Large shop, moisture problem, in need of a reasonable solution.

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Old 02-19-21, 10:23 PM
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Large shop, moisture problem, in need of a reasonable solution.

I recently purchased a new property. It came with a huge 30x40 metal workshop with a gravel floor.

The shop itself is in good condition, has a tiny bathroom stall, and the last owner put in a new fusebox and wiring for the shop and RV hookup. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and it's been an odd snowy winter, and the shop has that 'odor' i associate with too much moisture. Concerned about this, i started doing research and became more concerned reading tales of possible mold growth or rusting the underside of any stored vehicles (I do not know if this is a common or rare threat). The bathroom's woodpaneling is warped, suggesting moisture issues.

Having read volumes on this across the net, many seem to suggest a floor of vapor barrier, styrofoam, and heated concrete.... but this is so far out of my price range it's not even funny. 30x40 is a huge area.

I will be using the shop, but it's more to build things like a coop, or shed, etc for personal use... it will never generate actual income to justify 5k or 10k or more. I'd also like to store my tools, a small tractor, maybe an atv, and wood furniture to refinish without fear of rot or rust. Just thinking of storing old wood furniture on the gravel concerns me.

And of course, I'd rather not work with that mildewy smell (which may go away once this snowy rain goes away, I haven't experienced this location in anything but particularly mucky weather).

Any ideas? Am I over thinking the risks of a gravel workshop? Ive never had access to anything remotely this size (used to do my work in a small garage attached to the house, which i insulated and dehumidified.

Having just bought the house, I'm stretched thin as is. My budget is probably only 2k, maybe double that if absolutely necessary (I actually have projects I need to build, I can't spend my budget on the shop). I could maybe add more to that in a year or two.

Thanks for any suggestions!

 
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Old 02-19-21, 10:44 PM
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You aren't going to change the humidity inside with a dirt/gravel floor in an uninsulated, unheated building. If you have stuff you need to store inside and you don't want it directly on the gravel, maybe look into buying a heavy duty vinyl coated tractor trailer tarp that you could spread out over a large area. Even they are expensive but for the $$$, I don't know what option would be better. A 24x24 flatbed tarp is around $350.

But your humidity is not just coming from the ground. Humidity doesn't change just because you are inside a building. If its humid outside, its going to be humid inside, possibly even more so if you have snow on the roof and dripping from condensation during the day.

 
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Old 02-19-21, 10:46 PM
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is the building insulated at all, beside the floor moisture could be coming from condensation on the metal surface unless it was insulated.
 
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Old 02-20-21, 02:20 AM
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Mold does not grow from moisture alone, it requires a food source, some form of organic material, it needs high humidity, and warm temps.

A gravel floor is ok as long as there is good drainage. The smell would indicate that ventilation should be looked at!
 
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Old 02-20-21, 05:38 AM
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You have two choices.
The most expensive is to go all in and insulate, install a vapor barrier on the walls and ceiling seal or concrete the floor then heat the space.
Or, embrace what it currently is by keeping it unheated and increasing the ventilation to eliminate condensation damage.
The problem is that when the building is sealed to keep out the elements you are also trapping moisture.
Install a large exhaust fan and ensure there are enough openings to allow air exchange.

There are a few things you can do with an unheated shop in a cold climate but the first thing you need to come to grips with is opening it up to allow air exchange.
 
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Old 02-20-21, 05:57 AM
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On second thought, the tarp is probably not a good idea as it would probably encourage mold underneath. But maybe you could find a source for free wood pallets nearby. At least that would keep your stuff up off the gravel and allow air to circulate under it.
 
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Old 02-20-21, 06:05 AM
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A vapor barrier would reduce odor and moisture. I'd think best place is under the gravel because you don't want to walk on it. You could get the 10 mil plastic in 4 ft wide rolls. Shovel a couple of inches of gravel in 4 ft sections, put down the barrier, then cover the barrier with gravel.
 
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Old 02-20-21, 06:09 AM
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I also agree that anything you do that is going to give you any reasonable solution is going to be expensive. You noted that while you are on a limited budget, you could possibly invest a little more as time goes along in a year or two. So, how much time do you really have to complete this? Would it be reasonable to have an on-going project over a period of time? Or, possibly wait a couple of years & borrow a few thousand to complete it, and just pay another note?

My situation:
I bought a house & 5 acres by the lake in 2017 (4 years ago). My wife had several goals when looking for a home. Mine was a shop. There was an old shop here with a dirt floor. I wasnt happy about it. In 2020, I had a 16X32 portable building built & set-up on my place. Its still sitting right there. (I actually had two buildings built). I made a note for 5 years but am paying a half of a note extra every month so I'll have it paid off in about 3 years 2023). I plan on starting the electrical & completely finish it inside in 2022.

Personally, I'm in no rush as, like you, its just going to be a place to put my tools & power tools etc & just piddle. Repair things that break & build bird houses or something to stay busy & enjoy my retirement at that time.

So, again, do you have any time to stretch this project out & put a little more money in it? Maybe put a couple thousand a year in it for 3 or 4 years? Or possibly make a new bank note in 2 or 3 years to finish it then? If so, we can offer some reasonable ideas to help you plan the project.
 
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Old 02-21-21, 02:49 AM
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Thanks for all the replies! I can't figure out how to quote posts (new here!) so... this is sort of a group response.

I like the idea of free pallets creating a temporary floor and storage space... standing on the gravel isn't all that comfortable, and I don't want to put any wood furniture directly on the ground. I wouldn't need to finish the whole shop, just create a work area and a storage area. Maybe even lay some rubber on the work zone for comfort. This won't solve any humidity issues, obviously, but it's a dirt cheap improvement.

Should I lay vapor barrier under the pallets or is that a waste of money to protect pallets?

Laying vapor barrier over the entire floor wouldn't work since its 1200sq feet and would get wrecked since it wouldnt be covere with anything.

Ventilation might do the trick. I have power, so maybe some vents and an industrial fan would help out. Should I be running that 24/7? Or on a timer? Or only seasonally? How much effort are we talking here? Like, should I be thinking about installing fans and vents in the roof, or just getting a nice big fan, putting it in a corner and turning it on?

As for the odor, while it currently permeates the area I'm wondering if demo'ing the bathroom stall and rebuilding will help... perhaps the warped wood and paneling is the source of much of the odor. (I was planning on demoing anyway, eventually, but moving it up on the time table can't hurt.

I just discovered (been reading ancient internet wisdom) a suggestion to frame out an enclosed minishop when dealing with a structure too big to deal with entirely. That seems ingenious, though brings budget into question. Insulate, dehumidify, and even heat the smaller room...

As for longterm budget, I am not sure yet. We stretched to get this place. I have a list of projects a mile wide (coop, animal fencing, kid's fort, an old barn that reeks to rehab, etc), my wife wants a greenhouse, I need a yard tractor (probaby settling for a riding mower)... investing into a 1200 sq foot floor, and then possibly needing to insulate the whole thing is low priority (even if I wish it was first priority).

Strategic pallet placement might help.

I am still worried about some of my power tools rusting out but my wife pointed out I could replace tools in a few years for cheaper than heated concrete floors.
 
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Old 02-21-21, 03:15 AM
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I grew up with a similar sized 40' x 30' dirt floored "half barn" at the family farm.
I simply graded the floor, added concrete reinforcing wire then poured a 4" concrete floor with about 10 friends.

For your situation,
First, I would dig a hole and install a sump pump to lower the water table.
Second, rake / grade the current gravel floor, get an 1,800 sqft roll of geotextile from Amazon for $115
Amazon.com: Mutual WF200 Polyethylene Woven Geotextile Fabric, 300' Length x 6' Width: Industrial & Scientific
Third, check to see if you're municipality is scheduled to do any road repaving requiring "milling" and ask about getting a dumptruck load of millings for free. They're generally about 18 cubic yards, which is enough to give you about 4" of concrete or asphalt over the geotextile. Spread over the interior.
If you can't get free road millings, stone chips with stone dust packs down very well.
Fourth, rent a power tamper, pack down the road millings/stone dust, and you've got a simple hard surface which should seal out moisture problems.
 
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Old 02-21-21, 08:02 AM
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If you are worried about your tools, buy some T9 Boeshield (also cheaper than concrete) and spray/wipe them down a few times each year. Anything left outside (or in an unheated building) will be subject to condensation and dew, just like a car windshield fogs up when the conditions are right.
 
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Old 02-21-21, 06:10 PM
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Get the damp air outta there and your problems will disappear..
Open the windows or install some, install a larger exhaust fan and use a fan to circulate air within the space.
 
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Old 02-22-21, 09:05 AM
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I am away from the property till Wednesday, but will take a look at existing vents then. Adding vents seems particularly easy, as does getting a large floor fan.

Would it make sense to add a dehumidifier too, or is that pointless given it isn't airtight?

Now I just need to find a pallet source. Should I vapor barrier under my pallet zones?
 
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Old 02-22-21, 09:54 AM
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Dehumidifying an unheated, uninsulated shop that has garage doors, no concrete floor and that is leaky is pretty pointless. About like swatting flies outside the house.
 
 

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