former construction foreman, I learned how to do the wiring. I wired the entire inside of the studio, which was not too difficult. Once again, just labor intensive. Although I wired the studio, I hired an electrician to fire up the circuit box and make the power live.

With the electrical complete, I started the drywall. Since I was able to work well into the night, and with the cable installed, I moved my TV in to keep me company. Unlike the other tasks, working with the drywall proved extremely challenging. Due to it's weight, I found myself struggling to lift the sheets and was relieved when I was placing the lower sheets. I didn't think I was going to come out of this alive. This truly wore me out!

My dad came over to help hang the drywall on the ceiling. We needed a special tool to help lift the sheets. With the unique shape of the studio, a lot of math was required. On a normal 600 square foot studio, the ceiling might have taken 4-5 hours to complete. My studio took 2 days! It was worth it! Once again, I had a great time with my dad.

After painting several rooms in my house by paint brush and roller, I vowed not to do that in the studio. I rented a paint sprayer, which made the job a breeze. I painted the entire studio in less than two hours.

At one point, I considered doing the stucco myself. But by the time it was time for this task, I was so worn out, plus, I had proven everything I set out to prove to myself. I decided to hire a crew. It felt great to stand back and watch. These guys worked in total unity; it was something to see! Here they are applying the final coat, the color.

It took four months to complete, and $25,000 fully loaded! By doing this myself, I saved a ton of money! I do not know which was more of an accomplishment, physically building the studio, or mentally overcoming the many people who felt it their duty to keep reminding me that I would fail! This was such an awesome project for me that I will never forget. At the time of building it, I swore I would never do it again. However, looking back at these photos, I am reminded of what an incredible experience this was and I look forward to more projects in the future. If you have the determination and the time, even the most seemingly impossible goals are worth tackling, because the rewards are incredible!

Completed 2003!

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