The last year has brought many changes in work and at home, due to lockdowns, for a lot of us this meant changing where we worked. A few days at home and a few days in the office is becoming increasingly popular for some professions.
Here is a guide for building a comfortable office in a garage, using basic DIY skills, on a tight budget. Like many small businesses, we had to leave our rented office space after this year to reduce overheads. We decided to build an office space in our storage barn using our home office kit to create a comfortable work environment. Not everyone has a barn of course, but this works for similar spaces such as garages, cellars and other outbuildings.
Here’s what we did…
First item on the list is organising the phone and broadband – not always the most reliable and easiest people to deal with, it can take time for them to get it right, so good to get it out of the way. For us it was easily the most stressful part of the job.
While we were dealing with BT, we drew up our design so that we had working drawings – it saves so much time and error when building
The space needs to be well insulated, in order for any type of heating to work properly. The barn had a very uneven, cold stone floor which needed to be levelled and insulated, before we could do anything.
Once we’d cleared the area, the first task was to lay a damp proof membrane or DPM. You can buy this in most DIY stores or online – it’s basically a big plastic sheet. Roll it out, unfold it and trim to size, allowing for about 150mm (6 inches) to go up the walls.
We had some nice long lengths of 150mm x 100mm wood delivered from our local timber merchant – these were cut to size and spaced out every 600mm. Each beam was then cut away until it lay perfectly level – these were then screwed together with smaller beams running in the other direction.
The frame was then stuffed with standard rockwool insulation and overlaid with flooring chipboard – these were standard 600mm x 2400mm tongue and groove sheets, which were screwed to the frame once cut to size.
We found an old kitchen cupboard unit on ebay which we bought flat-packed and assembled it in the area. Lucky for us, the unit next door had water and waste so we were able to cut in a sink unit in one of the shelves and a local plumber connected it for us. The first bay of the unit was used as a mini-kitchenette, the rest was for filing.
The ceiling was next; it needed to be insulated and made to look good, plus the old fluorescent light fittings needed to be changed. We used flat LED light panels which were cheap to run, gave a really nice light and also came with suspension cables – they were also great value at only £50 each. To jazz them up a bit we used curly cable to fit them to the existing connections.
For a quick installation, we used scaffold boards for the ceiling which were much easier to handle than big sheets of wood and long enough to span the width of the space. As we screwed them to the rafters, we pushed in plenty of rockwool insulation. The scaffold boards cost £17 each and we finished them with a couple of coats of white emulsion that was watered down a little, so you can still see the grain and few knots.
As we were only renting the unit and the business has since become busy again, we weren’t sure how long we would be staying. So we decided to use kit that we could take with us when we left. Our own modular solution for underfloor heating worked perfectly in this space. We also combined it with our modular system called Octanorm to install a manequin for a coat rack. These systems are easily taken apart and reconfigured for when we move premises.
Here’s how we fitted the heated floor:
The first job was to mark on your existing floor, where the heating cable is going to run. The cable needs to be laid in rows 10cm apart, so it fits in the centre of our channel.
To do this we laid down Cableflor across the floor and made a mark in the centre of each channel. You can also do this by measuring 50mm away from the wall and making a mark and then mark each 100mm interval to the other side of the wall.
Then we repeated this process on the pposite side of the wall so that we had a guide of where to lay the cables
This is a good time to mark out any obstacles such as fixed furniture or fridges so that you don’t lay the heating cable beneath them. We drew a line around these to show where not to lay the cable. The benefit of a loose cable is that it’s really easy to avoid obstacles and only heat the part of the room that needs it.
Then we started to lay the cable, leaving the end of the cable which is black to be fed into the thermostat and laying the blue cable up and down the room. We pinned it along the marks so that the cable runs under the channels in the Cableflor tiles.
We placed the thermostat close to a power source and 1.5m up the wall. We got it connected by a professional electrician before laying the cable, which we recommend to do.
We laid the second cable in the kit from the thermostat down to the first channel of the Cableflor tiles. This is a temperature sensor, which tells you the temperature of the floor.
Again, ensure there is enough length to go back to the thermostat before you start pinning it down (if you haven’t had it fitted beforehand). This will go down the first 50mm marker.
Now you can pin down the main cable – pin the start of it next to your temperature sensor cable, at your first 100mm marker. Roll out the reel to the opposite wall.
Once we laid the cable up and down the floor 10cm apart, ensuring the cable was pulled tight as we pinned it, we were ready to lay the Cableflor tiles. It was quick and easy to place the Cableflor tiles over the cable in metre square sheets, tearing off excess rows. It is important to ensure that the cable runs in the channels of each tile, which is easy as we measured where to lay the cable.
Cableflor tiles now feature arrows which make it easier to ensure they are all facing the same direction to clip in easily. Cableflor tiles don’t need to be stuck together, the smart design secures them together simply by clicking each sheet to the next. Two sides of the tile have tabs and the other two have slots, so that to remove them you need to twist the tile, making them impossible to lift up once laid.
To fit the shape of the room we tore off rows to get a tight fit around the walls. We covered the entire floor, even the area that didn’t have a heating cable so that the floor had a smooth surface.
The system is very quick to lay – the area in the photos is 3.4m x 4m and it took about an hour and a half to fit the heating cable and less than an hour to fit the Cableflor.
No cement or levelling compound is required and no special tools or skills needed, simply lay cableflor on top of the heating cable and you have a level surface to lay a floor covering of your choice on top. We recommend using Karndean Loose Lay, which is a semi-rigid floor vinyl which comes in planks for a wood, stone or textile finish. It has good thermal properties and a long warranty and is very easy to fit.
We checked the heating cable worked before laying our floor covering on top. We used Karndean on our floor, using two finishes to create a luxury feel to the floor. We laid it out in rows, ensuring it fit tight to the walls. It doesn’t need to be stuck to the floor as its backing grips to Cableflor tiles. As this is a semi-permanent environment, Karndean was ideal as it can be lifted and reconfigured or moved into another room once finished.
The manufacturer suggests that you don’t need adhesive to stick it down, but for a semi-permanent environment we recommend that you use any off-the-shelf contact adhesive.
The room is really coming together now and the next bit was the walling – we only had to do two walls, one of which was an outside wall and needed insulating. We’ve been working many years in events and made countless spaces, our preferred supplier is RTD Systems who are the UK distributor of Octanorm.
Octanorm is an aluminium modular system made in Germany – RTD will cut the beams to the exact length that you want, so all you have to do is lock it together with a supplied torx key. We like to use it because there are fewer components, it’s all made to a very high quality and RTD will tailor it to your exact space.
The framework was made from an 80mm square profile and it took about half an hour to lock together both walls into a freestanding L-shape.
The outside wall section was filled with 80mm thick insulation board which we had delivered. It’s really easy to cut to size with a handsaw but a face mask is recommended. This fits perfectly into the frame and gave us a super quick insulated wall.
The other wall didn’t need insulating as there was another work unit on the other side of it, so we chose a big image that would take us to our happy place when things got stressful!
The image is printed onto a single piece of fabric which is then stretched into the frame, to give the appearance of a solid wall – it allowed us to retain access to the power and water pipes behind.
To finish the insulated wall, we had three white mfc panels cut to size which were hung off the frame using hook fixings. Our fibre optic and broadband hub came through this outside wall, so we fitted a floating shelf to accommodate the hardware.
Using some more scaffold boards, we made a two person desk that would make the most of the available space, whilst leaving an option for a third person at the end. This was easy to make and paint – we drew it up first, in order to give our local glass company a cnc file for cutting it to shape. The glass was then used as a template to draw around, before we cut the table to shape.
Fortunately, the unit next to door to us is a metal worker and he made some legs for us, so the total cost for a bespoke desk was about £400 and it suits our needs perfectly.
The last bit we have to do before it starts getting cold, is to fit a glass wall and door to capture the heat. So far it’s been too busy (which is great!) but we plan to have this done in a couple of weeks’ time – we’ll post the photos shortly after to show the finished article.
We’re based in Horne in Surrey (between Horley and Godstone), so if anyone is interested in making one for themselves, feel free to pop in and have a look – just email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment.