Took a lot of work, and a lot of help from my wife, but I have power in the shop!
Once the trench was dug and signed off by the building inspector, next step was to lay in the wire.
Figuring out what kind of wire to use took some research. Not being an electrician, I didn’t know exactly what to use. I reached out to my nephew who works in the trade for some ideas. He old me they use two different types of wire, SER and URD. SER is a service entrance wire and URD is an underground wire.
They both would not work for me, according to the building department. SER cannot be buried. Not even in conduit. URD can be buried, but since it’s not fire rated, can’t be used inside.
Then I stumbled upon MHF, mobile home feeder wire. Not only can it be buried directly, but it’s fire rated for indoor use. And the building department agreed. Perfect!
Running the feed wire
The stuff is not too heavy, and a little unwieldy. It’s 4 conductors, 3 each of #2 and one #4, all aluminum. The #4 is green for the ground, and one of the three #2 conductors has a white line indicating the neutral return. And at only $1.37 a foot after rebate (have to love Menard’s) it’s way cheaper than copper. Not having to pull this through a conduit was the icing on the cake.
The only conduit I needed was to run it into the shop. Code requires conduit 18″ below grade. I ran conduit from outside the house into the sub panel and tied it into a new breaker. I’m still only feeding this panel with a 50 amp breaker, even though the new breaker and the load center in the shop both are both 100 amp. If I find that I am tripping this breaker, I still have some #2 wire I will use to update the feed from the main.
Finishing it all off
Last thing to do was to fill in the trenches. This will take some time. Need to let everything settle for a few weeks before cleaning up the extra dirt and planting grass again for the third time. Something tells me I’ll be planting in the spring, too.
Wow. I am amazed this house didn’t burn down. I never noticed this before. But the sub panel in my basement, the very panel that I plan to feed that work shop from, was hiding a problem that had developed over the last 2 years.
Before and After
Here’s a picture of the inside of that panel I took when the house was being inspected. This was 2 years ago.
Very simple panel, nothing mysterious. All work either done or supervised by a licensed electrician.
Here’s a close up of the same panel today. Notice anything different?
Several of the neutral connections have charred/melted insulation and the plastic bracket holding the neutral bar is partially melted. The problem, missed by the inspector (as good and thorough as he was) is that second screw from the bottom. It was looser than the others. This created a gap, which allowed the current to arc, which generated a lot of heat. I have no other explanation. This panel is only fed from a 50 amp breaker and there was no other damage in this box or the main box.
I was able source a new load center from Menard’s and pulled the insert from it. After disconnecting the power to this sub panel, I removed everything from it and replaced the damaged insert as well as any damaged wire.
A little paranoid
That panel cover is going to stay off for a while, with a fire extinguisher close at hand. Even though I am positive I won’t need it, I’m a little on the paranoid side right now.
I also went through and checked and tightened every neutral wire in the both breaker boxes.
One of the things about this house that I didn’t really like, is we don’t have storm drains for the downspouts. The rainwater just hits the ground and is diverted away from the side of the house. Not very effective. A while back, I installed these underground diverters on the house and wanted to add them to the shop as well.
The come in two parts, one, a collector that you place under the downspout. It has an angled face on it that screens the large leaves and such from the entering the drain. The second part is a popup that you place in your yard an appropriate distance from the structure. They work incredibly well and it was a no brainer for me to put these in.
I didn’t get the popup buried. I need to get a different connector to attach the drain line to it.
I rented a 6″ x 36″ trencher to dig for th power line I need to run to the shop. The shop is attached to the garage, which is attached to the family room of the house. Both of those are on slabs, which means I have no way of running any kind of wire through the main structure from the basement.
My only option was to trench. Code requires 24″ deep trench for direct burial wire. This is about 30″ deep in most places. Once it passes inspection, I’ll get the wire in the ground and go from there.
While I had the trencher, I went ahead and dug for some downspout drains. I don’t have storm drains here, so the rain water leaves the downspout right to the ground. I don’t want it next to the building, so I am adding some underground pipes that will lead to a popup in the yard.
I took the rest of the compressor pump apart. It was a mess. I figured that the piston seals had probably failed, and decided to replace those along with all of the gaskets. Everything was available on eBay. I also gave the tank a fresh coat of paint and replaced the wheels.
Once I got it all back together, it rand and filled up to 135 PSI and shut off as expected. I ran it for a while without issue. And then all of a sudden, it started making a horrible noise. I shut it off and took the head off, only to notice a blown gasket.
I don’t think I tightened the head bolts down enough. Another gasket is already on the way. Once that’s in, we should be good to go.
I am still hearing a small leak next to the tool pressure regulator. I’m not sure what I can do about that. I tried some teflon tape, but that didn’t help. It could be a crack in the plastic.
I picked up about 2,000 pounds of fiber cement siding for the workshop. It’s not as thick as the cedar siding on the rest of the garage and house, but it shouldn’t be that noticeable. Plus, it’s fire resistant. It’s nice having this trailer. It saved me from having to pay a $50 deliver fee.
Once the first row was up (with the help of my wife) the rest of it is pretty much a one person job. I used a set of the Gecko Gauges from Amazon to hold up the next piece. You slide them under the last row and clamp them down. They are calibrated to the exposure you want on the siding (in my case, 8″) and provides a little shelf. Cutting this stuff is super dusty. Wear a respirator.
Each 12 foot section weight about 22 pounds and they are very bendy and can break if not handled in the vertical orientation. But once I got going, it went pretty well.
I saw this old compressor on Fakebook marketplace and when I went to go buy it, the seller just gave it to me. That was a clue that it needed work.
It appears to be an old Sears single stage compressor, probably maxes out at 135psi. But it had a 3 horsepower motor attached to it that ran off 220v, so it should have some guts to it. I put a plug on it and the motor ran great and the tank held air. It wouldn’t shut off, so I ordered a new pressure control switch.
But the thing was covered in oil. I was sure it needed new seals and gaskets. When I drained the air, the tank had some pretty rusty water in it and there was oil in the water. Another sign that there was a bad piston seal. I went ahead ordered new gaskets and piston seals. I also needed to order new flapper valve plates. Once I got it apart, one of them was broken. I started cleaning some of it. I wish I had a parts washer, it would make this a lot easier.
So far, I only have about $100 into it for the parts I ordered. I shouldn’t need anything else. I’ll clean up the tank and give it a fresh coat of paint. If it all goes back together, I’ll use this as my shop compressor and hook it into some permanent piping with outlets around the walls.
Spent some time in SketchUp trying to figure out a workshop layout. It’s amazing how small this space becomes when you start filling it full of stuff. This will also help me figure out where I need outlets.
I know I want a large work table, 4′ x 8′. Big enough for some pretty large projects. I want to build into it a flip top to hade a surface planer, as well as a build in router table.
I also wanted room for a small 2′ x 4′ welding table and my welder. Add in the table saw and a miter saw station, and it gets pretty cramped. Everything including the drill press and band saw will be on movable bases. If I need more room, I can always move other pieces out of the way. The work table, table saw, miter saw table, welding table and band saw table will all be at the same height.
This is laid out in winter mode, when the Jeep would be parked in the shop. When the Jeep isn’t in here, I can move the three large tool boxes against the wall.
I’m sure I’ll stare at this for a while and make more changes. I started this to try and figure out what kind of shelves I needed to get for storage. But at this point, I have no room for shelves. Eeek! I need a bigger shop. LOL!