Garage Conversion: The Scary Doors

This post contains affiliate links for tools I recommend for the job.  This post also contains a product provided by Kreg tools (HD Jig).  No Kreg isn’t trying to buy my love or influence me, because I already love and use their products almost as much as my wife loves putting on sweatpants after a long day of work.

Open the pod bay doors HAL!” 

“What?  You can’t?  Because the doors are nailed, screwed and re-enforced with a steel bar to never open again?”

“That sort of defeats the purpose of having doors in the first place doesn’t it HAL?”

Terrifying aren’t they?  If you’re walking down the alley at night time, these are the types of doors that you quickly scurry past in fear of a monster busting out and snatching you back into it’s dark recesses.  These doors have been on this shed for probably the better part of 60+ years… and hundreds of children and small animals have been taken by the monster living inside.

Let’s back up a minute though, if you haven’t been following me on Social Media on places like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, then you will have no idea what my plans are for the shed at this point.  So if you aren’t already… follow me for Insider Exclusives* (and by exclusives I mean sneak peeks of awesome building!).  So let’s bring you up to speed on the build plans.  The scary garage is getting a face lift.  The outside conversion is going to look a little something like this:

After closing in the scary back alley doors, I’m going to add a sliding barn door on the side (inside our fence) so when I accidentally set something on fire inside the shop I have at least two exits to flee the scene before it all burns down.  I’m also going to add a dutch door (so the chickens can’t come visit me but I can get some airflow) and a window (with the wife requested planter box).   On the inside, I’ve been slowly emptying out anything that isn’t mine or shouldn’t be in my shop.  Like the monster that wants to snatch you from the alley.  He didn’t go quietly.  Jerk.  Here’s the plan:

It’s all currently exposed beam with the back of the corrugated metal siding on the inside.  Oh and it gets melt your face hot inside because you’re in a metal box sitting directly in the sun.  The idea is put up pallet wood walls, not only to make the shop look awesome like a man-cave, but to help deflect a little of that heat (does pallet wood do that?).  And no, those weren’t stock images of a drill press on the cart I made and thickness planner, I made those in SketchUp because I’m a nerd.   Let’s get to work!  And by work I mean I had to call my dad to come help me for the long weekend because this absolutely was not a one person job.   And let’s just get this out of the way… it was ridiculously hot and the sleeve monster ate the sleeves off of my shirts you’ll see in a few photos.  The sleeve monster is not to be confused with the monster that lived in the garage.

Day 1

Chances are, this is the first time these doors (I loosely use the term doors here) have been opened in the last 50 years.  It was a hodgepodge of sheet metal, rotting boards and scrap floor boards holding it together.  I like to call this shabby chic.  Or just shabby.

What’s great and terrible all at once is that structures made decades ago were generally built to last, which means the nails holding these hinges in were 4″ long, pinky thick spikes that were never going to come out.  So I pulled out the trusty old Ryobi blue reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade and cut right through the hinges (they weren’t salvageable I promise).  You would think a swift kick would bring the doors down… not so much.  Or my kick wasn’t Karate Kid awesome enough.

Unfortunately, when the doors were fully removed, we immediately saw an issue with the floor.  There was an old guy who looks sort of like Kenny Rogers leaning on it.  Or it was so cracked and uneven that in order to lay a footer for the new wall/false doors that were going to go up we were going to have to remove and replace a large section of concrete.  Note to rage filled builders/makers:  You can’t just go at it with a sledgehammer.  If you go all “HULK SMASH!” mode then you’re just busting out random pieces that make repair a lot more difficult.  So you need to systematically remove sections by scoring the concrete first.

You can easily swap out your blade in your circular saw for a masonry blade.  I picked up two at the Home Depot for less than $3 a piece and ended up only using one.  Also, there’s a blade lock button on your circular saw that lets you loosen the machine bolt.  Or you can just grip the blade bare handed like a man and see how well that works out for you.

Mark out the section you want to cut with a chalk line and then absolutely put on safety glasses and a dust mask.  Slowly make passes with your saw increasing the depth with each pass.   There will be sparks and it will smell sort of like you fired a cap gun you might have had as a kid.  Once you cut down about a 1/4″ go back with a sledge hammer and a Masonry Chisel and break off the concrete at your cut line.  You can see on the far side of the picture above the line we were able to cut with that method, everything else was broken beyond repair.  Once you clear out all of the loose material you will need to trench down about 4 inches and then compact the dirt.  Now that you’ve emptied and flatten the trench… you’re going to fill it back in… with a base layer of gravel, about 1″-2″ deep.  Compact the gravel as well.  If you’ve got a big sledge hammer you can tamp (real word!) with that.  For you all new to the concrete game, you can’t just dump concrete into an empty hole.  I mean you can, but it uses more concrete and chances are you’ll have cracks and such later.

We ended up using six 80 lb. bags of Quikrete High Strength Concrete Mix and three bags of stone for the 9.5″ foot trench we dug.  After moving 640 lbs. of concrete mix and busting up concrete all before noon, I can tell you I was exhausted but felt the need to flex like crazy and ask all the people in our alley “which way to the gym bro?”  Fortunately, no one but my dad was in the alley and he would have smacked me for that temporary lapse.  When it’s time to lay the concrete this is definitely one of those steps of the process when you’ll want a buddy to help.  Make sure you have a giant container (we used a garden cart) to mix the concrete.  We mixed ours to a “soupy” consistency before adding it to our trench.  The reason why you need two people is because you’re going to need a person to mix and a person to apply and smooth (or trowel as the professionals say).  It sets quickly (especially with how hot it was) and the last thing you need is to have an uneven surface because your next batch wasn’t ready.  It’s called “Quikrete” for a reason.  We mixed two bags at a time and used every bit of the six bags.  Unfortunately… we forgot to sign our names.

Two things added during the concrete process was a 2×4 (to be removed after it dried) to give a nice edge for the plywood to sit on when we closed the doors off and lag bolts so we could secure the footer to the concrete floor.  Because we wanted the concrete to fully cure, this ended day 1’s activities.

Day 2

Rise and shine!  With the concrete dried we were able to easily remove our framing board and were ready to bring out the footer and studs.  I know what you’re thinking, Lazy Guy, you’re enough of a stud, you don’t need multiples for this project.  Well these are specifically for framing in the doorway.  Once we cut holes into the footer for the lag bolts (with my drill press) we attached the footer with construction adhesive and tightened the bolts.  Don’t go too tight because the concrete is still potentially drying so you can go back and tighten them later.  Make it too tight and you’ll crack your new concrete.

On this project I swore I was going to sway my dad into the wonders of the world of pocket holes and opted to use the Kreg HD Jig for the framing studs.  The awesome folks at Kreg did send this jig to me, but only after I asked them if they recommended it for the job.  One thing to note is the HD Jig uses HD Specific Screws.  They have a thicker head because the pocket hole drill bit cuts a wider hole.  The HD Jig is specifically made for thicker material like 2x’s.  You can absolutely use the 1.5″ setting on your other jigs and use the 2.5″ pocket screws, but I wanted something beefier for this project.  Plus you’re pushing the smaller jig to it’s limits with 2x thickness, why chance it on a structure that is going to house my fun stuff?  I also cut my finger on the drill bit.  It’s sharp 🙁

Alright ladies (and gentlemen) here’s your chance to get a good view of some fine looking studs!  Thunder from Down Under they are not.  Not a single person threw a dollar at them.  After installing the header and the footer, we attached the studs on the standard 16 inches with our newly cut pocket holes.

Once the studs were set we went back and sealed all the gaps with an all weather exterior caulk.  I went with the DAP Products Alex Plus because I love my DAP folks up in Baltimore!  Caulking will help prevent moisture from getting under the footer that might eventually lead to rot.

With the frame work finished, it was time to move on to closing off the doorway with plywood.  It’s no secret, the table saw I currently have terrifies me.  It was a bargain buy with a wobbly fence that makes kickback and pinching inevitable.  So to avoid that catastrophe altogether, I opted to use my circular saw and the Kreg Rip Cut.  If you’ve never used one before it’s freaking awesome (that’s a technical assessment).  You can usually get them on Amazon for under $30.  The unit attaches to most circular saws and uses a guide arm to make straight cuts on plywood.  If you’re short on help to run sheets of plywood through a table saw, this is a must buy for the solo DIY’er.

To close out day two, we installed the sheets of plywood and said goodbye to creepy monster concealing scary doors for good.  They alley already felt safer.

Day 3

My dad requested an early start on Day 3 because they were going to head home that afternoon.  We agreed we’d get up and start at 6am.  I had breakfast, dressed and had the entire doorway primed before I saw anyone.  I’m not positive, but I think this was done intentionally…

Sorry, there was a seriously lack of pictures going on here, because it was ridiculously hot and we made a giant tent tarp to stay out of the sun.  Ultimately, we opted to frame the doorway with pressure treated 1×8’s and 1×4’s to give the appearance of garage doors.  We calked all the edges and screw holes with DAP Alex Plus again and my wife was finally free from working to help put on a final coat of primer.   To finish off the false doors, we are going to add hardware (hinges and pulls) as opposed to software (we didn’t install USB ports), and then paint the inside panels to match the house.  From there I’ll add decorative trim cross pieces to give the doors a barn-door feel.  No point of adding them before I paint!

Meanwhile, on the inside, we prepped the framework by once again caulking all of the gaps with DAP Alex Plus to help keep the moisture out.  We then marked our studs so we could install the interior sheets of plywood.  This might seem like an obvious step, but seriously, take a pencil and mark out on the floor where your studs are, because once that sheet goes up, you’re going to want to know where they are instead of blindly hammering nails in.    I guess you could use a stud finder, but I don’t have one, I just usually stand up and point to myself when I’m in need…  (Ok… bad joke.  My wife will roll her eyes when she reads this).

This was probably the easiest step the entire weekend, we slapped up our sheets of plywood for the interior and then I added a dark coat of primer paint.  Why install plywood and not drywall on the inside and then prime it a dark color?  You’re going to have to wait for the next post on the garage to find out.  Or check the updates on social media. So that’s it for this update.  If you have any questions or comments on the build and install absolutely let me know.  Like why didn’t we put insulation in the wall?  Shouldn’t we have wired it for electrical before we closed it off?  All of those are good questions, none of those will be answered on here… yet.  Muwahahaha!

~Lazy Guy

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