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Modern work space replaces 100-year old farm shop

Old farm shops have three things in common--they are cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and dark all the time. Stanton Shoemaker, Clinton, Mo., solved all three problems with his new farm shop.

"Our old shop was built for about an 8N Ford," Shoemaker said. "We could not put a pickup truck in it and close the door."

The old shop was over 100 years old and had a working forge in it. Shoemaker did all of his cutting and welding in it, but all the repair work took place out front. As small as the shop was, it had been even smaller at one time. Shoemaker's second cousin said he could remember when they added on to the old shop.

New farm shop

Two years ago, Shoemaker decided to build a new shop on his farm east of Clinton, Mo. When he started planning his new shop, Shoemaker said he wanted three things.

"I wanted heat, I wanted light, and I wanted water," Shoemaker said.

Most old shops have one of three types of heat. First, they are the same temperature as the outside air. Freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. In the second type, they might have a furnace that burns whatever is handy and you are warm from the waist up but your feet are freezing. The third type has a really good furnace but there is no temperature control. The temperature in the shop is about 95 degrees whenever the furnace is on and that is not good either.


Shoemaker solved these problems by purchasing an Energy Performer Package with his Morton Building and then adding on an in-floor hot water heating system. There are 6 inches of insulation in the walls and insulation was blown into the attic area. The walls are R-19 and the ceiling is R-30.

The floor heating system has an instant electric hot water boiler that pushes warm water through eight coils that are 250 feet long. The coils are stapled to 2 inches of foam under the floor. A sheet of plastic is placed on top of the coils, and half-inch rebar on 12-inch centers is on top of the plastic. The concrete floor is 6 inches deep.

When it gets cold outside, Shoemaker sets the temperature at 60 degrees and keeps it there most of the time. If he is working at all, he stays very warm.

"But if I want to have people over for a fish fry some night, I can turn it up to 70 degrees and it is 70 degrees in here," Shoemaker said.

In the dead of winter, Shoemaker said his electric bill runs about $400 to $450 a month but that includes fans and lights so it is hard to say just how much the heat actually costs.


"I hate working in the dark," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker solved this with an abundance of artificial and natural light provided by nine Pella windows. Shoemaker went with the higher quality windows because he did not want to have R-19 walls and R-1 windows.

"It allows me to see out--otherwise, it feels like I am in a dungeon," Shoemaker said. "I like being able to see what is going on around the farm."

The location for the shop was a tough decision. Shoemaker did not want to move out further and take additional acreage for the shop. He decided to locate the farm shop near his house and near his storage sheds and grain-handling system.

To do this, he had to tear down an old barn and take out a concrete livestock water tank as well as cattle lot. His great-grandfather built the old windmill powered concrete livestock watering tank. Shoemaker kept a chunk of the tank where his great-grandfather etched his name and the date the tank was built.

In addition to the windows, his new shop has a 16 by 24-foot door, a 14 by 14-foot door, and two walk-in doors. In hindsight, Shoemaker said he probably should have added another walk-in door near the 14 by 14-foot overhead door.

"That way if I am working outside I don't have to keep opening and closing the big door," Shoemaker said. "It just seems like we always need another small door over there."

In that corner of the shop, Shoemaker plumbed in a propane gas line for his power washer. It is always lit and ready to go. Shoemaker said it would be nice to be able to run a hose out through a walk-in door rather than under the big door. All of the washing is done outside and not in the building.

Shoemaker did plan for a dedicated office space in his new shop. His main office remains in his house but he does have a workspace with high speed Internet for catching up on e-mails and ordering parts. He also has a printer, fax, and copier combo in the shop along with a stereo radio with surround sound and XM Satellite Radio.

The shop is equipped with an alarm system. Shoemaker owned the John Deere dealership in Clinton for 10 years where he saw the value of an alarm system. When he first bought the dealership, he was getting burglarized about once a month. After the alarm system was installed, they were never broken into again.


The one feature that Shoemaker said he could not do without is not the abundant electric outlets, the air compressor system, or ample storage for tools and spare parts, it is the large sink next to a small storage room and bathroom.

"This sink is by far the handiest thing that we ever put in here," Shoemaker said. "It is irreplaceable."

Even with a new shop, there is one thing that Shoemaker would do differently. The 54 by 50-foot Morton Building is not big enough. It is not a big issue. The only piece of equipment Shoemaker cannot fit into the shop is the semi truck with a trailer attached.

"Yes, if I had it to do over again, I would make it bigger," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker did not design his shop for storing equipment; it is first and foremost a workshop. He does not like to do any welding in the same building his equipment is stored. Shoemaker does a lot of his own repairs when time allows, except for electronics and hydraulics. Every winter, they try bringing every piece of equipment into the shop and going through it completely.

Shoemaker is glad to be out of the 100-year-old farm shop and into his new well-lit climate-controlled work area. He did bring over two reminders of the old shop--an antique vice and anvil. But they are the only antiques in this modern farm shop.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

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